The LeadershipProtea Waterfront Development, LLC

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, CEO

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 construction and program management firm. Gafcon has been behind the success of many local public and private 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 San Diego 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, while 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 state-of-the-art stadium and practice facility for the Sacramento Kings. View full bio

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 has 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 more than $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 established with the 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 that will be enjoyed for generations to come.


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-centered experiences from aquariums to butterfly pavilions, as well as mirror and laser mazes and commercial real estate. Select experience includes the Newport Aquarium located in Newport, Kentucky; OdySea Aquarium: An Oceanic Adventure as well as Butterfly Wonderland: A Rainforest Experience, both in Scottsdale, Arizona; and The OdySea Experience at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. 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

RCI Group

The RCI Group and its affiliated companies are direct advisors 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 40 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

Gafcon, Inc.
Program and Project Management
Perkins Eastman
Architectural Design

Architectural Design

Skyport/AVRP Studios
Architectural Design

Perennial Partners
General Contractor

Project Design Consultants
Civil Engineers

Moffat and Nichol
Marine Engineers

Ninyo & Moore
Geotechnical Engineers

Glotman & Simpson
Structural Engineers

MNM Advertising & Public Relations
Community Outreach & Public Relations

ABBA Project Management
Waterside Program Management

Allegis Develpoment
Owners Representative
PCL Construction
Program and Project Management
Cars LA
Community Outreach
Legal Counsel - Land Use
Kosmont Companies
Finance and Real Estate Advisor
Legal Counsel
Land Development Advisor
The ReAlignment Group of California
Program Facilitator
UC San Diego/Birch Aquarium
Fink Studios
Lighting Design
Group Delta
Constructability Consultant

Collaborative Land Use Solutions” style=
Land Use Consultant, Community Outreach and Government Coordination

West Coast Fisheries Consultant” style=

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, and 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, and a lauded scholar in strategic initiatives who creates meaningful learning experiences for the real estate students at the University of San Diego;
  • Richard Bartell, president and CEO of Bartell Hotels, and a 30-year veteran of the hotel industry in the San Diego area who enriches the fabric of the hospitality and philanthropy communities.
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