Tweaking An Idea That’s Ahead of its Time

By Carrie Rossenfeld

Monday, November 24, 2015


SAN DIEGO—When IDEA1 was first conceived more than three years ago, it was considerably different than the project that recently broke ground Downtown, panelists at CREW San Diego’s lunch presentation here yesterday told attendees including The event, titled “IDEA1: A Case Study in Collaboration and Creativity,” drew in members and guests interested in hearing more about the residential-but-flexible project Lowe Enterprises is developing in the East Village area of Downtown San Diego.


IDEA1 began as a true mixed-use concept of 50% office/50% residential, the brainchild of Mike McNerney, SVP of Lowe, David Malmuth and Pete Garcia from I.D.E.A. District, McNerney said. “Pete, Dave and I formed a partnership with a compelling vision for what we wanted to do.” The original idea was something different for the East Village, “a place to connect, collaborate and collide; to innovate; to blend work, chilling and gathering,” according to the video presented at the event.

What emerged was a largely residential project with space for ground-floor residential as well as work/live ground-floor lofts aimed at “makers” or entrepreneurs. “Our original concept was an environment for entrepreneurs,” said McNerney. “Now, we want to grow East Village companies.”


According to Bess Wakeman, EVP, agency leasing for JLL, the problem with the office component was that companies weren’t migrating Downtown as quickly as the developers had hoped when the project was conceived. “We needed to convince users there was a need for office space Downtown.” While the percentage of office users in the Downtown San Diego market is ramping up, it wasn’t moving fast enough for IDEA1 to remain half office. So, the developers sat down at the drawing board and reworked the idea, redesigning it to be more residential in nature.


Darcy Miramontes, EVP, multifamily, for JLL, said, “The East Village is a hotbed of multifamily development and is the next frontier of multifamily development” in San Diego. She said lenders were worried initially that there was too much multifamily development in the area to justify this build, but while some older properties were renting for below $3 per square foot, this figure has increased to as much as $3.75 per square foot in some of the newer properties.   Read more




What it Takes to Be a Leader in CRE

By Carrie Rossenfeld

Monday, November  5, 2015


SAN DIEGO—Setting a good example, rewarding employees and encouraging diverse opinions are a few of the methods panel members touted as necessary to be a strong leader during Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego’s Fifth Annual Women in Real Estate Conference here yesterday. was on the scene as nearly 250 attendees listened raptly to the all-female keynote address and panel talk about success and leadership in commercial real estate.


The breakfast event began with a keynote address by Gina Champion-Cain, a USD alum and chairman of the board of American National Investments, who stressed the importance of relationships in the real estate business: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Champion-Cain spoke candidly and humorously about her career, which included time with the Koll Co. followed by forays into the live-music (as in bringing House of Blues to San Diego), restaurant (the Patio) and retail (a coffee-roasting shop and a new culinary-store concept she’s working on) businesses. She said she “never worked really hard to achieve one particular goal,” but instead measures her success by her “love of my dogs.”


Next came the panel session titled “Strategy and Leadership in an Increasingly Dynamic Real Estate Market.” Moderator Vicky Carlson, president and CEO of LEAD San Diego, asked panelists what led to their success as leaders and how they chose the people they hired. Vicki Mullins, EVP and CFO of Newland Communities, said hiring people she has confidence in who have passion, good judgment, character and integrity, has been key. Real estate advisor Barbara Cambon, a former elementary-school teacher who began her real estate career in 1981, said she focused on building a team with diversified skill sets and experiences that would drive success. And Karen MacLeod, principal manager of real estate for Sharp HealthCare, said rewarding, appreciating and trusting in her team has been important. “There’s nothing worse than micromanagement.” She added that leaders need to lead by example, and they need to be fair and provide team members with accessibility to them. Carlson summed up the panelists’ answers by saying that the common denominator was having the right team and people working for you.


