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Protecting the California Coast: New Interviews with Joe Bodovitz and Will Travis

Just over 50 years ago the California State Legislature established the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). This commission was charged with protecting the San Francisco Bay from unchecked development and with providing access to this great natural resource. In 1972, citizens throughout California voted to establish the Coastal Commission, which had a charge similar to the BCDC but its authority ran the entire coastline of California. Today we are pleased to release to new oral history interviews with two of the most important figures in both of those organizations: Joe Bodovitz and Will "Trav" Travis.

Joseph Bodovitz was born Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1930. He attended Northwestern University, where he studied English Literature, served in the US Navy during the Korean War, and then completed a graduate degree in journalism at Columbia University. In 1956 he accepted a job as a reporter with the San Francisco Examiner, reporting on crime, politics, and eventually urban redevelopment. He then took a position with SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research) where he launched their newsletter. In 1964 he was enlisted to lead the team drafting the Bay Plan, which resulted in the creation of the San Francisco Bay Conversation and Development Commission (BCDC) by the state legislature in 1969. Bodovitz was hired as the first executive director of BCDC. In 1972 he was hired by the newly-established California Coastal Commission to be its first executive director. He left the Coastal Commission in 1979 and shortly thereafter was named executive director of the California Public Utilities Commission, a position he held until 1986. He served as head of the California Environmental Trust and then as the project director for BayVision 2020, which created a plan for a regional Bay Area government. In this interview, Bodovitz details the creation of the BCDC and how it established itself into a respected state agency; he also discusses the first eight years of the Coastal Commission and how he helped craft a strategy for managing such a huge public resource ? the California coastline. He further discusses utilities deregulation in the 1980s and the changing context for environmental regulation through the 1990s.

Will Travis was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1943. He attended Penn State University as both as an undergraduate and graduate student, studying architecture and regional planning. From 1970 to 1972 he worked as a planner for the then nascent San Francisco Bay Conversation and Development Commission (BCDC). In 1972 moved to the newly established California Coastal Commission, where worked in various capacities until 1985. In 1985 Travis returned to BCDC first as deputy director then as the agency?s director beginning in 1995. He retired from BCDC in 2011 and continues to work as a consultant. In this life history interview, Travis discusses his work both the BCDC and the Coastal Commission, focusing on accounts of particular preservation and development projects including the restoration of marshland areas around the San Francisco Bay. The interview also covers in detail Travis?s work documenting the threat of sea level rise as a result of climate change and how the Bay Area might plan for such a transformation.

Feb 11, 2016 | Categories: OHC Articles | mmeeker

Ed Ruscha: A New Oral History with the Artist

In partnership with the Getty Trust, we are pleased to release a new oral history with the famed artist Ed Ruscha. Ruscha is an American artist who has specialized in painting, drawing, photography, and books. Born in 1937, Ruscha moved to Los Angeles to attend school at Chouinard Art Institute in 1956. In the early 1960s, he contributed to the birth of ?pop art? and his work was featured in the famed 1962 exhibition ?New Painting of Common Objects.? In the 1960s, he painted canvases that have since become iconic, including Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1961), Standard Station (1963), and Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Fire (1965?68). A signature of his work has been the use of words and phrases, such as in the paintings Optics (1967), Brave Men Run In My Family (1988), and many more. Ruscha also produced an influential series of books based on his photography of the built landscape of Los Angeles, and his continues to document vernacular Los Angeles through photography to this day. He was represented by the Leo Castelli Gallery beginning in the 1970s and then moved to the Gagosian Gallery, which continues to show the artist today. In this interview, Ruscha discusses his art education and influences and his introduction to the burgeoning art world of 1960s Los Angeles. He reflects on the transformation of art after the 1960s with the rise of conceptual and political art and his continuing interest in painting during that era. Finally, Ruscha discusses changes in the art world in the 1980s and 1990s, retrospective exhibitions of his art, the transformation of Los Angeles, and how artists might think about their legacy.

Feb 10, 2016 | Categories: OHC Articles | mmeeker

A Career in Mining: Stanley Dempsey on Law, Leadership, Finance, and Community Engagement

Read the full transcript of Stan Dempsey's oral history.

Stanley Dempsey is a geologist, lawyer, executive, and entrepreneur whose interest in the environment and outdoor pastimes led him to spearhead collaborations between the mining industry and activists, which anticipated the environmental legislation of the 1970s. Dempsey was at the forefront of developing the mining industry?s legal and policy responses to environmental regulation during this early period, and became Director of Environmental Affairs for AMAX, Inc., the first position of its kind in the industry. He was responsible for acquiring land positions and for construction contracts for the Climax and Henderson mines in Colorado. He directed the AMAX part of a multinational joint venture in iron-ore mining in Western Australia. In the early 1980s, he served as Vice President for the worldwide operations of AMAX. After a brief stint at a law firm, Dempsey co-founded a merchant bank called the Denver Mining Finance Company. In later years, he founded one of the first and most successful mineral royalty firms, Royal Gold, Inc. Dempsey continues to serve as a consultant, and is a longtime supporter and leader in many mining associations, including the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America and the National Mining Hall of Fame.

Global Mining and Materials Research Project

For over twenty years, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) produced in-depth oral histories of members of the mining community, under a project called "Western Mining in the Twentieth Century," which was overseen by ROHO interviewer Eleanor "Lee" Swent. The 104 interviews in the project covered the history of mining in the American Southwest, Mexico, South America, and Australia from the 1940s until the 1990s.

