Under-the-radar developer Westlake Urban has ambitious projects on tap
January 15, 2015

GAYE QUINN
Managing director, Westlake Urban LLC

HQ: San Mateo

First job: Being the code enforcement officer in San Diego County

Education: B.S., social science/geography from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Residence: San Francisco

Even the closest watchers of Bay Area development probably haven’t heard much about Westlake Urban LLC. The real estate company will be in the headlines quite a bit over the next few years after proposing a 460-unit development at Kirkham Heights – a bold move to bring density to San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood. It also broke ground on the San Leandro Tech Campus last month, which will bring 500,000 square feet of new office space to Alameda County. Gaye Quinn will be pulling the strings along the way as one of the company’s new managing directors. Prior to going into real estate development, Quinn was a public sector urban planner and held leadership roles in Emeryville, San Leandro and San Mateo.

BUSINESS STRATEGY

How’s business? Business is great. It’s an amazing time and the Bay Area is an amazing place. Our business is focused primarily on repositioning real estate within our existing portfolio. In that process, we are committed to investing for the long term as we transition properties to be more urban, connected, diverse and environmentally-focused.

Biggest challenge for your business? Making sure that we constantly challenge ourselves to ask the right questions about what is best for our projects and the communities in which they are located – and most importantly, what it means to add sustainable value for the long term.

What’s going to change at your company in the next year? We are going to continue our transition from a low-profile company that has existed pretty much under the radar as an asset management and property management company, to one that will be a much higher profile real estate development company. At least three of our projects will be under construction.

MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY

Best way to keep competitive edge? Build in ways that add value and connect to the surrounding community. Notice what’s not being built – and whose needs are not being served – and build for them.

What you look for in a new hire? Wholehearted, generous, hard-working people that trust each other.

JUDGEMENT CALLS

Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it? I’m still learning it – but it’s learning to be okay with the fast pace of change. Most of us are doing a lot of things for the first time and it can be scary. It’s about showing up and being fully engaged with what is changing and making sure that the stories we tell ourselves about our changing world are actually true.

Toughest business decision? Deciding to become an employee again after owning my own company for 10 years. It was tough, but I’m very excited about the opportunity.

Biggest missed opportunity? Not in the Bay Area, but until recently, we owned two buildings in Downtown Sacramento, immediately adjacent to the new Sacramento Kings Stadium. We were in the process of designing a mixed-use plan including housing for that property when we received an attractive, unsolicited offer and we sold it. We would have enjoyed working on that project.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Like best about job? The ability to work with a team of highly motivated professionals on projects that transform properties and contribute to the community.

Like least about job? The commute from San Francisco to San Mateo.

Most respected competitor? I don’t think of him as a competitor, more of an inspiration – but Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests is a role model and development hero of mine. Patrick sees opportunities where others don’t.

PREDILECTIONS

What you do for fun? Travel with my husband Mark.

Most influential book? “Winning the Story Wars” by Jonah Sachs.

Favorite way to spend free time? Practicing Bikram Yoga.

Guilty pleasure? Listening to podcasts like “Serial” or “TED Radio Hour” while commuting.

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