Gaslamp Quarter Leader to Resign : Skolnik Cites Strain of Commuting to Home in Seattle

Times Staff Writer

Art Skolnik, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Council and one of San Diego's leading advocates of preservation of historic buildings, Wednesday announced his resignation, effective the end of the year.

Skolnik, 41, who has held the high-visibility position since April, 1984, said his resignation stems from accumulated stress and weariness involved in commuting each weekend to Seattle to visit his wife and children.

"My family comes first and my job second," Skolnik said at a press conference called to announce his resignation. He described as "overwhelming" the pressures of trying to both do his job in San Diego and keep his family life together in Seattle.

Skolnik's wife is a tenured professor of sociology at the University of Washington and an author. After he was hired by the Gaslamp Quarter Council, Skolnik said he planned on his family moving to San Diego to join him.

"We were hoping in the first year that my wife was going to find a niche here," Skolnik said. But after two opportunities at jobs passed, he said, no more job offers came along.

What followed was an "elongated period" in which he commuted to Seattle almost every weekend. "I couldn't give San Diego all of my time . . . and I had to give some of my time to my family," he said. Skolnik has two small children from his second marriage and two older children from his first marriage. All live in Seattle.

Skolnik, who earned $66,500 a year, has taken a new job with Heartland Group Inc., a Seattle-based company that buys and sells land on a syndication basis. He will be vice president in charge of real estate, research and management.

During his tenure in San Diego, Skolnik became identified as an outspoken supporter of the urban life style and an advocate of the 65-block historic Gaslamp Quarter district.

In his early days on the job, he said, it was necessary to be aggressive in order to call attention to blight in the Gaslamp Quarter. "The street fighting we had to do to get attention," he said. "But those days are behind us."

With the approval of stronger ordinances aimed at phasing out adult-entertainment arcades and bookstores in the Gaslamp Quarter, the opening of Horton Plaza and the completion of the city's waterfront convention center scheduled to open in 1988, Skolnik says the Gaslamp Quarter is in a period of transition.

What is needed now, he said, is for his replacement to focus on marketing the Gaslamp Quarter, to "sell the great product."

Judi Carroll, chairman of the board of the Gaslamp Quarter Council, said her group, which is composed of property owners and business people who work in the district, will launch an immediate search for a replacement.

Skolnik said he will help in that search, even, if necessary, after his resignation is effective.

Reflecting on his 19 months as executive director, Skolnik said that sometime in the future all of downtown will have to come under "one umbrella or coordinating body." As it is now, he elaborated after the press conference, there are too many "fiefdoms" downtown, detracting from both developing and presenting downtown as a single, cohesive unit.

As for his own stewardship of the Gaslamp Quarter, he said, "We've met and exceeded the goals we set out to accomplish . . . we've been catapulted forward."

A native of Chicago, Skolnik is an architect by profession. Before coming to San Diego, he was Seattle's assistant city architect, district manager of Seattle's Pioneer Square historic district and the historic preservation officer for the state of Washington.

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