Design for Dignity
DESIGN FOR DIGNITY SPEAKER BIOS 2022

Alejandra Guerrero
Director of Urban Planning and Policy, Office of: Office
Alejandra, co-founder and Director at Office of: Office, was born and raised in northern Mexico. She currently advises international agencies, local governments, and community-led organizations in urban policy matters. She previously worked as the assistant manager of urban regeneration at Mexico’s leading housing authority, INFONAVIT, as a community engagement and design fellow at LA-Más, and as a lecturer of sociology, urban planning, and architecture at the University of Monterrey and Carolina University. Alejandra holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Monterrey, a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master’s in Architecture of Urban Design from University College London, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Sustainable Urban Development from the University of Oxford.

Brady Collins
Policy and Research Lead, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)
Brady Collins is Policy and Research Lead at Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), where he advocates for equitable labor and housing policy and conducts strategic campaign research. He is also an Associate Professor of Political Science at Cal Poly Pomona, where he teaches courses on public administration, public policy, and urban governance in Los Angeles. Brady received his PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA.

Brenda Wiewel
Program Development & Innovations Faculty, Keck School of Medicine of USC and Consultant, Brenda Wiewel Consulting
Brenda Wiewel, DSW, LCSW, is currently engaged in multiple community projects. These include consulting with community organizations to develop new and expanded programs, teaching at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and working with USC social work and public health masters students. Her doctoral studies focused on prevention of homelessness for adult women, incorporating participatory action research and co-design methods to understand the needs and develop a new program. Previously, she formed and directed the University of Southern California’s Initiative to Eliminate Homelessness from 2016-2021. There, she led efforts to design, support, and implement new student resources to reduce food and housing insecurity. She has also organized major conferences and other convenings, coordinated a range of new learning opportunities for students, and supported multiple research efforts to meet community needs. Previously, she managed and developed a range of behavioral health services, including persons experiencing homelessness. On behalf of ending homelessness in Los Angeles, she has focused on trauma, consumer involvement, equity, and housing development. Ms. Wiewel is also a member of LA5 Rotary Club, Chair of the California Social Work Women’s Council, and VP of Programs for the Trojan League of Los Angeles. Ms. Wiewel received her Doctorate and Masters Degrees in Social Work from the University of Southern California. She can be reached at brenda.wiewel@med.usc.edu.

Charles Wee
Founder & CEO, LifeArk SPC
Charles is the inventor of LifeArk. He has over 35+ years of architecture and urban planning experience. He is currently the President of GDS Architects, an international firm specializing in high-rise residential and office buildings and transportation projects. Charles worked for DMJM, a part of AECOM, before co-founding AJLA as prominent American architectural firms doing work in Asia. Charles received his Master of Architecture from UCLA and is a licensed architect in California.

Councilmember Nithya Raman
Councilmember, City of Los Angeles, District #4
Nithya Raman is an urban planner, a working mother, an immigrant to America, and a member of the Los Angeles City Council representing District 4. After several years serving on the Silverlake Neighborhood Council as well as co-founding the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, Nithya felt there was a gap between city services and the expanding homelessness crisis – a gap she was equipped to fill. She ran for City Council in 2019 and won a historic victory, becoming the first Asian-American woman and the first South Asian ever to serve on the City Council. Her race saw a fivefold increase in voter turnout in the district, and she became the first challenger in 17 years to defeat a sitting City Councilmember. Since taking office, Councilmember Raman has prioritized delivering compassionate and effective services for people experiencing homelessness, building more affordable housing, and moving with greater urgency to meet our city’s climate goals. She has built a dedicated team that takes a proactive approach to constituent services, ensuring her office both responds to incoming requests and goes out in the field to meet people where they are, informing them about vaccinations, rent relief, fire safety, and more. She serves as Chair of the Information, Technology, and General Services Committee, Vice Chair of the Homelessness & Poverty Committee, Vice Chair of the Housing Committee, and as a member of the Economic Development & Jobs and Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, & Equity Committees. See here for more information on CD4’s extensive legislative efforts. Councilmember Raman lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles with her husband Vali Chandrasekaran and six-year-old twins Karna and Kaveri.

