Chester “Chet” McGuire Jr. lost his 14-year battle with cancer on October 13, 2017. Chet was a noted urban economist with a long and distinguished career in academia, public service and business. He was one of the founders of Berkeley Planning Associates in 1974, was on the BART Board seeing its fruition in the early 1970s. He served as the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Carter Administration, and was an Associate Professor at U.C. Berkeley. He was one of the few African-Americans at U.C. Berkeley, where he lectured and taught classes in the College of Environmental Design in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He was an excellent public speaker gave very dynamic lectures that were well received by his students.
In the late 1960 Chet was Vice President of Winston A. Burnett Construction Co. in San Francisco, where he was involved with the planning and construction of The Martin Luther King Marcus Garvey Square Coop Apartments in San Francisco. This was a revolutionary in the late 1960s, as it provided the opportunity for low-income individuals to build equity and an ownership stake in their community. This project reflected one of Chet’s core beliefs, which was that community development came from economic empowerment, and that if you could provide economics to impoverished communities, “you” could make a difference. This belief is what led Chet to pursue a degree in economics and a lifetime devoted to city and regional planning. Personally, he was the source of many good talks about society and race and social justice and economics.
Chet taught classes on housing and redevelopment, housing market analysis. He also taught at Howard University on financial markets and quantitative and statistical methods. From his consulting company, McGuire Associates, he was call upon an expert witness on high profile real estate cases, and was called on to rendered an assessment of countless development proposals and policy concepts over many years. He was a giant in his field. Chet provided the necessary intellectual “muscle” that was needed to solve complex housing and transportation problems. In 1974, Chet was one if the founders if the Berkeley Planning Associates for the city of Berkeley that gave much direction to the growth of the city.
In 1973, Chester McGuire also was elected AC Transit Director-at-Large where and ran on an impressive slate with three other African-Americans, one of whom was legendary Congressman Ron Dellums. This was ground-breaking in 1973, to have had African-Americans win a predominately white constituency.
Chet continued his work as a program and policy consultant to HUD on housing issues and a consultant to financial institutions, specializing in fair lending policies, particularly in regard to lending practices in older, inner city areas. This work was recognized and in 1977 Chet was nominated by then President Jimmy Carter and then served as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Carter Administration where he continued his work in Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
He also served as a consultant to the city of San Francisco, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Berkeley Neighborhood Traffic Study, the East Palo Alto 701 Planning Programs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Association of Bay Area Governments. He has had numerous articles published on housing, transportation, and urban subjects.
Chet was born on October 29, 1936 in Gary, Indiana to Martha and Chester McGuire, Sr. He attended Roosevelt High School where he was senior class president, and later attended Dartmouth College where he was a member of the Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity and recruited into The Sphinx. Chet was one of only seven African-American men who were admitted to Dartmouth College, Class of 1958 with such noteworthy classmates as H. Carl McCall, the late civil rights attorney, Mickey McGuire, and the late Arch Whitehead, father of author of Colson Whitehead.
Chet enlisted in the US Navy as a Lieutenant on battleships where he served as a cryptographer—a “code cracker” during the Cold War.* He later graduated from the University of Chicago School of Business with an MBA and PhD in Economics.
Chet was a well-rounded with a variety of talents. He loved fine foods and wines, was an avid cook, often seen exploring and cooking up delicious meals. He had a good sense of humor and self-declared, “best barbeque” in Berkeley. He was a sports enthusiast who was a 49ers season ticket holder for decades, through thick and thin. He was an avid skier and could be counted on going to a second home that he built with his son, Michael, in North Lake Tahoe in Tahoe-Donner. Chet was a jazz enthusiast, enjoyed going to the East Bay Symphony, was an avid reader and writer and loved Shakespeare. Chet was a deep thinker, often quiet and reflective, yet he was the kind of person that you would notice when he walked into a room, due to his striking presence. He had charisma and leadership qualities that were not wasted in his career. His was a brilliant man whose natural demeanor was comprised of an aristocratic class and grace, despite his humble beginnings in Gary, Indiana. Although a quiet man, Chet’s great sense of humor came through in his good storytelling. He also enjoyed explaining things and was very professorial when doing so with great enthusiasm. He was once described as a “professorial professor.” He was a quiet giant, who was part of a bygone era of Bay Area history of dynamic, progressive change that will be sorely missed.
Chet is predeceased by his son Michael and leaves behind his wife of over 50 years, Julie, two daughters Gail and Angela, sisters Martha and Jennifer and nephews Darryl and Corey and cousins Sunny and Joseph, and many friends.