President and CEO
Jennifer LeSar is an expert in community development and real estate finance. With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Ms. LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to comprehensive strategic planning for top executives and executive teams 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. Ms. LeSar previously worked for nine years as an investment banker arranging equity investments on behalf of Edison Capital and Bank of America, and for twelve years as an affordable housing developer. Ms. LeSar received both her M.B.A. in real estate and finance and an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and she received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in political science and economics.
Jonathan Hunter was formerly with Corporation for Supportive Housing, where he worked as Western Region Managing Director. Jonathan is a creative leader in collaborative design of innovative solutions to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, including developing and funding supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless and have disabilities related to mental illness, substance use, HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions. In Los Angeles, this work resulted in the creation of more than 3,000 new units of supportive housing.
Liz Tracey has over 20 years of experience in housing and community development finance. Ms. Tracey was most recently Senior Vice President at the Low Income Investment Fund, where she managed a team of lenders and program officers covering the western United States. Her team worked to bring increased capital to meet community needs, using tools such as the Bay Area’s Transit Oriented Affordable Housing Fund,and the Golden State Acquisition Fund. Prior to LIIF, Ms. Tracey was Vice President of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Group at JP Morgan Chase, covering California, Oregon and Washington. Projects financed included commercial and retail space, manufacturing facilities, community centers, health clinics, and charter schools.
With more than 30 years of experience, Diana Elrod is a highly respected housing and community development leader with a broad range of experience, including designing residential developments for the New York Public Development Corporation, establishing “reasonable return” standards for variances at the Board of Standards and Appeals, and co‐authoring the City of San José Department of Housing certified Housing Element and award‐winning Consolidated Plan. In her consulting practice, she has provided strategic counsel and conducted research on Housing and Community Development for the Cities of Lafayette, Belmont, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Mateo, and the County of Santa Clara. In this capacity, she has managed a broad range of projects for clients, helping them comply with federal and State laws and developing policies, programs and procedures on topics such as inclusionary zoning, accessory dwelling units, density bonuses and prevailing wage. She also has completed Housing Elements and Consolidated Plans for jurisdictions throughout the State. Ms. Elrod holds a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University, a Master Arts in Philosophy and Religion from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College.
Kris Kuntz has expertise in systems modeling and change, particularly as applied to homelessness and housing policy. During his prior employment with Father Joe’s Villages, Mr. Kuntz performed data analysis and evaluation activities on the various, social services, housing, and health care programs operated by the organization. He collected data and performed analysis on San Diego’s chronically homeless frequent user effort, Project 25, and worked with several Managed Care Health Plans to expand the program using Medi-Cal dollars. Kris has also been the community lead in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing for San Diego’s SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery (SOAR) model and has participated in several work groups on health and housing, and cross system data sharing. In addition to his work in homelessness and housing policy, Kris was an adjunct faculty member in the sociology department at San Diego City College for three years. Mr. Kuntz holds a master’s degree in sociology from California State University, San Marcos and a bachelor’s degree from Chico State.
Rachel Ralston specializes in project management and research related to affordable housing, health care and homelessness. She has extensive experience with qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, particularly related to focus groups, interviews, surveys and experimental research. She has a background in LGBTQ journalism and also has focused on social and behavioral outcomes stemming from health communication. Her studies of perceptions and experiences among adolescents, the LGBTQ community and women have been presented at multiple conferences and published in several journals, including the Journal of Health Communication, Computers in Human Behavior and Psychology of Women Quarterly. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in English literature and holds both an M.A. and Ph.D. in communication from The Ohio State University.
Erica Snyder specializes in guiding organizational strategy with an emphasis on strategic planning, change management, strategic positioning, and program development. Her broad experience spans both the public and nonprofit sectors where 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. While at the San Diego Housing Commission, she guided and oversaw the development of Housing First homeless assistance programs, including the creation of the region’s first program to incentivize landlords to rent to households experiencing homelessness, preventing vulnerable populations from experiencing housing instability diverting households from shelter entry, and increasing the permanent supportive housing supply. Ms. Snyder holds a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing on community, management, and policy.
Jessica Ripper 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.
Brian Gruters focuses 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.
Nadine Hassoun is an associate, providing research and project support to staff and clients. Nadine has experience in real estate market research, and trade and development research in the non-profit and private sectors. Ms. Hassoun also volunteers with grassroots organizations focused on community development through youth empowerment in San Diego’s refugee communities. She received her Bachelor of Arts in International Economics from San Diego State University and her Masters of Science in Political Economy of Development from SOAS, University of London.
Maureen Richey previously provided technical assistance through the Council of State Governments Justice Center in New York to communities across the country on creating strategies to address criminal justice recidivism among individuals with mental illness and housing instability. Prior to joining the Council of States Governments Justice Center, she was a policy analyst for the Alliance for Children and Families in Washington DC and also a Housing and Community Development Associate at ICF International. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University.
Felix Yan is the Financial Operations Analyst for LDC. Felix has a solid understanding of corporate finance, hands-on experience in financial modeling, strong analytical skills and a great eye for detail. He holds responsibility for all business analytics and reporting on actuals, variance to budget and financial impact of organizational changes. He also responds to information and ad hoc reporting requests from operations and finance team. He supports the project managers by developing interactive budget models to evaluate potential opportunities and streamline budget estimation for proposals and project management. Felix received his Master’s degree in finance from the Rady School of Management at University of California, San Diego in September 2015.
