Influential Leaders in San Diego

9/22/16 - The Daily Transcript - Influential Leaders in San Diego
Yehudi Gaffen

In 1979, Gaffen had competing job offers from a company in Israel and one in San Diego. They represented one of many forks in the road that would eventually lead him to head one of the top construction consulting firms in Southern California. The native of South Africa chose to take a job with Sunroad Enterprises, and he has stayed in San Diego ever since.

"I felt I could always go back to Israel, but I may never get another opportunity to come to the United States," he said. "Living in South Africa in the '70s was not a comfortable experience. The U.S. was a prime location to settle."

Another big decision Gaffen faced was whether to strike out on his own, and after a few restless nights, he made up his mind to form Gafcon in 1987.
"My late father never worked for anyone — ever," Gaffen said. "If I didn't at least try it, I wouldn't know what it was like. That was the biggest fork [in the road] as I think back."

In the early 1990s, Gafcon expanded into development, participating in more equity deals, which opened up other opportunities.

Today, Gafcon is involved in some of the biggest projects in Southern California.

Perhaps the biggest is its upcoming involvement in the plans to redevelop the iconic Seaport Village along the waterfront. Gafcon is the program manager for the developer Protea Waterfont Development, of which Gaffen is a principal. The Port of San Diego approved Protea as the one to redevelop the 70-acre property. The firm has proposed a $1.2 billion plan that includes hotels, shops, restaurants, an aquarium and a 480-foot tower called "The Spire."

"It's a dream come true," Gaffen said. "It's almost like all the forks in the road I took, and my 40 years in the business, brought me here [to Seaport Village]. It's a legacy project.

"It involves the waterfront, mixed-use development, managing large projects, using projects to benefit the community, which is really what Gafcon is all about. For me, it's a labor of love."

Gaffen said it could take at least four years to break ground with officials hoping for a 2023 opening.

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