The Team



Elizabeth Timme

Co-Executive Director

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(ACE) Center and serves on the Zoning Advisory Committee of Re: Code LA, a city-led effort to transform the city’s outdated zoning code.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 Leung

Co-Executive Director

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.



Abby Stone

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.



Alejandro Dobie-Gonzalez

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).



Avital Aboody

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.



Chazandra Kern

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.



Christian Mendez

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 Albalak

Design Fellow

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.

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Alicia Jones

Design Associate


Alicia is a fifth-generation Southern California native. Growing up in Orange County, she observed that the treatment of the built environment lacked an emphasis on thoughtful design and the appreciation of architectural heritage. She became interested in ways that cities can elevate their history and culture through design. During her undergraduate studies at UCLA, Alicia developed a love and appreciation for the diverse design opportunities that Los Angeles presents.

Alicia holds a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies from the UCLA. She will be attending Yale University in the fall to pursue her Master's in Architecture. Previously, Alicia has worked at an interior architecture firm, a fabrication lab, and was the co-founder of a small gallery in Silverlake.



Ronnie Han

Operations Associate


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.


Board of Directors



Shauna Nep


Shauna is the VP of Philanthropy and Community Outreach at SB Projects and the Executive Director of the Yael and Scooter Braun Family Foundation. A bioethicist with a passion for creating vibrant, connected cities, Shauna began her career in social impact at Occidental College. There, she focused on deploying tactics in behavioral economics to increase access to healthful and affordable foods for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As Director of Community and Innovation at the Goldhirsh Foundation, Shauna built and launched LA2050, an initiative to create a better future for Los Angeles, from the ground up. Shauna is the Board Chair of LA-Más, a regional board member of Opportunity Fund, and Outgoing Curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Los Angeles chapter. 



Alex Sasayama


Alex is a relationship manager for NeighborWorks America and partners with community based organizations on affordable housing and community development efforts. As an Angeleno and community builder, Alex has also led and assisted in the planning of cultural and community events including World Cup LA, Taste of Mexico, and Día de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Community Development from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.



Renee Dake Wilson


Renee is an architect and thought-leader who has helped build homes, institutions, and communities throughout Southern California for the past twenty years. Renee is a Principal and co-founder of Frogtown-based Dake Wilson Architects, an architecture firm with an environmental focus and wide portfolio including single family residences, and commercial, civic, and institutional projects. An active member of numerous professional and civic organizations, Renee seeks the open collaboration and exchange of ideas that comes from working with diverse interest groups. Her organizing efforts focus on equality and the environment, and she is dedicated to making social change through great public spaces and community involvement. She previously served as the President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and currently serves as the Vice President. Renee holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, and is a LEED-accredited licensed architect.



Mark Soto


Mark is a public-interest minded attorney with a focus on housing equity, labor, and environmental justice. He currently serves as a Law Clerk in the Environmental Justice and Protection Unit of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, where we was brought on to work on the City’s litigation against the Southern California Gas Company arising from the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas leak. He previously worked as a Staff Attorney in the Housing Unit at The Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, in addition to working at the United States Department of Transportation and United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. Mark received his J.D. from American University and his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs from The George Washington University. 



Mia Lehrer

Mia is the founder of Studio-MLA – known for its design and development of a wide spectrum of ambitious public and private projects that include urban revitalization developments, large urban parks, and commercial projects. She is especially proud of her firm’s work in the public realm in such venues as parks, green belts, schools, waterways, and vibrant neighborhoods and streets. In 2007, she was inducted as a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Mia is also Co-Founder of LA-Más, along with Elizabeth Timme.




Vinit Mukhija

Vinit is Professor and Vice Chair of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on informal or unregulated housing. His work also examines how planners and urban designers in both the Global South and the Global North can learn from each other, and from the everyday city. Mukhija is the author of Squatters as Developers? Slum Redevelopment in Mumbai (Ashgate), and the coeditor of The Informal American City (MIT Press). He holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Mott Smith

Mott is co-founder of Civic Enterprise, an L.A. firm that builds innovative, socially-conscious projects in emerging neighborhoods and provides innovative food manufacturing, parking and economic development solutions for cities and communities. CE’s most recent project is L.A. Prep, the first-of-its-kind wholesale food production complex for 54 small business tenants. He is very active in local, regional and state legislative issues. His built work has been honored by the Urban Land Institute, the L.A. Conservancy, and Architectural Record Magazine. He is a founding board member of the California Infill Builders Federation, teaches in USC’s Master of Real Estate Development Program and Planning Program in the USC Price School of Public Policy. Earlier, he was as Acting Director of Planning for the L.A. Unified School District after serving as founding Executive Director of New Schools-Better Neighborhoods. He also worked as editor/business manager of The Planning Report. Mott is past president of the Westside Urban Forum. He received a Master of Real Estate Development from USC and a bachelor’s in Linguistics from UCLA.



Advisory Council


Erik Alden

Gio Aliano

Iosefa Alofaituli

Amy Anderson

Yuval Bar-Zemer

Tamika Butler

Marcia Choo

Renee Dake Wilson

Priscilla Fraser

Jia Gu

Johanna Gullick

Andy Lantz

Mark Lee

Peter Lemos

Lauren Lemos

Tom Rhoads

Bryony Roberts

James Stockard

Alexia Tsotsis

Arnoldo Ulloa

Edwin Valencia