Los Angeles Housing Pioneer Gary Squier Dies at 61
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Gary Squier, a longtime affordable housing advocate and developer who served as L.A.'s first Housing Director, died on December 4, 2012 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Squier was a major force in the affordable housing field for more than 30 years. He first came to Los Angeles in 1976 as a VISTA volunteer, as well as to pursue graduate studies at the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. As part of his VISTA service, Squier worked at a Skid Row soup kitchen– an experience which made a lasting impact.
"Gary's concern was always the human dimension of housing. He knew that every housing unit provides somebody not only with shelter, but with incredible hope," said Alice Callaghan, a longtime advocate for the poor and early supporter of preserving housing in the Skid Row area of LA's downtown.
Squier was born on August 29, 1951 in Portland, Oregon. He later quipped that he practically grew up on construction sites, given that his mother worked as a home rehabilitator and his grandfather performed electrical work on remodeled homes.
In 1982, he became Executive Director at the newly formed Community Corporation of Santa Monica, one of the first nonprofit community development corporations in the Los Angeles area. He also guided and advised other new housing nonprofits, such as the Church and Temple Housing Corporation, a partnership of Leo Baeck Temple and All Saints Episcopal Church, which purchased residential hotels on Skid Row.
Squier personally negotiated deals to acquire three hotels in the neighborhood, which later became the foundation for the Skid Row Housing Trust -- an organization that has grown to become a major housing provider in the neighborhood.
"We wouldn't have a Skid Row Housing Trust if it weren't for Gary," said Callaghan. "When it came to housing, he was irrepressible."
In October 1990, Squier was appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley to be head of the city's Housing Preservation and Production Department, a brand new department with a $50 million budget and more than 200 employees.
When the 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged thousands of homes and apartments, Squier secured more than $300 million from the federal government to rebuild almost all of the living units within three years, learning from the struggles of colleagues in the Loma Prieta earthquake.
"Gary was truly an inspiration – he was able to bring wide-ranging groups together towards improving the housing stock in Los Angeles," said Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel, who worked with Squier in the post-earthquake recovery as an executive at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). "Gary and I worked together to help rebuild 14,000 housing units after the earthquake and I continue to think of him and his vision. He will truly be missed."
In 1996, Secretary Henry Cisneros brought Squier to HUD to help formulate changes to rental housing programs. Upon his return to Los Angeles in 1997 he left the public sector to develop affordable housing, building more than 2,500 affordable apartments for low income families, seniors and people with disabilities throughout California.
Colleagues remembered Squier as an energetic dealmaker with a keen strategic sense and an abiding passion for affordable housing.
"I was a great admirer of Gary's and the work he did," said Thomas L. Safran, Chair of Thomas Safran & Associates, a Los Angeles-based affordable housing developer. "He had a brilliant mind and great creativity, and he set a high standard of quality and integrity. At the Community Corporation of Santa Monica and the Los Angeles Housing Department, people to this day are carrying out the important programs and philosophies that he helped to initiate."
Squier had many interests outside of work, as well. He was an assistant scoutmaster in Boy Scout Troop 2 in Santa Monica. He also loved camping, hiking, and playing tennis. He is survived by his wife, Anita Landecker, Executive Director of ExED, a non-profit provider of business management services to charter schools in Southern California. He is also survived by their children Aaron, Hannah and Jake, his sister Marilyn Hagoes, and loving nieces and nephews.
In honor of Gary's work building permanent, affordable housing for formerly homeless people, memorial donations may be made to the Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles or the Community Research Foundation in San Diego.