Most Influential: Parking guru and Gaslamp king

Rancho Bernardo

by  February 18, 2014

Political leaders like Frye, Gloria and Goldsmith often get all the press coverage. But business people are also influencing our region.Here are two that you may not know, but you have likely felt their impact.

Keith Jones

Few people in San Diego have the pedigree of Keith Jones. His grandfathers are the late Evan Jones, the founder of Ace Parking, and philanthropist Malin Burnham.

That alone necessarily would not make him influential. Some offspring of powerful families flounder for a number of reasons, such as Vegas being so close by.

Jones? He is not floundering. At only 32, he now heads Ace Parking, one of the largest privately owned parking companies in the nation, with 450 locations. It employs more than 5,000 people.

And he’s also heavily involved in the community, as an executive committee member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. He holds other positions as well.

“I’ve been taught by my grandfathers to be engaged civically,” he said. “A good amount of people have taught me humility and gratitude.”

What he dislikes is extremism, he said. It’s not that difficult to find common ground, regardless of your political beliefs, he said. “I think communities are thirsty for that kind of collaboration,” he said.

His future seems pretty much limitless, considering his professional position and passion for causes, including fighting homelessness downtown. “I want to continue to find ways to be as effective as possible as a community leader,” he says.

And he still goes to his granddad for advice. That can’t hurt.

Sumeet Parekh

San Diego has this pretty cool neighborhood. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Called the Gaslamp. Has lots of hip bars, upscale restaurants and boutique shops.

Sumeet Parekh is the fast becoming the king of it.

An overstatement? Perhaps, but it might not be for long. He’s the principal of HP Investors, and his firm has purchased more than a half-dozen properties in and around the Gaslamp over the past 18 months. He’s eyeing more, too.

In a joint venture with a New York investment firm, HP Investors recently bought retail and parking interests in Gaslamp Square, which takes up a full city block in the heart of the Gaslamp. The deal was worth nearly $50 million.

“We’re heavily researched-based and we found the most opportunity is on the retail side [of real estate],” he said.

And that means Parekh, who cut his teeth in real estate transactions in New York City, and his business partners can shape a significant portion of the Gaslamp as they see fit. After all, they control the properties.

The good news is that Parekh, who grew up in San Diego, wants to fully realize the Gaslamp’s and downtown’s potential.

“We’re longterm investors,” he said. “We look at what’s going to best 20 years from now. We’re about bringing in tenants who will be interesting rather than who can pay the highest rents.”

And he seeks community input for guidance, he added. “We get feedback. We’re trying to stay as plugged in as possible.”