I was raised in Providence, Rhode Island 1944-1962. My life was influenced by many things- New England culture, the Jewish culture, my attendance at a Quaker school where there was a preponderance of classmates who were of well-to-do sons of the Rhode Island elite as well as foreign students. And the mixed culture of Providence made an impact on me; Italians, Irish, African Americans all influenced me. As for African Americans (or negroes at that time), my father’s close employee was like family to me.
In 1962, I left home permanently at eighteen to attend Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. I studied finance and political science, achieving “gentlemen’s B’s and C’s.” It wasn’t until I entered law school at the Washington College of Law at American University that I started to really apply myself. I was number one in my class the first year, became a Law Review Editor, and developed a new belief in myself. I was second to none in a legal discussion. I felt I was the best.
Upon graduating from law school, I got Masters in Tax at Georgetown Law Center and passed several state bars, while I worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. At the S.E.C., I shared office space with two wonderful and very smart guys- one from New York, a graduate of Yale, who has now passed away from MS, the other from Montana, a graduate of Stanford who is now a U.S. Senator representing Montana. I learned that luck plays a lot of role in life.
At the SEC, I was quite confident in my abilities as an attorney and financial analyst-but initially my immediate boss wasn’t. He didn’t respect me in fact because I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale as he and other there did. His opinion might have changed after I got hang of what I was doing and wrote an article called “From Securities Love to Securities Law” that caught the attention of his boss.
After two years, I left the SEC. I flew to Dallas for an interview as a securities lawyer at the recommendation of a professor at Georgetown Law named Zapruder whose father took the pictures of the Kennedy assassination. I quickly realized that Dallas and the job weren’t for me and I hopped the first plane to San Francisco, not really knowing where I was going. Within 48 hours, I was in love with the city. I called my girlfriend in Washington and announced that we were moving west.
I was willing to do anything, even drive a taxi, to stay in San Francisco, but I didn’t need to go to such extremes to get what I wanted. Through my contact at the SEC, I got a job with Orrick Harrington, the premier law firm in town. There I developed excellent friends, and great work habits.
After a year with Orrick, I was gently told that the firm was not the place for me. It was a blow to my ego but in fact I didn’t fit in with the firm’s objectives – I was past the associate mentality of billing hours and much more suited to meeting and working with clients. I was happy to leave, but and unsure of what I would do next. After half-heartedly looking for a job at a smaller firm, I decided to “hang my shingle.” Within six months, I had enough business to hire another attorney and secretary and I was off and running. I practiced business law representing entrepreneurs with whom I identified. Many are now my closest friends.
About this time, my girlfriend and I broke up and she returned East. San Francisco in 1973 was a great place for a single straight man. I was becoming “a kid in a candy store,” so to speak.
Within a year of starting my business, I opened an office in the Russ Building. I represented real estate syndicators, magazines, restaurants, and various entrepreneurs. I fought for people who lost money with fraudulent investments. I was a success. I found myself in some pretty interesting situations related to my clients too. In one instance, I represented a man who was shafted by a modern-day alchemist in Sparks, Nevada. Upon my visit to the “maker of gold,” I encountered him and his bodyguard (a man who kept a gun in his sock) and was informed that the last guy who bothered them ended up over a cliff.
Mid 70’s – I had a great office, a full-time associate, bought myself an Alpha Romeo convertible and bought my secretary a Fiat convertible. I’ve always believed in keeping my employees happy – they work hard for me, but they reap the benefits too. I began teaching classes at Berkeley Extension and continued until 1992. While teaching, I cajoled and brow beat one young African American man to go to law school. After he graduated, I received the most beautiful letter form him. This gave me the idea of starting Pathways For Kids in1998.
I’d already been to Europe on several occasions, but I began traveling in a big way in the early 70’s. I found myself in the Orient, all over Europe, in Central America, Africa – you name it, I’ve probably been there.
My social life was in high gear as well – it was a time of “free love”, the pre AIDS era. I enjoyed the single female population city wide and many worldwide as I traveled. Women were my hobby, replacing tennis, never hunting or golf. Although my dating habits have been substantial, I’ve been able to develop valuable friendships with many of the women I’ve been involved with. A number of them remain very important to me and I care for them deeply and talk to them frequently.
