In Memoriam: Edward Helfeld MCP ’52, MLA ’54
Edward Helfeld MCP ’52, MLA ’54 passed away on October 20th, 2018 in San Francisco. He had a distinguished career in planning and redevelopment, holding positions as redevelopment director in St. Paul, MN (10 years); Los Angeles (10 years); and San Francisco (8 years). Adding to and upgrading the housing stock was a major focus of his work in all three cities, with a special focus on the elderly in St. Paul; on Skid Row residents in Los Angeles; and provision of new housing in chronically housing-short San Francisco. Beyond housing, Helfeld used his planning skills and his influence to secure development sites for arts uses and to direct a “percent for art” to public art and art exhibition space in the increasingly vibrant central areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco during his tenure in each city. The successful development of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center as a public space surrounded by arts and complementary uses was among the highlights of his professional career, which was supported by his own lifelong love of the visual arts, Baroque music, modern dance, and literature.
An incidental benefit of Helfeld’s years at the GSD was his introduction to squash. He became a formidable competitor during his years in the Midwest, and he continued tournament play when he relocated to California. As the number of competitive squash players thinned with age, Helfeld ascended to national rank: US squash doubles champion in 1996 (70+) and 2003 (75+). He continued to play squash into his nineties.
Helfeld’s wife, the former Dorothy Gordon, predeceased him; he leaves two daughters, Deborah and Ruth MLA ’82, and four grandchildren. He also leaves his partner, Roberta Mowry Mundie AB ’66, MCRP ’70, also a city planner, and his brother David Helfeld, formerly Dean of the Law School, University of Puerto Rico.