Edgar Campos
Executive Director, Trust South LA
Edgar Campos is a 15-year veteran of Los Angeles’ political and civic arenas. He has held a senior staff positions in the nonprofit sector, on electoral campaigns, as well as served on elected official staff teams in government and on ad-hoc projects as a consultant. Beyond working for preeminent nonprofit organizations, and successfully running several political and advocacy campaigns, he has served on several boards, and committees, including both the Mayor of Los Angeles’ GRYD (18’) and the California Board of Community Corrections Prop 47(19’) panels. Edgar began his early career working for college readiness programs and community organizing in South L.A. helping to distil complex policy issues impacting immigrant Latino and working-class African Americans for wide audiences in an effort to find community driven solutions that empower every day residents. Edgar is known for his holistic approach to community development. His history of work in immigration, education, criminal justice, and child welfare reform inform his understanding of the intersectionality of issues that factor into affordable housing, anti displacement initiatives and strategies that help families thrive in their home communities. Edgar holds a B.A. from UCLA and has an MBA with a focus in Non-Profit Executive Management.

Gio Aliano, AIA
Principal Architect, Abode Communities
Gio Aliano is principal architect for Abode Communities, a nonprofit architectural design studio with nearly 55 years of urban planning, community development, and architectural design experience. Aliano has been immersed in the planning and design for affordable housing, mixed-use, and education facilities for more than three decades. His most work in the City of Los Angeles HHH Innovation Challenge is propelling the innovation and use of modular, prefabricated design to drive cost and timeline savings to address the City’s homelessness crisis. Aliano currently serves as AIA CA Representative for AIA Los Angeles and as a board member of Los Angeles Education Partnership. His work in, and commitment to, the affordable housing space was honored as Staff of the Year by Southern California Association for Nonprofit Housing in 2018. Aliano’s previous experience includes service as a Design Review Board (DRB) commissioner for the City of Glendale for 10 years, leading the DRB as chairman through two, one-year terms. He is often resourced as a guest critic and speaker for University of California, Los Angeles, Woodbury University, and California State University Fullerton for his expertise in affordable housing and community-based design. Aliano received a Masters in Architecture from University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Science, Design from Arizona State University.

Helmi A. Hisserich
Senior Principal, LeSar Development Consulting
Helmi A. Hisserich is a Senior Principal at LeSar Development Consulting, where she co-leads a team of affordable housing advisors working throughout the State of California with a focus on the strategic use of public land to scale up the production of affordable and middle-income housing. Prior to joining LeSar, Helmi had a 25-year career with the City of Los Angeles, where she worked with a wide range of civic, community, and elected leaders to advance affordable housing and economic development programs. She brings deep commitment to ensuring public sector investments in housing directly address the problems of poverty and discrimination. Helmi served as Deputy Mayor for Housing & Homelessness in the Administration of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa where she created the City’s first comprehensive plan for affordable housing. She then served for 12 years as Assistant General Manager & Director of Housing Strategies at the Los Angeles Housing Department. Under her leadership, the department financed over 8,000 units of affordable housing, made over 500 loans to first time homebuyers and monitored a portfolio of more than 43,000 affordable housing units. Prior to her work in housing, Helmi served as the Director of Redevelopment in Hollywood and as a Senior Business Development Representative on Mayor Richard Riordan’s Business Team. She graduated from USC with a degree in Comparative Literature and earned an MBA from Cornell University with an emphasis in finance. Helmi attended the Harvard Kennedy School Program for Senior Executives in State and Local government. A native of Los Angeles, she currently resides in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Jason King
Associate Director & Global Quantum Lead, IBI Group
Jason King is a designer, urban planner and programmer who leads IBI’s global computational design team. Drawing on two decades of architecture and planning experience, Mr. King possesses a unique skill for crafting algorithmic, evidenced-based solutions for complex urban problems. At IBI, he and his team have created custom algorithms for projects ranging in scale and scope from regional transportation plans, performative architectural facades, operations facilities optimization, sustainability plans, large-scale land use and master planning, and dynamic pro forma financial modeling. As a recognized leader in his field, he has held many academic positions and continues to lecture at universities and conferences internationally. Prior to his career in design, Mr. King was a professional skateboarder.