Next, Carlson asked how the panelists find, train and keep talent. Cambon said using your network and being on the look for people who spark a relationship with what you are trying to accomplish is key, as is connecting at a personal level, which is increasingly challenging in this digital day and age. She added, “I had to help them understand their job was not to agree with me, that they had a responsibility to say what’s on their mind. A roomful of people who all agree don’t come up with new ideas.” She added that she recently read by a reputable source that having women on corporate boards increases the intelligence of the group. And finally, “when employees are contributing” to the betterment of the company, “they want to stay.”


MacLeod echoed the importance of networking to find good candidates, and she added that for retention, the way a leader behaves is important. Mullins said it’s important to avoid hiring “talented terrors”—people who are very good at what they do, but don’t get along well with others—because it’s bad for the group. “It’s all about skills and attitude combined.”


Carlson asked the panelists what each considers the main challenges in their respective fields. Mullins said finding and creating compelling reasons for Millennials to remain in certain markets and for Baby Boomers who want to downsize to buy homes is a huge challenge in home development. Cambon said getting to the bottom of what’s affecting portfolio performance is a main challenge in the investment realm, and MacLeod said the inability to find large blocks of space where rents are not skyrocketing and the cost of construction—particularly with Title 24—were challenges in the medical-office-building arena. She added that “if you’re not wired like Gina,” the corporate real estate industry needs facilities and property managers to make sure its portfolio matches its needs.


Cambon pointed out that career planning is not necessarily linear anymore; people don’t necessarily stay with one company their whole career, so “be open to finding your own personal intersection of what interests you and what makes you happy. Real estate is becoming international, so if you like to travel,” there are avenues in real estate to do that now.


During the Q&A session, one attendee asked Champion-Cain how she finances her pioneering ideas. She answered, “You have to convince the money people that your proposition works, that it is based on sound fundamentals, and you have to point out the negatives.” She said the most profound lesson she learned from failure was to “never give up; keep believing in yourself. No one is going to keep me down.”


To a question about succession planning, panelists agreed that this is very important and that employees need to see that there is a plan in place. Mullins suggested promoting from within if you can, and MacLeod said non-profits tend to do succession planning better than for-profit companies.


Finally, in answer to a question about challenges of doing business in California, Champion-Cain said it’s crucial that the state take control of its destiny and make itself business friendly. “This is a critical situation.” Cambon said the institutional capital view of California is that it’s costly to do business here, and that has to change.



CREW Wine-Tasting Event Draws Crowd

By Carrie Rossenfeld

Monday, October 19, 2015


SAN DIEGO—More than 140 industry women and men attended CREW San Diego’s wine-tasting/fundraiser event at the Grand Del Mar Golf Club here last week. was on the scene as the organization raised money for its foundation.


In addition to networking opportunities, attendees were treated to tastings of several different wines as well as hors d’oeuvres. Raffle winners were announced for prizes ranging from exercise classes to goods and other services. A silent auction for gift baskets, jewelry, vacations and a plethora of other goodies was held, the proceeds of which went toward the organization’s CREW Network Foundation.


Special events held periodically raise several thousands of dollars a year for the CREW Foundation, which was founded in 1998 as the philanthropic arm of CREW Network. CREW Network Foundation is the only foundation dedicating its resources solely towards advancing women in the commercial real estate industry, and it is committed to bringing more women into commercial real estate with programs that educate women and girls about the career opportunities available to them and creating mentoring relationships for those new to the industry.




CREW San Diego is excited to announce the launch of our newly designed website.  The new responsive website was designed by CREW San Diego member, H5 Networks.  “Although better known for providing exceptional IT Support to the construction and real estate market, Mandy and her team at H5 did an amazing job on our new website.”  said Toni McMahon of Fuscoe Engineering and Director of Marketing Communications for CREW San Diego.  “H5 is woman owned, upholds a great reputation as a premier IT Service Provider and is a CREW San Diego member sponsor… all great qualities that are also in line with CREW San Diego values.”


The newly redesigned website has been crafted to reflect what our members told us they need the most and also builds upon technology capable of addressing future needs.


