ROBERT ARTHUR ALLISON
June 24, 1929 – May 19, 2011
Robert “Bob” Allison, a founder of Warner Center in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, died on May 19, 2011, of natural causes at his home in Newport Beach, California. He was 81. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Kerstin, and their son David, as well as the children from his first marriage Thomas, Stephen, James and Susan Hughes and his sister Nancy Stefanides.
After serving 3 1/2 years on active sea duty as a Naval officer during the Korean War, Allison started work in 1955 at the Los Angeles office of Coldwell Banker in the mortgage loan department. He described Coldwell Banker as a ‘great group of guys and a great place to work’.
In 1962 he opened and managed the San Fernando Valley office for Coldwell Banker. Based on relationships he cultivated during those years, Allison brokered the sale of the undeveloped 630 acre “Warner Ranch” property, then owned by Harry Warner of Warner Brothers, to Aetna Life Insurance Company in 1969. Allison then worked on behalf of the early ownership to oversee the master planning, zoning, and land sales of what he dubbed ‘Warner Center’. He became involved in Los Angeles public affairs and was appointed by Mayor Sam Yorty as a member of the Los Angeles Economic Development Council. He went on to develop a fruitful working relationship with Mayor Tom Bradley, who bought into the vision of what Warner Center could become.
Allison later went on to develop much of the core business district of Warner Center in partnership with Robert Voit and New England Life Insurance Company. Warner Center is now one of the major urban centers in the greater Los Angeles area containing 1 1/2 square miles developed with retail, residential, commercial, hospital, office, industrial and hotel uses, with approximately 40,000 jobs and 11,300 residents located within its boundaries.
A humorous placard on his desk bore the inscription “Don’t start vast projects with half vast ideas”. A self described ‘dreamer’ and ‘farm boy’, Allison spent the summers of his youth on his grandfather’s ranch in San Martin, California, where he learned about the virtues of hard work and developed a tenacity that stayed with him throughout his life. After graduating from South Pasadena High School, he went on to college at USC (class of 1951) where he managed the football team his senior year.
In the early 1980s, Allison moved to Honolulu with his wife Kerstin and his young son David. He had spent several years during his boyhood in Honolulu and always had yearned to return there someday.
From his new home base in Hawaii he continued his numerous real estate development activities both in Hawaii and on the mainland. One notable project was the 251 South Lake building in Pasadena, which he developed in partnership with Hawaii hotelier and old family friend, Roy Kelly. He also developed multi-family housing and retail projects in Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii during that time.
In 1993 he suffered a major brain aneurysm while in California from which he made a remarkable recovery but after which he no longer pursued new projects. His family is thankful for the last 18 years which gave him time to enjoy the fruits of his labor and to spend time with family and friends.
A memorial and celebration of his life will take place at 218 Kaimanawai Place in Honolulu at 5 PM on Monday, June 27th. Donations in his name can be made in lieu of flowers to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund at www.fallenheroesfund.org.