Jenna Hornstock, Hon. AIA
Deputy Director of Planning, Land Use, SCAG
Jenna Hornstock joined SCAG in 2020 to lead special initiatives in housing and economic empowerment as well as the sustainable and resilient development departments. From 2011 – 2019, Jenna served as LA Metro’s Executive Officer for Transit Oriented Communities. In this role she managed Metro’s Joint Development, First/Last Mile Planning and Systemwide Design programs as well as the development of the $5.5 M Union Station Master Plan. She led development and adoption of the Transit Oriented Communities Policy as well as new affordable housing policies and programs that have become models for how transit agencies across the nation engage with community development, equity, land use and affordable housing. Prior to Metro, she spent nearly 7 years at the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), most recently as Chief of Strategic Planning and Economic Development. At CRA/LA, Jenna worked directly on financing and implementation of affordable housing, infrastructure, industrial and retail development projects, as well as plans and funding for open space, healthy food access and land use planning. She started her career working for a nonprofit affordable housing developer and on the Housing and Business Team of former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn. Jenna holds a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a BA in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley. She served for 5 years as Assistant Chair of ULI’s Public Private Partnership National Product Council and is a former Public Director for the Los Angeles Chapter of the AIA. She is currently a member of the Board for the non-profit Community Health Councils, on the Advisory Board for ULI’s Los Angeles District Council and is a City Planning Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles. She lives in Silverlake with her teenage son and her partner, and practices yoga and the Lindy Hop whenever possible.

Joan Ling
Lecturer in Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Joan Ling is a real estate adviser and policy analyst in urban planning. She has experience in real estate financial analysis, affordable housing and urban mixed use development, and state and local land use and housing policy, legislation and regulation. Ling is Board Director, Housing California and MoveLA and former Treasurer, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles and former Executive Director, Community Corporation of Santa Monica. Her current research focus is on the nexus between land use policy and real estate development as well as analysis of community benefits project and program level feasibility.

Jongmi Kagabo
MUP, Urban Planning Expert, USC Price School of Public Policy, Department of Urban Planning
Ms. Jongmi Kagabo earned a recent master’s degree in urban planning at the USC Sol Price of Public Policy, with a concentration in urban design. She is currently researching community land trusts under the supervision of the Professor Marlon Boarnet, Chair. She has a strong multicultural background as a Rwandese-Filipino American born in Zambia. Prior to grad school, she was working at the Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations as an advisor and administrative assistant. She personally escorted Rwanda’s Minister of Environment to his high-level meetings during the Climate Summit and provided counsel to the Ambassador of Rwanda based on Rwanda’s agendas for the UNGA74. Her background is in Business and French from Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey. There she had a year-long study abroad experience in France that provided her with travels that helped her visualize sustainable communities in contrast to her upbringing in the Philippines. She has recent experience with Los Angeles policies from her internship at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, experience as a GIS consultant in her independent role at the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), and has participated in the ULI Hines Student Competition in January 2022. Jongmi is currently looking to secure a full-time role as an urban designer within the California area.

Kevin Daly, FAIA
Founder & Principal, kdA (kevin daly Architects)
Over his thirty-year career, Kevin Daly has defined a design process that upholds the practical magic of architecture – an alchemical conjunction of craft, materials, and form. Bolstered by abundant research, he has demonstrated the benefits of advanced, unconventional building technology in works that are consistently recognized in publications and awards, and range from public schools, custom residences, and university buildings to affordable housing. Daly is particularly recognized for reclaiming and transforming sites characteristic of the postwar city, turning generic background buildings into models of community identity. Daly has established a critical practice that is nationally recognized and simultaneously engages the profession as well as the local community, with projects that are recognized for design excellence with national and publication. He has served on numerous AIA awards juries, won the inaugural AIA/LA Firm of the Year Award, held distinguished university chairs at Berkeley and Michigan, and is a regular faculty member at UCLA. Through his teaching experience he fosters a next generation of architects across the country.

Mahdi Manji
Public Policy Advocate, Inner City Law Center
Mahdi joined Inner City Law Center as a Public Policy Advocate in May 2020. He advocates for land use policies to increase the production of affordable housing and increasing revenue for affordable housing in Los Angeles County with a focus on ending segregationary residential patterns and closing the racial wealth gap. Prior to joining ICLC, Mahdi worked with the ACLU of Southern California where he planned and managed ACLU SoCal’s Schools and Communities First Campaign efforts. He has worked on electoral and issue organizing campaigns in Los Angeles, Orange County, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia including organizing efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act in pivotal Orange County congressional districts. Mahdi is a graduate of UCLA.

Melani Smith
Director of Regional Development, Gateway Cities Council of Governments
Melani Smith leads the Gateway Cities Council of Government’s (COG’s) subregional housing work program including: supporting local jurisdictions 6th Cycle Housing Element updates, formation of a subregional Affordable Housing Trust Fund, an Inclusionary Housing Subregional Strategy, municipal finance and housing analysis, inclusive community engagement tools and educational workshops, and supporting the creation of a multi-COG ADU clearinghouse website. She also collaborates on projects with the COG’s Homeless Program Manager funded by LA County’s Homeless Initiative, and oversees the COG’s air quality and climate work program including urban greening, subregional energy management and energy resiliency projects. Prior to joining the COG, she was a Senior Director in LA Metro’s Transit Oriented Communities group, where she focused on integrating equitable transit oriented development, sustainable/healthy urban design, and first/last mile connections, into Metro projects including the proposed West Santa Ana Branch transit project. Much of her prior career was focused on building and leading vision-driven urban planning and design practices in Southern California. She did this in her many years as CEO/President and Principal at Meléndrez (now RELM Studio) in downtown Los Angeles, and as Director of Governmental Services at The Planning Center (now Placeworks), in Costa Mesa, CA.

