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Prominent L.A. Developer, Industry Icon Jerome H. (Jerry) Snyder Passes Away

Prominent developer and industry icon Jerome H. (Jerry) Snyder, who started his career as a homebuilder at 19 and went on to build major Los Angeles landmarks, died May 8 at his home in Bel Air surrounded by his loving family after a brief battle with cancer. He was 90.

Founder and Senior Partner of J. H. Snyder Company, Snyder built thousands of homes and millions of square feet of commercial developments. He always said, “my favorite project is the next one.” Throughout his 70-year career, Snyder displayed an enviable ability to envision, plan and create outstanding projects that set new standards such as the Water Garden and Ocean Towers in Santa Monica, Beverly Glen Park, The River at Rancho Mirage and Coronado Shores in San Diego.

Born in Brooklyn, Snyder moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1944, arriving by train at Union Station. The family lived in Boyle Heights and Snyder graduated from Roosevelt High School. He attended one semester at UCLA but found himself too restless for school, and then served a brief stint in the U.S. Navy.

At the age of 19, he bought a truck and started a home remodeling business based on the experience he had gained working with his carpenter father. He printed business cards for Snyder & Son, letting potential clients believe there was an older person in the business since he was afraid they would think he was too young to be trustworthy. His plan worked and he was soon busy with individual home projects. As he gained experience, he moved to small subdivisions and then developed an 80-home community in Orange County, which he convinced Home Savings & Loan to finance.

Snyder named his first company Signature Homes, capitalizing on the GI Bill that allowed veterans to buy homes for $1 and a signature. At the age of 22, he was building 2,000 homes a year. He established J. H. Snyder Company and became a major homebuilder in Southern California and then nationally.

In 1969, Snyder partnered with Loew’s Corporation to form Loew’s Snyder Environmental Communities, and, over the next seven years, the company built thousands of homes across the United States from Coronado Island to Staten Island.

In the late 1970s, as the economy stagnated and homebuilding contracted, Snyder transformed J. H. Snyder Company from a homebuilder into a developer of commercial properties. His uncanny ability to forecast economic and market trends and shift development plans accordingly was a strategy he employed successfully over the next four decades, going from office buildings to retail centers to multifamily projects to fit market demands.

In 1978, Snyder acquired what was then Prudential Insurance headquarters at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard in partnership with Samuel Oschin, Irving Oschin and William Glikbarg. Now known as SAG-AFTRA Plaza, this complex included an 11-story office building plus substantial additional acreage that was used for future development including the Wilshire Courtyard across the boulevard. The one-million-square-foot, twin building Wilshire Courtyard is another Snyder classic, innovative for its terraces that were unique in an office building in 1987 but commonplace today. The two office properties attracted top tenants, changing the perception of the area and leading many to say Snyder helped put the “miracle” in Miracle Mile.

Currently underway at SAG-AFTRA Plaza is Snyder’s most recent favorite project, The Residences at Wilshire Curson. This 20-story state-of-the-art apartment building will house 285 luxury rental residences that overlook neighboring museums and their acres of parks.

A visionary in all aspects of his development life, Snyder recognized the need to gain community acceptance of projects and personally led this effort for the company, often walking door-to-door to speak with neighbors. Almost unheard of, The Residences at Wilshire Curson received city approvals with no opposition. Another important element in J. H. Snyder Company’s success is that it is able to act as its own contractor because Snyder established a construction company led by Patrick Irvine, a longtime associate.

Lew Geyser and Michael Wise have been partners with Snyder for 50 years. A third partner is Lon Snyder, who worked with his father during college years at UCLA and joined the company full-time in 1986. Milton Swimmer and Cliff Goldstein were earlier partners.

Over the years, Snyder has received numerous honors and appeared on covers of multiple magazines. The Los Angeles Business Journal selected him to join its Business Hall of Fame in 2019 for the lasting impression he has made on Los Angeles. He is routinely named to rankings of Most Powerful Los Angeles Business Leaders. He has been honored by UCLA and many civic, business and charitable organizations for his accomplishments.

Snyder and his wife, Joan, have made UCLA the beneficiary of much of their philanthropy. They have contributed $3 million to endow three faculty chairs at the Stein Eye Institute, which they have supported for 40 years. They established the Jerome Snyder Systems Building and Housing Research Fellowship at the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Forty Snyder Fellows from 13 nations have pursued research under this program. The Snyder’s have supported a wide range of UCLA programs, including Operation Mend, which provides health care for service members, veterans and their families, Children’s welfare is another major philanthropic interest with support going to Boys and Girls Club of Venice, Jeffrey Foundation, Rotoplast International, After-School All-Stars, among others.

Devoted to his family, Snyder annually took his entire family on vacations with Hawaii the most recent destination. Each summer, including this past June, he traveled to the south of France with family and close friends of many years, always basing at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat. He also enjoyed spending time at homes in Flathead Lake, Montana, and Palm Springs. For many years he was a top golfer, taking home many trophies.

Snyder is survived by his wife, Joan, and three children, Wendy Snyder married to Toshi Nakajima, William Snyder married to Martin Larsen, and Lon Snyder married to Linda Snyder, and three grandchildren, Catherine Nakajima, Kevin Nakajima and Katie Snyder.

A memorial service is planned at a later date. To honor Jerry Snyder’s memory, contributions may be sent to the UCLA Stein Eye Institute.

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About Dennis Kaiser

Dennis Kaiser is Vice President of Content and Public Relations for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Dennis is a communications leader with more than 30 years of experience including as a journalist and in corporate and agency marketing communications roles. He is responsible for Connect’s client content operations and is involved in a range of initiatives ranging from content strategy, message development, copywriting, media relations, social media and content marketing services. In his most recent corporate communications roles, he led a regional public relations effort across Southern California for CBRE, played a key marketing role on JLL’s national retail team, and was responsible for directing the global public relations effort at ValleyCrest, the nation’s largest commercial landscape services company. In addition to his vast commercial real estate experience, Dennis has worked on communications and launch strategies for a number of residential projects such as Disney’s Celebration in Florida, Ritter Ranch in Palmdale California (7,200 homes, 22,000 acres), WaterColor in Florida and PremierGarage in Phoenix. Dennis’s agency background included firms such as Idea Hall and Macy + Associates. He has earned an outstanding reputation with organization leaders as a trusted advisor, strategic program implementer, consensus builder and exceptional collaborator. Dennis has developed and managed national communications programs for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, both public and private. He’s successfully worked with journalists across the globe representing clients involved in major-breaking news stories, product launches, media tours, and company news announcements. Dennis has been involved in a host of charitable and community organizations including the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, BoyScouts, Chrysalis Foundation, Freedom For Life, HOLA, L.A.’s BEST, Reach Out and Read, Super Bowl Host Committee, and Thunderbirds Charities.