Roy Willis joined Lennar Communities of the Bay Area in June, 1999, as its Operations Director for Lennar's 550 acre Hunters Point Shipyard Redevelopment Project (Shipyard). He has had responsibility for all aspects of the day-to-day planning, management, and community affairs of this soon-to-be, new, urban, waterfront, mixeduse development on the San Francisco Bay. His recent 2003-2004 successes include the approval of a development agreement with the City’s Redevelopment Agency to build 1600 homes and 300,000 sf of commercial development at the Shipyard and approval by the U.S. Navy to transfer land to the City and developer for this purpose. Willis enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1959 and became the first African American student in 1960. He graduated with a B.S. in chemistry in 1962. After working as a chemist for a year, he served for 2 years as an officer in the U.S. Army and then worked for the Service Bureau Corporation.
Willis enrolled at Harvard Business School in 1967, and earned his MBA in 1969, with special interest in urban, economic and international development. While at Harvard, he co-founded the Harvard Business School/African American Student Union (HBS/AASU) to recruit and financially assist students who were admitted to the MBA program.
Willis then came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969, and worked on a variety of community planning and urban development initiatives. His career has been defined by his strong desire to improve the social and economic conditions of blighted African American and other urban communities. In 1976, Willis joined the Urban Reinvestment Task Force, which in 1977 became the National Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation with Willis as its Western Regional Director. Their efforts helped to create the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, requiring major financial institutions to make capital available to blighted minority communities, across the nation, for housing and economic development purposes. He worked in this field until 1981 when he joined the international development firm Olympia & York, and worked closely with then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, her staff and officials of the City's Redevelopment Agency, to gain approval for the development of Yerba Buena Gardens; a highly successful mixed-use development project which has spurred redevelopment of San Francisco’s South of Market area. Willis left Olympia & York in 1986, to become a real estate development consultant.
In 1987, Willis went to Los Angeles where he served as Deputy Administrator for Community Development for the Los Angeles Community Development Agency (Agency) during the Bradley and Riordan administrations. For 12 years, he successfully managed a wide variety of downtown and neighborhood redevelopment projects. Under Willis' leadership, the Agency received broad-based, national acclaim for envisioning and executing the Watts and the South Los Angeles Renaissance Program; a major redevelopment initiative envisioned, planned and developed in response to the Los Angeles civil disturbances of 1992, following the Rodney King verdict.
Willis and his wife Dean now reside in San Francisco and are the proud parents of four children who have grown up to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. Daughter Gena is a production vice-president of singer/actress Vanessa Williams' film and musical production company. A second daughter Tiffany, until recently, was the producer of the Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown television shows, for which she was nominated for an Emmy award. A third daughter, Nia, is a lawyer for a non-profit foundation in Chicago, Illinois. Son Maceo is a screen-writing graduate from USC's Graduate School of Cinema.
Willis was born in 1939 in Halifax County, North Carolina and raised in Norfolk, Virginia by his parents, Reverend Percy Willis and Mildred Willis.