Mon11242014

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Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments


Anne Wojcicki

For the past several years, Anne Wojcicki (Wo-JIT-skee) has been quietly involved in efforts to spruce up downtown Los Altos. She and her husband, Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, helped form Passerelle Investment Co., which owns and leases numerous properties along First and State streets and sponsors various activities and events downtown.

Wojcicki also partnered with longtime friend and entrepreneur Mary Heffernan of H&H Co. to start several new creative businesses in the revamped spaces. The businesses, including Bumble and Red Racer Hobby Shop, filled a need by catering to young families.

Heffernan recently announced that she is selling her local projects and planning to run a cattle ranch in Siskiyou County. Wojcicki acquired H&H Co.'s Los Altos businesses through a new firm, DTLA Advisors.

In the following exclusive interview with the Town Crier, Wojcicki discusses her role in Passerelle Investment Co. and DTLA Advisors, and her plans for the businesses.

Q: When did you get interested in Los Altos real estate?

Wojcicki: We moved to Los Altos in 2005 and started spending time in town. We became interested in supporting the local community and the downtown.

We discovered 127 First St. – the old Z Gallerie space – one day when we were walking around town and noticed the “For Sale” sign. We loved the building.

Shortly after that, Sergey and I formed Passerelle, our real estate holding company with Amanda Tevis and Taylor Robinson, with the goal of attracting new businesses to Los Altos.

Q: How did you become involved in the H&H businesses?

Wojcicki: Mary and I have been close friends since 2000 and had worked on a number of projects together in the past. We both had young children and wanted to create spaces that catered to families. We started Bumble in 2011 with that vision. As spaces became available, we developed more ideas for businesses and opened them as partnerships.

Recently, I acquired the H&H businesses through DTLA Advisors. I am very excited to continue developing these businesses.

Q: Has construction on The Alley restaurant at 170 State St. stopped? Any plans for that site?

Wojcicki: We put a pause on the construction so that we could evaluate the best use for that space. We have many ideas and hope to move forward with plans soon.

Q: What are the differences between Passerelle and DTLA Advisors?

Wojcicki: Passerelle invests in real estate and leases properties. It has been very involved in citywide projects like the State Street Green and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos.” DTLA Advisors owns and runs the businesses it just acquired.

Q: What other plans do you have regarding DTLA Advisors? What’s the vision?

Wojcicki: DTLA Advisors is focused on the eight retail and restaurant businesses it just acquired.

We do not have plans to open any other new businesses, but rather want to encourage other business owners to come to Los Altos.

Passerelle continues to focus on bringing great retailers to town, sponsoring events and activities – like the Green planned for Third Street this year – and helping to improve connections to downtown for pedestrians and cyclists.

Q: Why come out publicly now as opposed to when you first formed Passerelle?

Wojcicki: I felt it made sense to be clear about who owns DTLA Advisors given the recent ownership transition.

Q: Who is managing Passerelle Investment Co. and DTLA Advisors now?

Wojcicki: Taylor Robinson has worked with us at Passerelle since the beginning, and she is overseeing DTLA Advisors and Passerelle. She has a great team behind her.

While Taylor and I work to make sure the businesses reflect our vision, she and her terrific teams manage the day-to-day operations.

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