Category Archive: Staff Update

  1. LDC Welcomes New Berkeley, San Diego Team Members

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    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 WhiteheadMelina 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 ElrodDiana 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 GrutersBrian 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.

  2. Cecilia Estolano Reappointed to California Community Colleges Board of Governors

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    Cecilia V. EstolanoCongratulations to Cecilia Estolano, Co-CEO of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, on her reappointment to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. She is currently serving as the Board President.

    The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the United States with more than 2.1 million students on 114 campuses. For every $1 California invests in students who graduate from college, it will receive a net return on investment of $4.50.

    “I am honored to serve on the Board of Governors, and advocate for the quality educational opportunities that every student deserves,” said Estolano. “Our community colleges are the backbone of California’s workforce training and higher education system. I look forward to continuing to work with students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community leaders who help to make California Community Colleges the nation’s most affordable and effective portal to higher education and career advancement.”

    The Board of Governors, which is appointed by the governor, sets policy and provides guidance for the 72 districts and 114 colleges that constitute the system, selects the chancellor, and formally interacts with state and federal officials and other organizations.

    Estolano was first appointed to the board in 2014, and served as vice president before becoming president.

  3. LDC Welcomes New Senior Associate

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    Jessica-IMG_7723-square webWe are pleased to welcome Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, to LeSar Development Consultants. Jessica manages marketing and business development and also covers organizational development and systems change, with an emphasis on health and human services. She specializes in partnering with multidisciplinary teams to advance policies and programs to improve the quality of life for children and families, and has extensive experience translating complex social issues into compelling stories, reports, and tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. She also has a background in developing training curricula, conducting organizational assessments, and performing qualitative data analyses. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Jessica helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth by strengthening partnerships among public systems, schools, and communities. She has also worked with the County of San Diego Child Welfare Services and Walden Family Services, and for the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Goodwill Industries International in the Washington, D.C., area.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  4. My Four Takeaways from Denver Summit on Supportive Housing

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    Denver HousingIn May, several LDC colleagues and I attended the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) Summit in Denver. The conference brought together hundreds of thought leaders in the field of supportive housing to share trends, hands-on experiences, and ideas. We also enjoyed Denver’s craft beer scene, and the conference swag and endless supply of fresh coffee provided by our hosts. Here are my takeaways from the conference sessions:

    Partnerships: CSH CEO Deb de Santis led a lively lunch session with pictures from Jaws to emphasize her message for the need to build a bigger boat. She was alluding to the idea of bringing more partners that have a stake in ending homelessness—healthcare, criminal justice, and child welfare—to the table to work toward solutions. Many of the conference sessions highlighted the role of each of these sectors, and one session was completely devoted to understanding the different language used to talk about healthcare and housing.

    Another lunch session highlighted the collaboration among health and housing partners in Portland, Oregon, to develop new units of affordable and supportive housing. The session provided attendees with a concrete example of the innovative partnerships and financing approaches that can be developed when people are willing to come together and think big.

    Data Integration: Cross-sector data integration innovations are happening across the country. For example, many communities have undertaken projects to connect their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data with criminal justice and healthcare data to identify overlapping populations and target resources more efficiently. The key with these efforts will be sustainability and keeping data updated and fresh.  Many communities have done one-off pilots and integrated data from multiple systems to create frequent user lists or to inform policy decisions, which is great, but these become static.  Innovative technology will be needed for ongoing impact and decision making.

    System Redesign: I also attended a half day pre-conference institute that showcased Houston’s homeless system redesign. Houston is well-known for effectively changing their homeless system and the leadership involved to coalesce a community around a common goal. What intrigued me most, however, were the ways they utilize their emergency shelter and transitional housing programs—two things that many communities across the country are in the midst of addressing.

    Political Leadership: On the last day of the conference, the Mayor of Denver addressed the audience. I was impressed with both his charisma and his clear commitment to finding innovative solutions to assist underserved populations, especially those experiencing homelessness, in his city. Recently, the City of Denver released a short-term strategy that specifically addresses housing, health, and employment. Denver is also operating a Pay for Success initiative targeted at people who are chronically homeless.

    While I enjoyed the conference sessions and discussions with colleagues from across the country, the swag I picked up was the clear highlight at home. My kids loved the new CSH florescent orange silly putty, and I even gave in and bought my kids some Denver Bronco souvenirs. Although I’m a diehard Chargers fan, my son said that he’s thinking of rooting for the Broncos, which might not be a bad idea now that the Chargers have moved to LA.

    For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at Kris@lesardevelopment.com.

  5. LDC is Hiring Interns!

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    LeSar Development Consultants is looking to hire two, part-time paid Research Analysts. One position will focus on Housing Policy, while the other on Real Estate and Land Use. This position will provide the Research Analyst with in-depth exposure to an array of disciplines, including housing policy and planning, economic development, workforce development, real estate, sustainability, and active transportation.

    The analyst will work with our team to demonstrate that a thoughtful and strategic interdisciplinary approach will create strong, healthy, and sustainable communities. For more information, please go to: http://www.lesardevelopment.com/internshipopportunities/

  6. Katherine Perez-Estolano Moves to New Role as Cities Leader at Arup

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    KPEA co-founder of ELP Advisors, Katherine Aguilar Perez-Estolano has accepted an executive position as an Associate Principal at ARUP and she will be the Los Angeles Cities leader for ARUP’s Global Cities Initiative. She will seek to integrate its advisory services in strategy and economics, planning, and finance, delivered in a city context. Katherine is an expert in urban planning, transportation, and stakeholder engagement. While in real estate development, she lead a development team that focused on transit oriented development in diverse communities with the goal of revitalizing downtowns. At ELP Advisors, she managed numerous transportation planning and community engagement projects and the LA 2050 visioning project for the Goldhirsh Foundation.

