LDC is pleased to announce the addition of five new team members to its Berkeley and San Diego offices.
Ophelia B. Basgal, Senior Principal (part-time)
Ophelia Basgal is joining our firm as a part-time Senior Principal working on a variety of housing strategy, policy, organizational positioning, and community engagement projects. For the past year and a half, Ophelia has worked alongside us as a subcontractor on a Southern California public housing transformation plan, and as a member of the CASA Technical Committee in the Bay Area. We are pleased to formalize our relationship with her as a part-time member of our team. Ophelia will affiliate with our Berkeley office and can be reached at Ophelia@lesardevelopment.com.
Ophelia brings nearly four decades of experience with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, including 27 years as the Executive Director of the Alameda County Housing Authority and five years as the Regional Administrator for HUD in Region IX with regular contact with the HUD Public and Indian Housing staff and Region IX Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). As HUD Region IX Administrator, Ms. Basgal led a team of approximately 650 employees in five field offices (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Territory of Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa) and was responsible for effective delivery of HUD’s programs and services to customers within the Region. Ophelia also previously served as Executive Director the Alameda County and Dublin, California Housing Authorities from 1978 to 2005. In that role, she oversaw an administrative budget of $8.2 million and total operating budget of $82 million. Ophelia has a master’s degree in Social Welfare Administration from the University of California and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Arizona State University.
Melina Whitehead, Senior Principal (part-time)
Melina Whitehead joins our firm as a part-time Senior Principal and will focus on a portfolio of housing authority and HUD-related work including compliance, disaster recovery, finance, governance, organizational development, and policy. Melina brings nearly three decades of experience with HUD program compliance, most recently as the Division Director of the San Francisco Office of Public Housing. Melina will affiliate with our Berkeley office and can be reached at Melina@lesardevelopment.com.
While serving as the Division Director of the San Francisco Office of Public Housing, Melina was responsible for providing technical assistance and monitoring programs administered by 56 Northern California PHAs who receive annual federal funding in excess of $1.35 billion and provide 187,000 units of affordable housing through the Low Rent Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs. She trained and led technical staff in comprehensive reviews of housing authorities, and upon completion issued reports containing recommendations and strategies to address concerns in areas of governance, finance, and program compliance. Melina assisted with the implementation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD) since its inception as a Team Leader and a Subject Matter Expert and in that capacity she reviewed RAD applications submitted by PHAs and owners from across the country to determine project acceptability and guide the RAD conversion. Melina helped develop guidance and processing procedures for PHAs and HUD staff nationwide and trained PHAs and staff.
She served on the Sustainable Communities Task Force, which was comprised of representatives from EPA, FTA, ABAG, MTC, CalTrans, and HCD, and produced a report on federal barriers to local housing and transportation coordination. For nine years, Melina was the team lead/underwriter for the HUD San Francisco Office of Multifamily Housing Development with a portfolio that included 120+ multifamily FHA-insured or subsidized housing developments that ranged from supportive housing to market rate and affordable apartments, nursing homes, and Single Room Occupancy projects.
Prior to joining the San Francisco Office of Public Housing, Melina was a Community Builder with the Regional HUD office and prior to that she was a Supervisory Underwriter with the San Francisco HUD/FHA Multifamily Office. In addition to her duties as an underwriter for Section 202/811, 221(d)(3), 221(d)(4), 236, 223(m), and 223(f) FHA programs, Melina also served as the Coordinator for the Mark-to-Market program and was responsible for the restructuring and refinance of FHA multifamily projects in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. Melina started her career with HUD as an Economist.
Diana Elrod, Principal (part-time)
Diana Elrod, Principal, is now on board at LDC and brings her expertise in community development and planning to LDC’s Berkeley office; she will work on a part-time basis. Diana can be reached at Diana@lesardevelopment.com. Diana will work four days a week.
She has extensive experience serving as a strategic advisor to jurisdictions on Consolidated Plans, Housing Elements, and Inclusionary Housing, and has authored needs assessments, policy analyses, and legislative advocacy platforms on topics including inclusionary zoning, density bonuses, senior housing zoning overlays, and in lieu fees. She has also ushered affordable housing projects from conception to construction. Prior to launching her own consulting practice, Diana served as the Policy and Planning Administrator for the City of San Jose Department of Housing, Special Assistant to the Chair for New York City Department of City Planning, and Planner for the New York City Public Development Corporation. She holds a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Preservation from Columbia University, and earned her bachelor’s degree in American Architectural History from Oberlin College.
Erica Snyder, Senior Associate (full-time)
Erica Snyder, Senior Associate, brings her expertise in strategic planning, systems change, and housing and homelessness policy to the San Diego office. She starts on March 19th and can be reached at Erica@lesardevelopment.com.
She previously served as the Director of Homeless Housing Innovations at the San Diego Housing Commission where she guided and oversaw the development of Housing First homeless assistance programs, including the creation of the Housing Our Heroes Initiative, which provided landlords with financial incentives and benefits for renting to 1,000 Veterans experiencing homelessness. Erica’s broad experience spans both the public and nonprofit sectors, having also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, Duke University’s National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, United Way of San Diego County, and other nonprofits. She has often been involved at the inception of new ventures and instrumental in creating infrastructure and policy for programs impacting complex social issues, such as homelessness, human trafficking, and child trauma. Ms. Snyder holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing on community, management, and policy. Erica can be reached at Erica@lesardevelopment.com.
Brian Gruters, Associate (full-time)
Brian Gruters, Associate, also recently joined the LDC team with a focus on designing systems that respond to homelessness quickly and efficiently, emphasizing harm reduction and trauma‐informed care. Before joining LDC, Mr. Gruters led development of the City of San Diego’s coordinated entry system (CES) for the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless. His work there involved policy analysis, program management, and technical assistance around CES. He has also worked for Breaking Ground (formerly Common Ground) and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York City, where his work centered on permanent supportive housing management, development of limited‐equity housing, and community organizing. Mr. Gruters holds a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, where he studied ecology and rural anti‐poverty movements. Brian can be reached at Brian@lesardevelopment.com.