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Veteran development team forges success at Otay Ranch

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Otay Ranch's enviable success among homebuyers and its growing reputation among land planners are directly tied to the broad experience and all-out commitment of the three executive vice presidents who are at the helm. The Otay Ranch Co.'s senior management team consists of Kent Aden, Rob Cameron and Kim Kilkenny.

Otay Ranch Co.'s senior management team consists of Kim Kilkenny, left, Rob Cameron and Kent Aden.

"It's a unique team because there's no actual team captain," said Cameron, who has the most longevity at the company -- more than 16 years. "The three of us have equal status and roughly defined areas of responsibility, but we can pinch hit for each other when necessary."

The three executive vice presidents arrived at the project from different arenas, bringing experiences that are essential to the realm of land development today -- law, government and planning. Cameron is a land use attorney who originally specialized in entitlements. Kilkenny, who joined the team in 1989, is an attorney with broad experience in the area of governmental relations. Aden is an architect and community planner.

Cameron's career started in 1983 as a land use attorney for Luce, Forward, Hamilton and Scripps, but was soon drawn to the development side and began working on the Otay Ranch plan in the late 1980s.

"My role with the project has evolved over time, just as the project has," Cameron said. "I was originally involved in negotiating the land acquisition which, at the time, was the single largest sale by one property owner in the history of the state. Since that time, I have been involved in securing entitlements for the property, shepherding environmental documents through the governmental process, and negotiating the sale of land to merchant builders."

Cameron was also instrumental in negotiating the original resource management plan for the 11,375-acre Otay Ranch Nature Preserve.

"For every acre of land that is developed in Otay Ranch, almost 1.2 acres of land is required to be conveyed to the preserve," Cameron noted. "We created the only significant portion of the countywide preserve system with mechanisms in place not only to acquire the land, but also to fund its maintenance in perpetuity. It is a unique program that we are very proud of."

Kilkenny's career reflects his fervor about getting things done using the political process. His first job, working for a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, focused on land planning because no one else was interested. Later, as executive assistant to former County Supervisor Lucille Moore of East County and a lobbyist for the Construction Industry Federation, he deepened his knowledge of land use issues.

His experience with local government processes, practices and players made him the ideal candidate to work on the public entitlement team when the predecessor to The Otay Ranch Co. embarked on initial planning in 1989. During the initial planning process, Kilkenny personally participated in more than 130 meetings over a two-year period to help crystallize the design of the Otay Ranch General Planning Area.

With his ongoing responsibilities of entitlement processing and serving as the company spokesperson, Kilkenny continues to be an untiring booster of Otay Ranch's neighborly village-like plan.

With nearly nine years on the job, Aden is one of the newcomers to the company.

"With years of planning behind us, it's been my job to transform the planning concepts into physical reality," he said. "It's commonly said that purchasing a home is the most important buying decision most people will ever make. However, I think that choosing the right community is a far more important decision. Your choice of community determines your lifestyle, far more than your choice of a house."

Aden, who was raised in a small Nebraska town and now resides in Coronado, started his career at The Hill Partnership Inc. of Newport Beach. Then with his MBA and architectural license in hand, he joined The EastLake Co.

For the past 20 years Aden has been involved in community planning in Chula Vista, resulting in approvals for approximately 17,000 homes, plus numerous community services. He is the past president of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of San Diego and has served as president of the South County Division of the BIA.

While the community's first village is nearing completion, this is no time for the Otay Ranch development team to rest on their laurels. Planning has commenced on Otay Ranch's fourth village of Montecito. At build-out, Otay Ranch is planned to provide approximately 10,000 homes, abundant recreational facilities, five schools, a resort and more than 2,500 acres of open space.

Praise for the community's achievements has come from far and wide. Planning groups from throughout the country, including the Urban Land Institute, National Association of Real Estate Editors and the American Planning Association, have come to examine Otay Ranch's pedestrian-friendly design and the community has been cited as an example of smart growth.

Perhaps one of the team's most appreciated accolades has come from Michael Stepner, former San Diego city architect and the father of the highly successful Gaslamp District.

"Otay Ranch is an example of how we should be designing neighborhoods in the future. We have learned a lot during the Otay Ranch planning process -- or actually relearned knowledge that was lost 50 years ago," Stepner said. "Future advances in community development need to be made in tandem with the bureaucrats, so that the narrower streets, pocket parks, walkable village centers and public gathering spaces found in Otay Ranch become the norm, not the exception."

Metz is principal of Metz Public Relations

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