Michael Anderson, AIA
Principal and Founder, Anderson Barker Architects
Architect, urban planner, economic development, and predevelopment. Michael H. Anderson, AIA, NOMA has been practicing for over forty years in Los Angeles, California. Principal of Anderson Barker Architects, Inc., Michael specializes in predevelopment, conceptual design, and entitlement, Michael combines his skills as an affordable housing developer for first-time buyers with decades of transit development, community outreach, architectural design, and construction experience on projects ranging from small residential, commercial, transit, and funding of public streetscape projects. An expert in the challenges of underserved communities, Michael has participated in countless projects leading the design, permitting, and construction of generating solutions for the revitalization of low-income impacted communities. Author of Urban Magic – Vibrant Black and Brown Communities Are Possible. Notable projects are Intuit Dome (LA Clippers) Plaza Buildings, Tom Bradley International Terminal West, Compton MLK Jr Transit Station, and Compton Community Center.

Miguel A. Santana
President & CEO, Weingart Foundation
Miguel A. Santana has over 30 years of experience leading numerous fiscal, legislative, political, and community issues. He served as President and C.E.O. of Fairplex since 2016, a nonprofit community benefit regional organization based in Pomona, CA. Previously, Miguel was the City Administrative Officer for the City of Los Angeles, where he oversaw the City’s $9 billion budget and designed the City’s first comprehensive homeless strategy, resulting in a $1.2 billion voter-approved housing bond and a doubling of the City’s general fund investment on programs to end homelessness. Prior to joining the City, Miguel served as one of five Deputy Chief Executive Officers for Los Angeles County, overseeing all social service programs supporting children, families, veterans and persons experiencing homelessness. Miguel was appointed President & C.E.O. of the Weingart Foundation in 2021. He engages in numerous civic efforts to create a more equitable Southern California region, including serving as Chair of the Committee for Greater L.A. He also serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Whittier College Board of Trustees. Miguel has a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American Studies from Whittier College and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University.

Paul Cho
CFO, LifeArk SPC
Paul joined LifeArk after serving as the COO/CFO of Illumination Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded to provide housing and healthcare to the homeless. He also manages Illumination Housing LLC, a social impact investment fund. Prior to his non-profit work, he was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch for 16 years. Paul received his BA in Economics from Harvard University and Executive MBA from University of California Irvine.

Rayne Laborde Ruiz
Associate Director, cityLAB-UCLA
Rayne Laborde Ruiz is an architectural designer, urban planner, and interdisciplinary researcher. Across a portfolio of speculative and built work including museums, schools, community centers and affordable housing, her projects prioritize public engagement while raising questions of agency and spatial justice.

Laborde Ruiz is a member of the After Echo Park Lake Research Collective and the Hollywood Community Housing Corporation Board of Directors. She graduated with distinction from UCLA (M.Arch I & MURP ‘21), where she held numerous fellowships and research positions in the schools of Architecture, Public Affairs, and Real Estate. Her experience spans policy research for the International Center for Transitional Justice and UCLA Luskin’s Lewis Center, re-thinking planning through projects with Terreform ONE and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, designing with communities in partnership with HYC Architecture and Kounkuey Design Initiative, and editing publications for KoningEizenberg Architecture and POOL Magazine. Her writing, design, and photography have been showcased around the world in over a dozen publications and galleries, and locally, she has served on urban advocacy boards across Santa Monica and Los Angeles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in “Forming Urban Fabric: Architecture and Collective Memory in the City” from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Scott Sullivan, AIA
Founding Principal, Relativity Architects
Scott Sullivan, AIA, NCARB, is a Co-Founding Principal of Relativity Architects. Under Mr. Sullivan’s leadership, Relativity Architects has created 50 affordable-housing projects to date, with many more on the drawing board—comprising more than 550 new units and rehabilitating approximately 5,000 existing ones. The firm designs for dignity, with common spaces created to build a sense of community and ease the transition to new addresses for people who are often previously unhoused. Relativity’s work benefits foster youth, low-income families, veterans, the chronically unhoused, domestic-violence survivors, and low-income seniors. The firm has worked with both non-profit and for-profit developers: Abode Communities, Century Housing Corp., Deep Green Housing, Los Angeles County Housing Development Corp., Preservation Partners, and Thomas Safran & Associates, among others. Relativity’s affordable-housing project honors include an Architecture MasterPrize Award for Social Housing, a Los Angeles Business Council Green Building Award, a SCANPH Rehab Development of the Year Award, and a ULI Jack Kemp Award for Excellence in Affordable & Workforce Housing (Finalist). Sullivan earned a BS in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA) and an M.Arch from Southern California Institute of Architecture (Los Angeles). As a boy, he traveled with his commercial-photographer mother, who sparked Mr. Sullivan’s interest in composition and proportion. He pursued architecture as a way to merge this artistic upbringing and a formal education rooted in math and science. These influences inform Mr. Sullivan’s unencumbered aesthetic, attention to detail, and love for fluid, dynamic forms. He also has a passion for green building techniques and alternative materials.