Immediately CREW San Diego members will notice streamlined menus, simple navigation and access to the information they need, any time of day. By providing an improved destination, members and visitors have access to news and educational resources, community connections, event registration as well as membership tools and resources… all designed as a hub and gathering place for the Real Estate professional.


We will continue to expand our online content to bring our members updated and relevant information, so we encourage you to bookmark it, check back often and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to receive notice when updates and new content are added.


If you would take a brief moment to share your thoughts, we’d appreciate hearing how the new website experience is for you and how we can continue to improve it.  Please email:



Self Aware Manager, More Effective Leader

By Natalie Dolce

Friday, September 25, 2015


SAN DIEGO—When asked about mistakes made, a panel of CREW members at its leadership event here Wednesday night were honest and candid. Lindsey Back, CFO of J Public Relations, who worked with a money management firm until 2008, made the choice to leave during what was obviously a very difficult time and it wasn’t taken very well. “It backfired,” she said. “But it was something I had to do for myself.”


Because of the reaction she received, Back reconsidered everything she was doing. “I took time to myself to reevaluate myself, and what direction I was headed.”


But it was the right decision for Back. And success is about taking risks and making difficult choices, agreed panelists. For Carisa Wisniewski, office managing partner with Moss Adams, the crossroads came at about eight years in, when she decided she no longer wanted to be an accountant, but instead, wanted to be in HR. “I had lost myself, and really wanted to impact people.”


When presenting the idea, she was told she wasn’t qualified and instead, was asked if she wanted to impact people for a longer period of time, move to Connecticut and be on tract to be a partner. “I put myself out there and although the answer is sometimes ‘no,’ you have to try. It helped me get back on a path that helped me develop people and see them succeed.”


Lauree Sahba, COO San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., once took a job that doubled her salary. “But three months into the job, I couldn’t sell what I was hired to sell to save my soul. But I refused to quit as bad as I was at it. And they fired me. We don’t work for money. We aren’t ditch diggers, we have choices. If you are here tonight, you have choices. Many successful people have been fired.”


The conversation then shifted to introverts and extroverts and moderator Anne Benge, president of Unisource Solutions, asked what types of things you need to be good at to be successful. Gonul Velicelebi, CEO Camino Pharma, said that you have to be a good speaker and know how to communicate in ways that get the job done. “You have to manage the board. It can range from babysitting to psychoanalysis.” That, she said, requires skills.


She also mentioned the importance of experience and being trustworthy. “It takes a certain degree of reading inbetween the lines and making sure to try to understand where these people are coming from. If you are senior, you have to be more sensitive to it.”


Whether you are an introvert of extrovert doesn’t really matter, said Sahba. “You just have to be more self aware. A self aware manager is a more effective leader.”



What Do You Contribute to Your Company?

By Natalie Dolce

Friday, September 25, 2015


SAN DIEGO—“Get used to how you tell people who you are and what you do…speak proudly.” That is advice from Anne Benge, president of Unisource Solutions, moderator of a CREW San Diego panel Wednesday night. was in attendance for the leadership series event, where five panelists talked about the importance of self-promotion, stories of success, meaningful mentors and more.


Benge said that it is interesting how goals change. When she first started working, she said her goal was going out to dinner and not worrying about making rent. Lauree Sahba, COO San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., said that before 35, she thought that her job was to make as much money as possible and to move up the ladder as fast as possible. “I did those things, and I wasn’t unhappy,” she said. But at the age of 35, she shed a lot of that pressure and it changed things. “Who I was before 35 in terms of my outlook on my career changed. I stopped caring what people thought. People always wondered why I wasn’t the CEO and it is because I didn’t want to be.”


Lindsey Back, CFO of J Public Relations, came from a very corporate world that was very structured, but she wanted to be part of a culture that supported her life, not just her professional life. “It isn’t about watching the clock, but about what you are contributing to the company to make a difference.” Back said she now feels her life has a balance. “It is the fulfillment factor that is important.

