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'Frustrated Builder' New Head of Top Land Development Firm

August 17, 1986|EVELYN De WOLFE | Times Staff Writer

Mim Scott, the charismatic new president of Genstar Southwest Development, views her recent promotion as just another rung on the professional ladder. And, hopefully, not one that would make her simply a corporate figurehead.

"My style is being able to roll up my sleeves and get to work. There is no place for hotshots in our business," she stresses.

Previously with Genstar Land-USA, a division of the Canadian-based Genstar Corp. and the parent company of Genstar Southwest Development, Scott worked in Florida, Texas, Arizona and Washington State.

"I did a lot of trouble-shooting for the firm during the lean years between 1980 and 1984, when it became crucial to run a tight ship," she said, adding that Genstar Southwest Development's revenues for 1985 were in excess of $100 million.

She is quick to list tenacity as her most valuable professional attribute. "I'm at the top because of a steady climb, because of a diversity of assignments, longevity in the business and good guidance from mentors."

To young women aiming for career achievement, Scott suggests that "what you need to do is get your foot in the door, where you think you want to be." An accounting background in the building field got her her start, but she went on to explore other facets of the profession that seemed more appealing.

"I was a frustrated builder,from the word go, and I realized that even more after I began working for a North San Diego County builder. I became so interested in how homes were built that I even took drafting courses.

"There was so much I felt that architects omitted. They just didn't seem to understand how women function in the home, and showed little concern about how they felt about their homes."

Soon Scott was being asked to participate in meetings and frequently made suggestions for changes. Her experience branched off into appraising and later into property acquisition.

Her education was in the liberal arts. "That's how it was when I was in college," she said. "We went for a broader education, and I expect we'll be going back to that concept. It leads to greater creative curiosity, to wanting to explore other avenues before settling on specific goals, and I look for that kind of spark in the people I hire. I'm all for people starting out with temporary jobs to find out what's going on and what interests them."

Land Development Expertise

In raising her four children, now adults, Scott said she emphasized the importance of not being backward about asking for help. "Let people know you want to learn; the help is there for those who ask for it. In most jobs, certainly in mine, 95% is in dealing with people."

As president of Genstar Southwest Development, Scott's jurisdiction encompasses the firm's land holdings in San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

"Our expertise is basically in land development," Scott explained, "and as such we must not only be aware of what developers are looking for but what buyers ultimately want."

In San Diego County, Genstar still owns about 7,000 acres and is the master developer of Bernardo Heights, Rancho Penasquitos and the 2,600-acre Fanita Ranch in Santee, as well as for projects in Sorrento Hills and Mira Mesa, which combine industrial, residential and in some cases, mixed-use communities.

Microcosm of Market

Bernardo Heights is a favorite subject with Scott. She calls the 1,018-acre, master-planned community "the jewel in Genstar's crown," and remains intrigued that it should have come to represent a microcosm of the housing market in just six years, setting a record sales pace for surrounding communities.

Scott said sales figures for the first six months of 1986 in that master-planned community indicated a record pace of 305 units totaling $52.6 million. Sales by developers of 11 neighborhoods ranged from condominiums and single-family homes to custom home lots, with prices in the $80,000 to $350,000 range.

"We built Bernardo Heights the way we said we would," Scott noted, tracing the on-going development of that community. "The brochure we put out in 1979 depicting our concept is very close to what we have there today."

Located on the southern edge of Rancho Bernardo, the 1,100-acre Bernardo Heights adjoins Interstate 15 and has a country club at the top. Genstar bought it from AVCO in 1978, and since 1984, all land parcels have been sold to developers.

Difficult Process

Responding to the concerns of major land developers about diminishing open spaces, she said:

"As land gets used up, we are having to deal with more land constraints. You can't always have those rolling hills, you know, but we always do keep that word location foremost in our minds."

In the San Diego area, it is particularly difficult to process a straight subdivision, she said. It must be either a planned residential or commercial development, and in either case, city and county are imposing increasing controls over design.

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