Shannon Uppal
USC Student Researcher, University of Southern California
Shannon Uppal is a rising sophomore studying health and human sciences on the premed track at USC. She has always been interested in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, which the community land trust model incorporates. She looks forward to presenting on the community land trusts and their impacts!

Sierra Atilano
President and Chief Executive Officer, Skid Row Housing Trust
Sierra Atilano holds over 25 years of experience in multiple facets of real estate, including development, portfolio management, property management, finance, and construction. Her track record includes oversight and development of high-value, complex real estate portfolios. Sierra has developed a sophisticated acumen related to market rate and affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing, senior housing, farmworker housing, commercial real estate, mixed-use, and student housing. She has developed over 2,000 apartment homes, in 17 cities across 3 states as well as 5 luxury single-family estates, and 1 million square feet of commercial retail. Starting her career with one of the largest Real Estate Investment Trusts, Lincoln Property Company, Sierra gained a firm foundation in leadership and portfolio oversight. She then transitioned to work for a construction company specializing in the apartment industry in which she gained project management experience working on new construction and rehab projects. Sierra then went on to work for several family-owned developers such as Cal- American, Korda Construction, and Miller Family Companies in which her unique experience in both project and portfolio management earned her a reputation as a problem solver and an asset to the finance and development teams. Following the real estate market crash of 2008, Sierra found her way to a small non-profit, Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation, where she applied her expertise in finance and portfolio management to affordable housing. She was then sought out by Watt Residential to oversee their residential portfolio and assisted with several affordable acquisitions and rehabs. Over the last 11 years she has honed her asset management and development expertise working for one of the nation’s top developers, AMCAL Residential, and now as the Chief Executive Officer at Skid Row Housing Trust.

Teya Hisel
USC, Founder of AdvocaSc, Student Organization, University of Southern California
Teya Hisel is a senior at USC, double majoring in Global Studies and Philosophy, Politics, and Law. She has previously worked on housing policy advocacy with United Way of Greater LA, interned for Downtown Women’s Center, and is currently interning for the Homeful.LA Team at Inner City Law Center. She is also the founder of advocaSC, a student organization focused on policy change, service, and education in support of unhoused folks in LA.

Tima Bell, Assoc. AIA
Founding Principal, Relativity Architects
A Co-Founding Principal of Relativity Architects, Tima Bell, Assoc. AIA, strives to instill dignity for tenants and inspire responsibility for clients in the firm’s affordable-housing projects. To date, Relativity has completed 30 affordable-housing projects, designing more than 550 new units and rehabilitating more than 5,000 existing units to serve foster youth, low-income families, veterans, chronically homeless people, domestic-violence survivors, and low-income seniors. The firm designs affordable and market-rate projects for non-profit and for-profit developers: notably Abode Communities, Century Housing Corp., Deep Green Housing, Los Angeles County Housing Development Corp., Preservation Partners, and Thomas Safran & Associate. Relativity’s honors in the typology include an Architecture MasterPrize Award for Social Housing, a Los Angeles Business Council Green Building Award, a SCANPH Rehab Development of the Year Award, and a ULI Jack Kemp Award for Excellence in Affordable & Workforce Housing (Finalist). In addition to launching Relativity Architects in 2013 with Scott Sullivan, AIA, Tima has served as an adjunct professor at Woodbury University and acts as a guest juror at several Los Angeles universities. He earned a BFA from Rice University with a focus on painting and literature and an M.Arch from the Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc).