The LeadershipProtea Waterfront Development, LLC (PWD)

The principals of Protea Waterfront Development (PWD) are longtime San Diego residents and recognized professionals in their respective fields. Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, Jeff Jacobs and Jeffrey Essakow bring expertise in construction management, biotech, marketing, hospitality, unique mixed-use retail development, fitness and philanthropy. Together, they have close to 100 years of experience and a shared commitment to creating a legacy project to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Yehudi Gaffen
Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, Partner

Gaf is a downtown resident and has lived and worked in San Diego since 1979. He and his wife founded Gafcon, Inc. in 1987, a nationally respected development and construction manager. Gafcon has been behind the success of many local public and private and public projects including the original North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, the reconstruction of the San Diego Community College and Unified School Districts, numerous downtown high rise residential projects, Coronado’s police facility and public services yard, and the County Hall of Justice. Gaf’s passion lies in assisting owners in executing complex projects that power vibrant communities. View full bio

Jeff Jacobs
Jeff “JJ” Jacobs, Partner

JJ has been a San Diego resident since 1966. He began his professional life as Qualcomm’s 32nd employee. During his 22-year career there, Qualcomm grew from a small privately held company to one of the top 50 most highly valued companies in the world. During this time JJ rose to be an executive officer and the company's chief marketing officer. Since leaving Qualcomm, JJ has focused on high visibility lifestyle investment projects, including the acclaimed Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa and the new 750,000 state-of-the-art stadium and practice facility for the Sacramento Kings. View full bio

Jeffrey Esssakow
Jeff Essakow, Partner

As one of the three partners, Jeff provides the leadership and direction for the retail and financial strategies of the project.

Since 1983 when Jeff became a resident of San Diego, he been instrumental in the success of a number of entrepreneurial ventures. He cofounded an athletic apparel company, which was acquired by Reebok in 1992. In 1996 he joined forces with Gaf to found Protea Holdings and currently manages all day-to-day operations of the company. Protea Holdings has developed over $300 million of commercial projects. Jeff is also a founder and board chairman of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). Since 1997 CAF has raised over $70 million to help athletes with disabilities lead active lifestyles. View full bio

Protea Waterfront Development, LLC (PWD) - Managing Member

PWD is a single-focused entity set up with the prime and sole purpose of developing this project. Its “parent,” Protea Holdings, has been developing noteworthy mixed-use projects like Flower Hill Promenade in San Diego since 1993. The principals are longtime San Diego residents and recognized professionals in their respective fields. Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, Jeff Jacobs and Jeffrey Essakow bring expertise in development, construction management, biotech, marketing, hospitality, unique mixed-use retail development, fitness and philanthropy. The PWD team shares a commitment to creating a legacy project that is accessible to residents and visitors alike to be enjoyed for generations to come.

RCI Group

The RCI Group and its affiliated companies are a direct advisor for the development of the marina. This team is responsible for overseeing and advising on the construction of marina-related building and the overall layout of the marina. The RCI Group has experience developing marinas mainly on the East Coast of the United States. These developments include the Miami Beach Marina and Boston Yacht Haven. Also, they are currently developing Steelpointe Harbor in New England. Most recently they have been awarded large waterfront developments in Cuba. They consistently meet the highest standards of service, profitability and performance. Throughout their forty years of operation, the RCI Group boasts a long and rich history of developing and managing residential, commercial and marine properties. More information is available at


ThrillCorp (USTR) specializes in rides designed to show off the surrounding area such as iconic spires and sky view gondolas. Their manufacturing review standards, precision designs and rigorous safety processes have been developed and refined over their 20-year history. For more information visit


OdySea is a premier entertainment company that develops live nature attractions as well as retail and restaurant centers that cater to experiential shopping and dining. Its diversified portfolio includes a number of different nature-related experiences from aquariums to butterfly pavilions, mirror and laser mazes and commercial real estate. Select experience includes the Newport Aquarium located in Newport, Kentucky; OdySea Aquarium: An Oceanic Adventure in Scottsdale, AZ; The OdySea Experience at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut; Butterfly Wonderland: A Rainforest Experience located in Scottsdale. More information is available at

Gafcon, Inc.

Program and Project Management

Gafcon, Inc., locally headquartered in San Diego, provides program planning, design and construction consulting services to public and private agencies. Gafcon has been recognized in Engineering News-Record as one of the Top 50 Program Management Firms in the nation, and Constructech Magazine presented Gafcon with a Vision Award for their use of technology in program management. Incorporated on September 23, 1987, their core expertise is in managing complex design and construction programs. With more than 130 accomplished professionals serving both in-house and on-site, their size provides them with the aptitude to meet their clients’ needs efficiently and effectively. More information on Gafcon and its services can be found at

Allegis Development Services

Founded in 1989, Allegis Development Services, Inc. is a premier real estate development firm specializing in the San Diego market. As a provider of comprehensive land development and project management services, Allegis is a resource for owners and municipalities that need high-end development services but don’t want to sacrifice property equity in the process. Allegis has managed over $3 billion in commercial real estate developments, including such notable projects as The Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, ResMed corporate headquarters, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort and the Chula Vista civic center and police headquarters. More information about Allegis can be found at

Skyport/AVRP Studios

Architectural Design

Skyport/AVRP Studios works with clients to ensure a fusion of vision, function and aesthetics for a project. Their design team focuses on functional and pleasant space aimed to enhance the experience of those who use them. This is achieved through the combination of natural and artificial lighting, color, materials and furnishings. AVRP was founded in 1975 and is based in downtown San Diego. Their design projects have a wide range, from office buildings and healthcare centers to schools, parks and residential housing. More information can be found at


Founded in 2005 in Copenhagen, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has designed numerous award-winning projects across the world. BIG currently operates out of offices in both Copenhagen and New York and is involved in a large number of projects across Europe, North America and Asia. They are technology driven and use their analytics to find opportunities to realize a project's greatest potential. As one of the world's rising architectural firms, they were recently featured on CBS's “60 minutes”. Time magazine has listed Bjarke Ingels as one of the top 100 influential people in the world. For more on BIG and their current projects visit

Moffat and Nichol

Moffat & Nichol is one of the most respected waterfront and marine infrastructure engineering firms in the United States. For more information visit

The committee includes Irwin Jacobs, San Diego’s most celebrated innovator and the CEO emeritus of Qualcomm, a company he co-founded in 1985; Steven Black, chairman of Cisterra Partners and a stalwart of the real estate development industry with over 30 years of experience; Tom Sudberry, chairman of the Board for Sudberry Properties, is the pioneering mastermind of master-planned communities specializing in urban retail, community and town center developments; Stath Karras, executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, is a lauded scholar in strategic initiatives who creates a meaningful learning experience for the real estate students at the University of San Diego; and Richard Bartell, president and CEO of Bartell Hotels and a 30-year veteran of the hotel industry in the San Diego area, enriches the fabric of the hospitality and philanthropy community.
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