ROHO has recently changed its name to the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library, and with that change we proudly announce a new project entitled "Global Mining and Materials Research," which will focus on key transitions in technology, policy, and geopolitics that have brought mining to its current state worldwide.

Much has changed in mining industries in the years since the Western Mining project was in full production, including the increased globalization of mining operations, the decreasing concentration of mineable minerals in ore, increasingly complicated regulatory environments, new systems of environmental remediation, new technology for exploration, extraction, and processing, and new stories of political conflict and resolution. In addition to collecting interviews about mining engineering, metallurgy, and administration, we also hope to explore the history of information technology and data analysis with respect to mining, as well as the legal, regulatory, and policy history of the industries.

This interview was funded with support from the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST), the Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society (TMS), and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). We are also collaborating with the IEEE to host these oral histories on the Engineering and Technology History Website.

Thanks also to former Western Mining Project Lead Lee Swent, Dr. Douglas Fuerstenau, and Noel Kirschenbaum for their advice and support while the Global Mining Project was being established. Finally, we are most grateful to Stanley Dempsey for taking time out of a busy schedule to speak to us about the evolution of the mining industry over the past forty years.

Paul Burnett, Oral History Center

Feb 04, 2016 | Categories: OHC Articles | ddunham

Edith Kramer, Director Emeritus of the Pacific Film Archive

This week UC Berkeley proudly opens the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive building in downtown Berkeley. As our contribution to the celebrations, we are thrilled to release our interview with Edith Kramer, Emeritus Senior Film Curator and Director Pacific Film Archive.

Kramer has been associated with the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive since 1975 when she joined the staff as Assistant Film Curator. In June 2003, the University of California, Berkeley, awarded Ms. Kramer The Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Kramer holds an M.A. in Art History from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Michigan. She has taught film history at the University of Oregon, UC Davis, and the San Francisco Art Institute. Upon arriving in the Bay Area in 1967, she managed Canyon Cinema Cooperative and was instrumental in the founding of Canyon Cinematheque (now the San Francisco Cinematheque); and she served as Film Curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

In this interview, Kramer discusses the growth of film curation as a profession, the establishment and growth of the Pacific Film Archive, and the transformation of film curation as a result of changes in technology and distribution. Moreover, she details the films that were most influential to her and how she brought those films to audiences in Berkeley and beyond.

Jan 28, 2016 | Categories: OHC Articles | mmeeker

Remembering Sylvia McLaughlin

Photo of Sylvia McLaughlin

With the death of Sylvia McLaughlin on January 19 at age 99, the Bay Area environmental movement has lost one of its preeminent founding figures. At the Oral History Center, we knew Sylvia as a generous narrator in two oral histories and a donor to the Bancroft Library of her extensive personal papers; taken together, these documents tell the story of a half-century of pioneering activism to protect the San Francisco Bay. We also remember her with gratitude as a supporter and advisor for myriad oral history projects on environmental and water resources history as well as the history of the western mining industry.

In 1961, Sylvia, wife of UC Regent and mining executive Donald McLaughlin, joined with two other prominent UC-connected women, Catherine Kerr, the wife of UC President Clark Kerr, and Esther Gulick, wife of a Berkeley economics professor, to do something about the deplorable state of the San Francisco Bay: "We could see the dump trucks going down and filling the bay constantly. . . . It was a dump," recalled Sylvia in her 2007 oral history. The three women formed Save San Francisco Bay Association and began a campaign not only to halt further degradation of the bay but also to return privately owned shoreline lands to public ownership and to restore them for public use as parklands and wetlands. They proved to be amazingly effective, drawing on university experts, energizing a broad swath of public opinion, organizing citizen caravans to lobby in Sacramento, and eventually getting a groundbreaking regulatory body, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. In his book on the development of the Bay Area's environmental consciousness, Berkeley geography professor Richard Walker credits the three women: "Nothing was more essential to the foundation of the Bay Area's green culture. It all goes through Save the Bay." [Richard A. Walker, The Country in the City: the Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area, University of Washington Press, 2007].

Sylvia joined the organization's co-founders in 1985 for an oral history conducted by Malca Chall looking back at their first twenty-five years working together, in Save San Francisco Bay Association, 1961-1986. In 2007, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sylvia for an eight-session biographical oral history. This time she reflected on her family and formative years in Denver, Colorado, and more than forty-five years of activism in the Bay Area and beyond. She discussed the incredible network of local, national, and international environmental organizations that she had helped to found, served on the boards of, acted as trusted spokesperson and advisor for, and attracted new activists to. In Citizen Activist for the Environment: Saving San Francisco Bay, Promoting Shoreline Parks and Natural Values in Urban and Campus Planning, she sums up her keys to successful advocacy: "These things take time, but persistence as well. . . . Determination. Never give up. And then it's always helpful to have good leadership along the way."

We will all miss Sylvia McLaughlin's eternal vigilance and determination, as well as her vision, quiet persuasiveness, willingness to listen to opposing views, and genuine concern for both people and the environment. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Feb. 2 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. Memories and condolences may also be left at

Ann Lage
Interviewer Emeritus
Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Jan 23, 2016 | Categories: OHC Articles | ddunham

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