But did you know that Gary spent more than 10 years building new homes in the Imperial County communities of Brawley, Heber, Holtville, Seeley and Calipatria? Many of his customers were farm workers who were first-time buyers. “It was one of the most satisfying and rewarding times of my life when I handed over the front door keys to the family,” said Gary. “The husband would be proudly standing taller, the wife would be crying, the kids would be jumping. It was a great feeling.”
Gary grew up in La Puente, Calif., in the San Gabriel Valley. He earned a bachelor’s degree in language arts from California Polytechnic University and moved to San Diego in 1969 to attend the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law. He earned his juris doctorate degree in 1972. He has never practiced law, but has taught law classes during real estate recessions. “If you work in real estate, you can always count on a recession,” said Gary, “Teaching has helped bridge the income gap during a few lean times.”
After graduating from law school, he got a job in politics as assistant to the chairman of the California Republican Party. His assignments included advance work for visits by President Nixon, Vice President Agnew and former Michigan Gov. George Romney, serving at the time as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Gary then got a job in banking with Southern California First National Bank as a trust officer and later as a manager of the bank’s REO properties. In 1979, he joined Great American Development Co. as vice president of joint venture development. He worked with developers Ray Watt on San Diego County Estates in Ramona (Watt passed away in 2009 at age 90) and Macey L. “Corky” McMillin Jr. on Scripps Ranch and Terra Nova in Chula Vista (McMillin passed away in 2005 at age 76).
Before he was building homes as Gramling Construction Co. and Desert Development Co., Inc. in Imperial County, during the years from 1985 to 1996, Gary oversaw construction for several new home builders, including Sunwest Builders (homes in Santee, Rancho Penasquitos, Rancho Bernardo and Sun City), Covington Homes (homes in Oceanside) and Ryland Homes (senior communities in the western U.S.).
Since 2009, Gary, a resident of East Village in Downtown San Diego, has served as a commissioner to the San Diego Housing Commission, a state-chartered public agency governed by the San Diego City Council. The Housing Commission oversees Section 8 housing, affordable housing, special needs programs and homeless programs within the city of San Diego. Gary was first appointed to Housing Commission by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and confirmed by the San Diego City Council in February 2009. His fellow commissioners chose him as board chairman in January 2010. He reappointed to the Board of Commissioners by the San Diego City Council on Feb. 10, 2014, and will serve through January 2, 2017.
The Housing Commission efforts with San Diego’s homeless population recently made headlines. Two temporary tents that have housed the city’s homeless since the 1990s will be replaced this year with a permanent, 350-bed year-round facility at downtown’s St. Vincent de Paul Village. The two tents include a 200-bed shelter for adults on 16th Street and a 150-bed shelter for veterans on Pacific Highway in the Midway District. St. Vincent’s, on Imperial Avenue in the East Village, is expected to have 100 beds ready on April 1 and the other 250 available by July 1.
Gary said the recent decision fits with an approach to homelessness advocated by the Housing Commission to shift to a “housing-first” model, which aims to get homeless people off the streets quickly so they can be connected with counseling focused on solutions. “Moving away from temporary tents to a year-round program focused on helping people get off the streets for good is the best way to go,” said Gary.
Since 1977, Gary also has served on the board of directors, including twice as chairman, of Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego, Inc., a community non-profit that has provides regular nutrition and daily contact for seniors with a caring volunteer. Meals-on-Wheels currently serves two heart-healthy, nutritious meals seven days a week to nearly 1,150 seniors every month in 48 San Diego County communities. In the last 12 months, Meals-on-Wheels volunteers have delivered about 400,000 meals. Gary and wife Ana Martinez will be honored on July 18 at Meals-on-Wheels’ annual Bollywood Bash Gala and Chef Appetizer Challenge, a fundraiser at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.
Gary enjoys his involvement with PSAR. “I enjoy the opportunity to lend my experience to our members and explain in my inspection reports my findings in concise language so that the options can be clearly understood,” he said. “I greatly admire our members. They actively support the Association for the benefit of everyone. We have a lot of good people who work hard to help everyone do well.”
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Don’t forget to read next week’s story. Hint: She talked to George Harrison of the Beatles on the phone on the band’s first trip to America in February 1964.