Elizabeth is a third generation architect born in Houston and raised in Los Angeles. Watching her parents build in remote locations and start a design school meant that Elizabeth grew to see the practice of architecture as a community-based profession. Growing up in Texas where land use planning and zoning is limited and California where exclusionary zoning practices are historic, Elizabeth is excited by the challenge of Los Angeles where rules are plentiful but often contradictory
Elizabeth co-founded LA-Más because she saw a need for a design approach to be integrated early on in public projects and civic planning. She believes designers can help create a unified vision, identify creative alternatives, and work in partnership with communities. Elizabeth provides leadership at LA-Más by ensuring all projects are thoughtfully designed and critically engage systemic problems.
Elizabeth has extensive experience in architecture and construction administration having worked at MASS Design Group, Ball-Nogues Studio, and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca. Elizabeth has taught design-build studios at Woodbury University’s Agency for Civic Engagement (ACE) Center and serves on the Zoning Advisory Committee of Re: Code LA, a city-led effort to transform the city’s outdated zoning code. She holds a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Southern California.
Helen is a Los Angeles native raised in the Frogtown neighborhood by a working class, first generation Chinese family. Growing up in an immigrant community, she deeply identifies with the rich diversity that makes Los Angeles so unique. With mentorship from local leaders, Helen became the first person in her family to go to college. After nearly a decade on the East Coast, Helen is honored to be back in her hometown investing the privilege of her education and work experience back into neighborhoods like the one where she grew up.
Helen joined LA-Más because of her passion to explore strategies that minimize displacement pressures that come with gentrification. Helen provides leadership at LA-Más by ensuring all projects are grounded in local need and systemic change. Helen has extensive policy and community-based experience having worked for former Los Angeles City Council President and current Mayor Eric Garcetti. Her national policy and program experience includes her work as Program Associate at Living Cities, fellowship at the Office of Sustainable Housing & Communities at the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, and internship at the Office of Political Affairs at the White House under President Obama’s administration.
Helen serves on the Los Angeles East Area Planning Commission, the Community Advisory Board of Genesis LA, and the Board of the Elysian Valley Arts Collective. She holds a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communications from the University of Pennsylvania.
Design + Engagement Lead
Abby is an architectural and urban designer and researcher who grew up in St. Louis and New York City. Growing up in these two very different cities, and with two anthropologist parents, she became fascinated by the ways in which the built environment shapes, and is shaped by, social patterns. She is passionate about exploring ways that design can be used as a tool for social impact within underserved communities.
Abby holds a master’s degree in Architecture and a Certificate in Urban Policy from Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Mathematics from Columbia University. She has previously worked for several non-profit design organizations and in the architecture offices of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Lewis.Tsurmaki.Lewis.
Community + Policy Associate
Alejandro is a Los Angeles native, born and raised in South Central from a working class-first generation Mexican family. Growing up in a community that lacked infrastructure and investment--he is interested in the intersection between community development, affordable housing, and design as it relates to low-income neighborhoods like South Central.
Alejandro holds dual bachelor degrees in Community and Regional Development and in Design from the University of California, Davis. He has worked for various government and non-profit housing organizations doing landlord engagement, community engagement & outreach, tenant organizing, and policy advocacy including Yolo County Housing Authority, City of Sacramento, City of Santa Monica, LA Family Housing and more recently Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).
Community + Policy Lead
Avital is a native Angeleno from the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Van Nuys. Avital has worked as a project manager and organizer with social justice non-profits in Jerusalem, New York City, and San Diego, focusing on small business development in communities of color, activation and beautification of under-utilized spaces, and advocacy for equitable city planning.
Avital is thrilled to join the LA-Mas team because she is passionate about ensuring that there are opportunities for residents of historically looted neighborhoods to collectively imagine and create the vibrant and sustainable communities that they deserve. Avital is a certified mediator and holds an MA in Urban Sustainability from Antioch University LA, and a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley. She is also fluent in Spanish and Hebrew.
Design + Engagement Associate
Chaz is a Northern California native raised in a family of woodworkers and makers. She has always been inspired by the ability people have to shape their own spaces. Chaz is interested in the exploration of different housing types, and in the complexity of the systems and scales of interaction that operate within our home and our cities. She believes that design is enriched by the collective dialogues and perspectives of everyone involved in the process.
Chaz holds a master's degree in Architecture with a Housing Specialization from the University of Oregon and a bachelor degree in Architectural Studies from Arizona State University. Her interests in design, fabrication, and construction haves led her to seek opportunities in a range of fields in addition to architecture. Chaz has previously worked in furniture refurbishing and as a laborer for the restoration of a 100-year old house. She has also worked for a General Contractor in the Bay Area and for Koss Design+Build in Arizona.
Ronnie is a Los Angeles native, born and raised in a first-generation Korean family. His immigrant parents and mentors inspire him to look into ways that non-profits, for-profits, and government agencies can work together to fix the social inequities that exist in immigrant communities. He strongly believes that design and urban planning can serve as powerful catalysts for change.
Ronnie holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. His experience improving schools and supporting communities in Kenya, through the non-profit organization Dreams for Schools, highlighted the role communities should play in design decisions. He has also worked in finance and operations roles at Orange County tech firms Mavenlink, a project management software company, and Broadcom, a semiconductor company.
Community + Planning Fellow
Christian comes from a first generation farm working family originally from the Eastern Coachella Valley. Growing up in a rural migrant community sparked an interest in understanding the relationship between the built environment and social fabric in marginalized communities. He has worked on a wide range of issues dealing with Mexican migrant families in Southern California, including rural informal housing, economic development, and participatory design process-based projects. He continues to work alongside many community-based organizations in developing community projects that prioritize the needs of local residents in his hometown.
Previously, Christian worked with Kounkuey Design Initiative, a non-profit planning and design firm, where he worked on the design and activation of productive public spaces. He also worked with Pueblo Unido CDC; a community development corporation focused on alternative housing and infrastructure in underrepresented rural communities. Christian holds a Bachelors in Social Work from La Sierra University and is currently pursuing his master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA.
Shany was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to the United States as a child, growing up primarily in Northern California. She has always been inspired by the different ways people use design and creativity to influence their spaces, and has explored a range of disciplines where this interaction takes place. Shany is interested in exploring how design can be used as a tool to bridge the gap between the built environment and social issues to create a positive impact on the communities involved.
Shany holds a bachelor’s degree in Theater with an emphasis in design from UCLA and is currently pursuing her master’s in Architecture also at UCLA. Previously, she worked in the entertainment industry in the costume department of various films and television shows including The Muppets, Captain Fantastic, and Trumbo.
Alisa is an architectural designer from Waterbury, CT, where her first-generation Singaporean family owns and operates a small business. Growing up with hard-working, resilient parents taught her to make space in architectural conversations for what’s important to her, and the power of being able to communicate ideas to diverse parties. She strongly believes in the transformative potential of design and views it as a catalyst and facilitator for change.
Alisa holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. While there, her role as the Design Director for Anabel’s Grocery – a student-run and designed grocery store with the mission to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Cornell students – revealed the potential that her skill set holds to help build a more just, equitable community. Previously, Alisa has worked at the architecture offices of Woods Bagot in San Francisco and MVE+Partners in Irvine.
We want to give thanks to people who will always be part of our LA-Más family!
María del Carmen Lamadrid
Many thanks to our strategic thought partners who inspire and advise us in our work!
Renee Dake Wilson