The Team

 
 

 

Elizabeth Timme

Co-Executive Director

Elizabeth is Co-Founder and ensures that projects at LA-Más critically engage systemic problems, especially through a design perspective. Elizabeth has a diverse background working in resource-limited environments. She has led the Watts Community Studio project and the Great Street Initiative: Reseda Blvd. to pilot alternative uses for pedestrian-oriented streets that would reshape city growth. Elizabeth teaches 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(ACE) Center and serves on the Zoning Advisory Committee of Re:Code LA, a city-led effort to transform the city’s outdated zoning code.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 provides leadership in creating projects at LA-Más that are grounded in community need and policy potential. She has a passion towards redefining the intersection of community development and social equity. Helen has led the Futuro de Frogtown and Elysian Valley Knowledge Hub projects, which explore opportunities for inclusive development. A native Angelino and urban planner, Helen has extensive policy and community-based experience working for former Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti. Helen serves on the East Area Planning Commission, the Community Advisory Board of Genesis LA, and the board of the Elysian Valley Arts Collective. Helen 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.

 
 
 

 

Stacey Rigley

Director of Operations

Stacey is a designer and manages operations for LA-Más. She also ensures that the organization’s architecture and design-build projects are well executed, on time, and within budget. During her master’s research at the UCLA Suprastudio working on the Culture Now Project, she began exploring the unique relationship between culture and the built environment with a focus on post-Katrina New Orleans. Stacey continues to explore that relationship in Los Angeles with LA-Más through managing projects such as the Watts Community Studio, Great Street Initiative: Reseda Blvd., and our Shelter Exhibit for the A+D Museum. Stacey also teaches the design build studio at Woodbury University’s Agency for Civic Engagement (ACE) Center. She holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

 

Stacey is the proud owner of office dog Petey.

 
 
 

 

Michael Cochran

Architect + Engagement Associate

Michael works at LA-Más as an architect and engagement strategist developing tools to better guide clients and community members through a responsive design process. He brings a range of architecture experience having worked in private practices in Los Angeles, the city planning office in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and bcWORKSHOP, a non-profit community design center in Dallas, Texas. Michael is a licensed architect in the State of California and holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Southern California.

 

 
 
 

 

Rosalinda Meza

Community + Economic Development Manager

Rosalinda led the On Avalon project in Wilmington for LA-Más. She recently worked at East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) as a program lead to the First Time Homebuyer Education Program. Rosalinda also extended her role at ELACC by supporting the Community Organizing and Real Estate Departments to learn how affordable housing, equitable transit-oriented development and land use planning came together to create spaces where all families can thrive. Rosalinda holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of California, Irvine and a bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies and Spanish from the University of California, Davis.

 
 
 

 

Abby Stone

Design + Engagement Associate

Abby is architectural designer and researcher. Her work at LA-Mas spans architectural and urban design, research, and community engagement. A St. Louis-native, Abby has previously worked in the architecture offices of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Lewis.Tsurmaki.Lewis in New York, and for several non-profit design organizations including Urban Omnibus and the Van Alen Institute. She holds a master’s degree in architecture and a certificate in urban policy from Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Columbia University .

 
 
 

 

Nikki Polizzotto

Community + Research Associate

Nikki assists in the grant proposal process and conducts community research and engagement for projects at LA-Más. In 2016,  she helped lead the Small Business Support Program for On Avalon. Her background in anthropology has developed her passion for using ethnographic methods to inform the planning and design of the built environment. She is an aspiring urban planner with a keen interest in livable cities and public space. Nikki is currently a master’s student  of urban planning at University of Southern California and she holds bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology and sociology from University of Puget Sound. 

 
 
 

 

Alejandra Guerrero

Community + Research Fellow

Ale supports LA-Más with developing meaningful ways of engaging with the diverse communities we work with.  Ale also conducts research to support our project and program strategies. Previously, she worked as Assistant Manager of Urban Regeneration at the National Housing Institute for workers in Mexico where she coordinated nationwide programs to renovate public spaces in low-income dwellings and supervised specialized urban and housing research. She also worked as a consultant and political operator for Congress and for various groups of social media activism. She holds a bachelor´s degree in architecture from the University of Monterrey and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at University of California, Los Angeles.

 
 
 
 

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.

 
 
 

 

Edwin Valencia

Treasurer

Edwin of Arroyo Strategy is active in finance and the economic analysis field. Most of the 15 years of Edwin’s professional career has been spent working at Fortune 100 entities. Four years ago, Edwin’s interests shifted to working on civic-minded and social enterprise initiatives. During that time, Edwin has applied his business and financial acumen to his work on socially responsible projects that are also economically feasible. With over a decade of strategic planning, economic analysis and finance experience, Edwin provides sound economic and financial perspectives to the organizations he serves. More specifically, Edwin works on assessing the feasibility of proposed ventures by analyzing cost versus value. He works on evaluating the proposed project’s potential for success. He conducts analysis with unbiased approach to provide information for sound decision making. Edwin has a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from USC and an MBA from Georgetown University.

 
 
 

 

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.

 
 
 

 

Alexia Tsotsis

Alexia is the co-editor of TechCrunch. She attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, majoring in Writing and Painting, and moved to New York City shortly after graduation to work in the media industry. After four years of living in New York and attending courses at New York University, she returned to Los Angeles in order to continue her career in new media, first as LA Weekly’s Internet culture reporter, and then as SF Weekly’s web editor. At TechCrunch, Tsotsis covers early stage startups, and has had the opportunity to interview everyone from Groupon’s Andrew Mason to former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. In 2012, Tsotsis made the Forbes “30 Under 30: Rising Stars of Media List.”