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(ACE) Center and serves on the Zoning Advisory Committee of Re: Code LA, a city-led effort to transform the city’s outdated zoning code.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

Director of Strategy

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).

 
 
 

 

Michael Cochran

Architect + Engagement Associate

Michael is an architect hailing from Cincinnati. The son of two pastors with a passion for serving others locally and abroad, he was raised with the ingrained desire to work alongside people to help celebrate and improve their communities. As an architect, Michael sees design as a tool to help people shape their environments through simple, elegant, and fun solutions to big and complicated issues.

Michael is a licensed architect in the State of California and holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Southern California. He has previously worked in private architecture practices in Cincinnati and Los Angeles, the city planning office in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and bcWORKSHOP, a non-profit community design center in Dallas, Texas.

 

 
 
 

 

Alejandra Guerrero

Community + Research Fellow

Alejandra was born and raised in northern and central cities in Mexico. She became fascinated by social structures of Italian cities while studying art and restoration in Florence, Italy. Her professional experiences center on building strong community relations with equitable structures of power, particularly through media and engagement. She has also an invested interest in researching irregular dwellings and housing policy in her country.

Alejandra holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Monterrey, and is currently pursuing her master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has previously worked in the Mexico-based architecture offices of Rojkind Arquitectos and Lenoir & Asociados, and in several public and political agencies.

 
 
 
 

Board of Directors

 

 

Shauna Nep

Chair

Shauna is a bioethicist with a passion for creating vibrant, connected cities. She began her career in social impact at Occidental College, with a focus on deploying tactics in behavioral economics to increase access to healthful and affordable foods in Los Angeles Unified School District. She continued this work as Program Director of the Woolly School Garden Program, where she scaled the program nationwide. As Director of Community and Innovation at the Goldhirsh Foundation, Shauna utilized her expertise in community engagement and digital marketing to launch and build LA2050, an initiative to create a better future for Los Angeles, from the ground up. A new addition to the team at Fundamental, Shauna is working with several of the firm’s clients on their giving strategies and campaigns. Shauna is a board member of LA-Más, a regional board member of Opportunity Fund, and Vice Curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Los Angeles chapter, as well as a columnist for Los Angeles Magazine.

 
 
 

 

Alex Sasayama

Vice-Chair

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.

 
 
 

 

Mia Lehrer

Mia is the founder of Mia Lehrer + Associates – 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.