Reza Mortaheb is an architect, urban planner, and urban researcher. Mr. Mortaheb has more than five years of professional experience in urban planning research and practice and is a PhD candidate in the Urban Systems Program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University. His most recent position was at the New Jersey Innovation Institute where as a researcher, planner, and GIS analyst he contributed to the TAB Program helping distressed communities revitalize underutilized or vacant industrial and manufacturing sites and buildings. Mr. Mortaheb holds a Master’s degree in architecture and a Master of Science degree in Urban and Regional Planning from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Reza’s area of focus is federal and state housing policies and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
Sarah Snook works on the Housing team providing research and analysis on issues across California including policy implementation and housing affordability. Ms. Snook has experience in public and nonprofit sectors and focused much of her work on education and housing for vulnerable populations. Prior to joining LDC, she was a corps member with Teach for America and taught 7th grade science in San Ysidro, California. After leaving the classroom, Ms. Snook returned to graduate school, where she worked on issues of displacement and teacher trauma across the Bay Area. She graduated with a Masters of Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 and received her B.A. in Political Science and Urban Planning from University of California, San Diego in 2014.
Meet Our Affiliate – Estolano LeSar Advisors (ELA)
CECILIA V. ESTOLANO
Co-CEO and Co-Founder
Cecilia V. Estolano is an expert in sustainable economic development and urban revitalization. The many projects she has directed as co-founder of ELA include advising local governments, non-profits and foundations on redevelopment dissolution and economic revitalization; overseeing research on green infrastructure and job creation in Philadelphia; and managing complex multi-stakeholder processes, including the creation of economic development implementation plans and the LA 2050 visioning project for the Goldhirsh Foundation. Prior to co-founding ELP Advisors, Ms. Estolano was Chief Strategist of State and Local Initiatives for Green For All, a national organization that advocates for broad access and opportunity in the clean-energy economy. Learn More
Richard France assists our clients with strategic planning, visioning, and community and economic development. His work includes authoring a report on the current state of human development in Los Angeles for the Goldhirsh Foundation (LA2050). He also coordinated a study to improve bike and pedestrian access to transit oriented districts for the County of Los Angeles, and has researched and reported on opportunities to leverage energy efficiency investments to create jobs for disadvantaged residents. Mr. France provides training materials and ongoing analytic support on the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. He previously worked for a media consulting firm, where he assisted on social action campaigns, including partnership development and the strategy and day-to-day execution of active campaigns. Mr. France received his M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and a Bachelor of Environmental Design from University of Colorado at Boulder.
Cynthia Guzman supports the senior team through the research, writing, and preparation of reports and materials in the areas of strategic planning, visioning, and workforce and economic development. Specifically, she assisted in convening a task force of business leaders to develop an economic development implementation plan and she has conducted research and analysis to connect low-income and disadvantaged workers to career paths in green infrastructure and energy efficiency in the cities of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She is also leading the process to draft an implementation roadmap to revitalize a 110-acre brownfield with green space, quality housing, and economic development. Ms. Guzman received both her Masters of Urban & Regional Planning and her undergraduate degree in English from UCLA.
Tulsi joined ELA in October 2013. In her current role as Senior Associate, Tulsi assists clients in the areas of community and economic development, stakeholder engagement, environmental policy, and program design. Tulsi supports the firm’s role as Executive Director of the LA Bioscience Hub, a nonprofit focused on the creation of a bioscience cluster in East Los Angeles. She is also working with a national foundation to pilot an equitable economic development grant program that provides technical assistance to Southern Cities. Tulsi serves as a Board Member for People for Parks. Learn More
Winnie Fong provides research, analysis, and writing in support of various consulting projects, especially ELA’s role as Executive Director for the Westside Cities Council of Governments. Other projects include development in the historical El Pueblo District of Downtown Los Angeles, and market research for a research university. Winnie received her Master of Planning from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics for California State University, Sacramento.
Veronica Cruz assists our clients with community development and social innovation by performing data gathering and analysis and providing research support for professional reports and client presentations. Ms. Cruz has over 10 years of experience in research and data analysis, with an emphasis on synthesizing and interpreting quantitative data using Microsoft Excel. She previously worked as a senior research analyst and supervisor for Zenith Media’s Competitive Intelligence department where she was in charge of research project management and business development. Ms. Cruz received her M.P.L. in Economic Development from the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy, and her B.B.A. in finance and accounting from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Leah joined ELA as a research analyst in January 2016. In this role, she provides research and general project support to ELA staff and clients. Leah has worked in the nonprofit, public, and philanthropic sectors, focusing on community development and stakeholder engagement. Currently, Leah is assisting Eden Housing in mapping the affordable housing landscape in San Diego using ArcGIS software. Prior to ELA, Leah was a VISTA at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, where she managed a neighborhood evaluation project in which she collected, analyzed, and presented housing data that was shared with various stakeholders, including Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Frogtown Rondo Home Fund, and the City of Saint Paul, MN. Leah is currently an M.P.A. candidate at the University of Southern California, and received her B.A. in Sociology and Music from Loyola Marymount University.
Grethel Fuentes joined ELA in February 2016 as an Administrator Assistant. In her current role as an Administrative Assistant, she provides a variety of admin assistance to project managers. Currently, she is assisting Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors with various projects. Ms. Fuente’s professional background includes assisting administrators and executives in public and nonprofit businesses to effectively carry out various operational and financial control procedures.