Read more:



Women Leaders Share Success Secrets at CREW Event

By: Katie Thisdell

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Carisa Wisniewski can pinpoint the moment when the culture shifted at Moss Adams LLP.


Wisniewski, the public accounting firm's office managing partner in San Diego, was meeting with her fellow partners -- five men and one woman -- about the appointment of a quiet, qualified and distinguished woman to an open leadership role.


When asked to take it on, the woman was gracious and said she would respond after checking her other commitments.


The men in the meeting heard something different, though. They interpreted the response to mean she lacked the confidence and was turning down the position, and they should instead appoint a man who was loud about his desires but perhaps not qualified.


"We had a fabulous partner discussion on, 'What just happened?' " Wisniewski said. "When my female partners and I heard she was going to look at her commitments, we heard respect. She wasn't going to enter into it if she couldn't fulfill the job. We heard that she was taking it seriously. What we heard was so different from what my male partners heard.


"If we hadn't debriefed that as leaders, we would have continued to make bad decisions," she added. "We've tried to set the culture that self-promotion actually could backfire. Generally the people that say, 'I'm the best at that,' are not self-aware."


Wisniewski was among four panelists at a leadership event hosted by the San Diego chapter of CREW, Commercial Real Estate Women.


While little of the conversation focused on real estate, about 30 women -- and two men -- heard stories of success and failures, mentoring and job fulfillment, from leaders in a range of markets during the intimate event, held at the Sanford Consortium on Wednesday. Anne Benge, president of Unisource Solutions, moderated the panel.


Panelists shared their thoughts on how to self-promote -- depending on the environment, as Wisniewski said -- and how their identities as extroverts vs. introverts affects their day-to-day roles.


Lauree Sahba, chief operating officer of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., said her favorite phrase to say in meetings, to clarify different perspectives, is: "Can you say that another way? I don't think I understand." Sahba described how, before she turned 35, she believed she needed to make as much money as possible, work as hard as possible and move up the ladder.


"I did those things, and I was not unhappy," she said. "But at about 35, I was at a point in my personal and professional life where I realized I was getting a lot of pressure and accepting a lot of inputs from people" trying to define her success.

Shedding the idea that her career defined her as a person, Sahba, who says she has a great job with a great deal of success in a fantastic environment, has also furthered her personal passion for making a meaningful impact on the world.


Lindsey Back, chief financial officer at J Public Relations, shared how her career path has wound through the financial services industry, startups and working for herself.


"For me success was going to be when I was in a culture that really supported my life, and I was not watching the clock but knowing I had a voice in the company," Back said. "JPR looked to me as a leader, and I felt I was really making a difference. It's the first time I felt my life had balance."


But getting to that point wasn't simple. The bi-coastal, woman-run JPR had been one of her clients while she was in business for herself, and Back continued to do work for them while she worked at a Seattle startup.


During one phone call, she realized the opportunity to ask JPR for the role she wanted -- and her big ask paid off.


"When you finally ask for it and demand what you're worth, it's when it happens," said Back, who had long been accustomed to working in the male-oriented finance industry. "If you don't do that, you're going to keep waiting for them to recognize it."


To be an effective leader -- without being perceived as being bitchy -- Back said she models strong and stern positions, and is confident in her delivery.


"I know I'm a leader and that I need to show up," Back said, adding that a leader should model behaviors others strive to replicate.


Wisniewski and Sahba advised the use of sounding boards -- but not buddies at a bar, boyfriends and girlfriends, or even parents.


They said the role of mentors can be critical in charting a successful career path, as is choosing different people who model particular traits and asking them for help. "Seek them out, but you gotta ask," Wisniewski said.


Gonul Velicelebi, founder and CEO of Camino Pharma, has worked in biotech for 32 years, after choosing the industry over an academic career when she completed her post-doctorate training on the East Coast.


She's had few female mentors -- because 32 years ago, there were no women in biotech, she said.


"I think my role as a mentor has become more important to me than seeking mentors," said Velicelebi.


In the past six months, three people whom she had interviewed and turned down for jobs -- but suggested how they can become stronger professionals -- have come back to her and said her recommendations worked.