The development of my second career happened after my father passed away. He left me a bit of money that I invested in a small condo in San Diego. After I fixed it up and sold it, I invested the profits in another piece of real estate – forty eight acres in Bonnie Doon. I borrowed $100,000and built a seven room house on the property, then rented it to a hippie dope growing commune (I didn’t know it until years later). In 1979, I made my first significant commercial real estate purchase when I bought the Arcadia Gardens Bowling Alley, which was empty and rotting. I paid $400,00 borrowed $350,00 from the Sellers, $50,00 from an investor, $400,00 from a bank. The first night I saw it, I slept on the bowling alley bathroom floor with my sheepdog, Roots. Later I supervised complete renovation of the building, creating a small shopping mall from the former bowling alley. I named it the Capitola Mercantile. It opened July 1980. It’s now an institution in the area.
Since that time, I’ve developed a philosophy of community improvement as I’ve developed (remodeled) more and more properties, most of which I have kept as I have a philosophy of long term hold. As Warren Buffet said when asked when to sell a good asset, “never”. I believe that real estate investments should be both profitable for me and for the local community, and I work to continuously improve the properties that I hold. Attractive, well-kept properties are important to the development and improvement of communities, and they reflect well on the area and on the owner.
I take continuous improvement philosophy past real estate and extend it to people. I try to inspire people to improve their lives, to achieve greatness in whatever they do. Pathways For Kids is a nonprofit organization that uses this philosophy to reach poor kids attending inner –city schools to show them that there’s more to life than an expensive car and a place in the NBA. Through Pathways, we show kids that they can dream and achieve by introducing them to a variety of careers. I want to inspire them and others to make the most of life through passion for career, travel, and exploration. Personally, I want to make Inner City kids understand investing i.e. capitalism, hard work.
Who am I today? I live in a great four level townhouse on the top of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill by Coit Tower. I’ve been here since 1977. I am married to a beautiful woman and have a three year old daughter. I enjoy making deals- I’m a “deal- junkie,” I suppose. I work hard, work out everyday, and read voraciously. I’m very social and keep close contact with friends, new and old. I travel at any opportunity. I love a good restaurant, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre, and a good cigar. We have a beautiful weekend house in Stinson Beach. I love the fights in Vegas, hold season tickets for the Giants behind the owners, and collect all sorts of movies(film noir I love). I’m passionate about world affairs and foreign policy. I love children and give to them through Pathways as well as through Nathan’s Day, an annual holiday event for children adopted by AASK (the DeBolts) that I have hosted since 1979 in honor of my father. Certain music thrills me, and I have an XM Radio installed in my house and in my car so I can listen to Sinatra, Jazz and Jobim or old time radio shows should the mood strike. I thrive on expression, be it through a rousing discussion with a person I’ve just met, a real- estate deal I’m attempting to complete, or singing a song. I love my animals – they are part of my family. I love the people that enrich my existence with their support and affection. I still like to “party”.
On March 4, 2008, Sonia Pilar Dwares and I had the greatest blessing we could imagine. Chloe Natana, beautiful little girl who is now three years old, was born. She is the joy of my life.
As for my house on the Filbert Steps, we built an elevator to insure I can stay on as long as I like (its five levels). I’ve been there since 1977 and have no intention of moving. Great views. Lots of parties over the years. Lots of memories.
Pathways For Kids which I started in 1998 with the idea of bringing together underserved kids and well to do business friends is in its 14th year. We have great programs now all outside of the schools. Staying in the same old classrooms was a deterrent to the idea of exposure to businesses. Now all programs are at the business’ sites. See www.pathwaysforkids.org.
Our travels in 2009 -2011 included Hawaii at Royal Hawaiian, Provincetown, Ashland Shakespeare Festival, Portland, Mendocino, Aspen, Alaska, Big Island, Maui and Kauai.
I am passionate for life. – Peter Dwares