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Bay Area Power Women: 5 Questions With SITELAB's Laura Crescimano

This limited series profiles Bay Area Power Women who have helped shape Bay Area cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Bay Area Power Women event in San Francisco on May 30.

Laura Crescimano is co-founder and principal of SITELAB Urban Studio, the urban design and strategy firm behind projects like the mixed-use redevelopment of Pier 70 and Google’s first proposed mixed-use neighborhood. Before starting SITELAB, Crescimano earned a Master in Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design and spent four years as an associate at Gensler. Crescimano has served as a lecturer for UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, and she is a member of the Port of San Francisco Waterfront Design Advisory Committee.

SITELAB Urban Studio co-founder and principal Laura Crescimano

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Crescimano: I focus on urban design and strategy, a bridge between city planning or policy and detailed architecture or landscape design. At the end of the day, I’m interested in how we shape and grow equitable, healthy, vibrant cities — sometimes that’s a 60-acre master plan, sometimes a streetscape, pop-up event or a set of images that are a way to paint a picture of the future. 

Bisnow: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career and how did you achieve it?

Crescimano: So far, top of the list is the Pier 70 project on the San Francisco waterfront and the guiding design standards that were unanimously approved and praised by many of our peers. We built a sense of place and a new approach into what is typically a set of dry quantitative rules. We did this by getting into the details, listening and looking, to root our vision in the culture, texture and history of Pier 70 and the local neighborhood. In conjunction with Brookfield Properties, we brought together a range of design and community voices to make something that is a point of pride for everyone involved. 

Bisnow: How have you seen companies change the way they address wage and gender inequality in recent years?

Crescimano: Some companies have done salary reviews and made widespread adjustments. My hope is that we all do our own accounting, since often inequities can hide in plain sight to those making the decisions. Many men are working as allies to share with women their salaries. And many women are asking for compensation that reflects their value. It’s never easy. Starting my own business, as many women do in order to advance further, was my path to find greater opportunity and financial success faster than I could within a larger firm structure. 

Bisnow: What piece of advice do you give others entering the industry?

Crescimano: Play to your strengths. Don’t be afraid to be different — different is good. Look out for the people that you resonate with, who value your perspective and find ways to work with them. Those relationships will not only be the most enjoyable, I find that it makes not only for good business but also for good work. 

Bisnow: What do you do to unwind when you’re not working?

Crescimano: When in San Francisco, to get fully unwound and at the same time find new levels of focus, I am indebted to the bounty of great yoga teachers in the Bay Area, particularly Stephanie Snyder and Jason Crandell. Quick getaways to the Russian River or Point Reyes also do the trick. Driving back through the tunnel to see the Golden Gate Bridge with the city as the backdrop gets me every time. 

Meet SITELAB Urban Studio co-founder and principal Laura Crescimano at Bisnow's Bay Area Power Women event May 30 at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.