But, she said, mentorship is a dynamic exchange, and there is really no end to mentoring relationships. Today, her nieces and nephews continue to mentor her on current cultural customs.

Panelists at a CREW leadership event shared stories of success and failures, mentoring and job fulfillment. From left: Carisa Wisniewski of Moss Adams, moderator Anne Benge of Unisource Solutions, Gonul Velicelebi of Camino Pharma, Lauree Sahba of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., and Lindsey Back of J Public Relations.



CREW Members, Katie Yee and Amanda Seimer, Awarded SD Metro’s 40 Under 40!

By: SD Metro Magazine

September 14, 2015


Amanda Seimer is a vice president for sales and business development at Unisource Solutions, one of the leading furniture management and facilities companies in California. Since joining the firm, Seimer has been bringing in business, creating new networks and building a very strong reputation and presence in San Diego.  At Unisource she leverages her creative sense to select furniture and interior design that align with the goals which a client is trying to achieve. Unisource is the sole provider of furniture for Biocom’s 650-plus members in San Diego. Seimer is also a current board member of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) for the fourth consecutive year. She has helped grow and support CREW’s mentoring, promotion and education programs.  Seimer is a graduate of Roosevelt University.  SD Metro Write up


Katie Yee was the director of business development at KCM Group before recently joining Latitude 33. Latitude 33 is a planning and engineering firm founded in San Diego in 1993. Yee plays an active role with many industry nonprofit organizations. She has spent her entire professional career in real estate and development and is an active member of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women).  Yee is heavily involved with the San Diego Downtown Partnership, the Urban Land Institute and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Yee’s charity work benefits from her love of running to give back through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and organizations supporting research on autism, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and the military. She also co-leads her daughter’s Brownie Girl Scout troop. She is a graduate of San Diego State.

SD Metro Write up



CREW San Diego is In the Spotlight

By Carrie Rossenfeld

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


SAN DIEGO—The women-focused commercial real estate organization CREW San Diego recently held its annual summer event, and one of its members has been honored by a local magazine as a nominee for Woman of the Year.


The CREW San Diego Summer Social was hosted in August by annual sponsor Burger Construction. This year, the event was titled “CREW County Fair” and was held at Burger’s offices in Sorrento Valley. The sponsor hosted game stations including shuffleboard, CREW Who—Guess Who?, ping pong, foosball, pool, ziplining, Airsoft target and shooting, which guests paid for with tickets that were later entered into a raffle drawing for prizes. All proceeds from the games and raffle went to benefit the CREW Network Foundation. See photos from the event below.


In addition, CREW San Diego’s president Lori Ann Stevens, ‎manager of business development at Turner Construction, has been nominated by San Diego Magazine for 2015 Woman of the Year. The winners will be announced September 29 at an awards ceremony. Stevens was the winner of the Women Who Mean Business award by San Diego Business Journal in 2014, as well as the winner of the 2013 Women Who Impact by San Diego Metro Magazine (in fact, she was on the cover of the May/June 2013 issue).


Along with her role with CREW, Stevens serves as a board member with NAIOP, HomeAid San Diego and SD Regional Economic Development Corp. Her previous board member positions include Junior Achievement of San Diego County, VP San Diego Habitat for Humanity and USGBC San Diego. CREW spokesperson Toni McMahon, ‎regional marketing manager at Fuscoe Engineering, tells, “Since Lori Ann has been president of CREW, we have increased our membership by 30%, increased sponsorship by 15% and raised record donation amounts to CREW Foundation, which supports women seeking commercial real estate careers with scholarships.”

CREW Network

1201 Wakarusa Drive, Ste. D

Lawrence, KS 66049

p 785.832.1808

f 785.832.1551

CREW San Diego

Donna Schweitzer

Chapter Administrator

(760) 855-4983




Join Us




CREW Network®

exists to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women.

Copyright © CREW Network. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy

Hoop5 Networks provides IT and Web support services for CREW and CRE companies across the U.S.