    Katherine will be leading ARUP’s efforts in the Los Angeles market to deepen its engagements with mayors, city governments, developers, infrastructure owners and investors, and other key urban stakeholders in support of fostering sustainable, thriving, and climate change resilient cities. We congratulate Katherine in her exciting new role with ARUP and look forward to teaming opportunities to work together to transform our growing cities. Jennifer LeSar and Cecilia V. Estolano purchased Katherine’s interests in 2016 and are now full owners of ELP Advisors.

  7. LDC and ELP Advisors Welcome Two New Senior Staff Members

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    We are pleased to welcome Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, to LeSar Development Consultants and Autumn Bernstein, Principal, to Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors.

    Artemis SpyridonidisArtemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, is covering housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California. After receiving degrees in Political Science and Spanish from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, she worked for the now late Congressman Joe Moakley before moving to San Diego. During her prior employment with then Councilmember Toni Atkins, she handled housing and homelessness policy. She then went on to work in the San Diego Housing Commission’s Housing Finance and Development Department before attending law school. Artemis also serves as a board member of the City Heights CDC, C3, and Circulate San Diego. After several years of practicing law in the areas of federal criminal defense and business law, she is returning to her true passion: policy work. Contact Artemis at: Artemis@lesardevelopment.com

    Autumn Bernstein CroppedAutumn Bernstein, Principal, ELP Advisors, is an expert in urban planning, transportation, housing, and environmental policy. She brings fifteen years of experience as a policy advocate, strategic advisor, non-profit executive and facilitator in communities across California. Prior to joining ELP Advisors, Autumn was the Founding Director of ClimatePlan, where she built and led a statewide coalition to implement SB 375, California’s groundbreaking sustainable communities law. Autumn has been honored as a Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow (2016) and a German Marshall Fund Urban and Regional Policy Fellow (2010). She holds a BS in Conservation Biology from UC Davis and is an MS candidate in Transportation Technology and Policy, also at UC Davis. Autumn is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in El Cerrito. Reach out to Autumn at: autumn@elpadvisors.com

  8. Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors (ELP) recognized by UCLA’s Luskin Forum publication

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    ELP Co-FoundersDistributed by the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Winter 2017 Alumni Issue of Luskin Forum featured Jennifer LeSar, Cecilia V. Estolano, and Katherine Perez Estolano on its cover page. As graduates of the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning program, all three ELP co-founders learned the value of integration, diversity, and a vision for the future in helping to shape sustainable, equitable communities.

    “We knew that there were diverse people of color who were anxious to make a difference.”

    Jennifer LeSar, LDC Chief Executive Officer who is also founder of LeSar Development Consultants, said of the school: “You are not just a transportation planner or an affordable housing person or an environmental planner. You understand the integration of it all.” Commenting on their shared passion to make a difference in transforming the urban environment, Cecilia also noted: “We knew that there were diverse people of color who were anxious to make a difference.”

    As the publication states, all three ELP co-founders embarked on extensive impact-driven careers before starting ELP in 2011. Continuing to stay true to their shared principles of “Inclusion, Diversity, Gender Equality and Community Engagement,” ELP has set the standard for a women-owned, culturally diverse company seeking to revitalize their beloved California. Other UCLA Luskin Forum students have also benefited from their outstanding work, with some joining ELP as staff experts on their growing team, including Richard France, Cynthia Guzman, and Tulsi Patel.

    We at LDC are proud of our sister-firm, and congratulate ELP for its continued hard work and determination in achieving our mission – to grow thriving, healthy, and vibrant communities.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  9. LDC Welcomes Sebastian Sarria!

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    Sebastian SarriaLDC is excited to announce the newest addition to our team, Sebastian Sarria. Serving as Office Manager, Sebastian helps to ensure that our team is functioning at its highest potential by assisting LDC staff with whatever they need. His flexibility is key to our operations team.

    A native of Colombia, Sebastian grew up in Orlando, FL., lived in Madrid, Spain, and now calls San Diego his home. After only a year in California, Sebastian is already involved in his San Diego community, devoting time and effort to environmental and social justice causes. A graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, he plans to pursue a Masters in Urban Planning in a few years. Welcome Sebastian!

  10. Point-in-Time Count: Understanding the Extent and Complexity of Those Living Outside

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    Edited Jennifer and Kris interviewing pictureEvery January, volunteers throughout the country set out to participate in the annual Point-in-Time Count (PITC). Mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the count allows regional Continuums of Care (CoC) to have better reliable data, while at the same time raising public awareness of homelessness in their communities.

    Felix 3On January 27th, several of our LDC staff participated in the San Diego County PITC and took to the downtown San Diego streets early in the morning. While Kris Kuntz, Jennifer LeSar, Jonathan Hunter, and Rachel Ralston have participated in previous PITC’s, Hampton Dohrman, Felix Yan, and Sebastian Sarria were first-comers and willing to participate. LDC staff engaged and completed several interviews with people living on the streets. The experience was a strong reminder to keep on persevering in the fight to ultimately end homelessness in San Diego.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.