Mee Hae Lee

Vice President of Development and Project Management

Douglas Emmett & Co.

Claim to Fame: Managing renovation of Sherman Oaks Galleria

As an 8-year-old immigrant from South Korea, Mee Hae Lee didn't know a word of English, but was determined to make her parents proud.

Lee's father had sacrificed his job as a university professor in their native country and moved to the United States so his daughters would have more career choices. "As a woman, if you worked in South Korea, there was kind of a stigma because no one did it for a career," Lee said. "There was a proscribed life for a woman."

So she learned English as a child, later graduated with a bachelor's degree from UCLA and a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. But for all that, she was never really interested in law, thinking of her degree as a fallback in case her other career ventures didn't work out.

City government attracted her at first. She worked for six years as a deputy to former City Councilman Marvin Braude, then left for the Community Redevelopment Agency. After that, she spent six years at Warner Bros. as vice president of corporate real estate, and was the driving force behind the approval of the studio's 20-year master plan, which was approved in record time 11 months by the Burbank City Council.

Lee's former boss at Warner Bros., Dan Garcia, said she was key to the plan's success. "She could interact with lawyers, political figures and executives at the studio during the day and then attend community meetings late into the night," Garcia said. "She was strong and reliable in the face of a complicated and protracted process."

With nearly 20 years of experience in development and community involvement issues, Lee joined Douglas Emmett & Co. in January. She is currently managing the renovation of the Sherman Oaks Galleria and Barrington Plaza.

"Life would have been different for me in South Korea," Lee said. "I am very thankful for my parents' sacrifice, and ultimately that is what drives me to do well."

Jeannette DeSantis

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