Meet our advisors from across the Los Angeles Region who provide strategic direction for Investing in Place.
David Diaz, Day One / BikeSGV – Bike San Gabriel Valley
David Diaz, MPH is a project coordinator at Day One and a BikeSGV volunteer, focused on increasing the quality of life in low-income communities throughout the San Gabriel Valley. His work focuses on engaging communities, specifically youth, in participatory action research to address environmental policy, increase physical activity opportunities and nutrition education. Over the course of the last year, David has been working on the development of Pomona’s Health Element, the SGV Bicycle Master Plan, and active transportation related policies aimed at creating healthier environments. David holds a Masters of Public Health from Claremont and a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior.
KeAndra Dodds, Enterprise Community Partners
For more than a decade, KeAndra Dodds has dedicated her career to the creation and preservation of affordable housing; improving access to transit, healthy environments and economic opportunities; and developing policies that foster social equity. KeAndra currently works as Senior Program Director, Policy and Special Initiatives at Enterprise Community Partners. She leads the Southern California policy work and joins with Enterprise’s state and federal advocates to improve access to safe, affordable homes in thriving neighborhoods. Prior to joining Enterprise, KeAndra was the Transportation and Housing Deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. As Deputy, she focused on issues related to transportation, land use, affordable housing and LGBT rights. Before joining the county, she was a Staff Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles. There, KeAndra engaged in impact litigation, policy advocacy, technical assistance and education statewide to improve access to affordable housing for low-income families. She also advocated for equitable transit-oriented and sustainable development. KeAndra received her law degree from the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law and her bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania.
Rudy Espinoza, LURN (Leadership for Urban Renewal Network)
Rudy Espinoza is the Executive Director of LURN and an urban planner with a passion for neighborhoods, entrepreneurism and financial empowerment. He specializes in designing and managing place-based initiatives, identifying profitable investment opportunities in low-income communities, building private/nonprofit partnerships and training the working poor to participate in the socio-economic revitalization of their neighborhoods. Rudy holds a Masters in Urban Planning from UCLA and a B.S. in Business Administration.
Richard France, ELP Advisors
Richard France is a Principal at Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, where he assists 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) and reporting on strategies to foster resilience in Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable communities for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. His work in active transportation includes coordinating a study to improve bike and pedestrian access to transit oriented districts for the County of Los Angeles, and working with the Southern California Association of Governments to host tactical urbanism events throughout the region. He previously worked for a media consulting firm, where he assisted on social action campaigns, including partnership development, strategy, and day-to-day execution of active campaigns. Richard received his M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Luis Gutierrez, LURN – Leadership for Urban Renewal
Luis is a Senior Associate at LURN, a nonprofit dedicated to the responsible revitalization of low-income communities. At LURN, Luis ideates, implements and manages multiple projects, such as a purchasing cooperative program between community markets that is intended to leverage the purchasing power of neighborhood stores and introduce healthier foods in low-income communities. Prior to working with LURN, Luis oversaw various public health policy campaigns, throughout the San Gabriel Valley, as the Regional Prevention Policy Coordinator for Day One, a public health nonprofit in Pasadena. At Day One, Luis also authored, “Alcohol and Your City: San Gabriel Valley,” a region-wide report card that assessed 26 cities in the San Gabriel Valley for their levels of alcohol use and availability. This report card helped provide a base of information that sparked multiple policy campaigns seeking to protect communities from some of the most damaging effects of underage alcohol use. Through his professional experience and education, Luis specializes in policy analysis, citizen engagement, interagency collaborative capacities and public health issues that affect low-income communities. Luis holds a Masters degree in Public Administration and a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish Literature.
Naomi Iwasaki currently serves as Director of Neighborhood Services and Great Streets in the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, overseeing eight City departments and the Great Streets Initiative, which prioritizes public resources to develop our streets as safe and vibrant public spaces. She previously worked at Community Health Councils (CHC) analyzing transportation and transit-oriented development policies to advocate for improved health and mobility access for residents of South Los Angeles. Naomi holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from New York University and B.A.’s in Ethnic Studies and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley.
Alexis Lantz, MA Los Angeles Walks
Alexis Lantz is a policy analyst with the PLACE Program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Previously, she was the Planning & Policy Director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). During her tenure at LACBC she conducted the first ever citywide bicycle and pedestrian count for the City of Los Angeles and had a hand in shaping policies in the city and county of Los Angeles to increase infrastructure for bicycling as well as the amount and diversity of people bicycling for everyday transportation. She also worked to expand countywide advocacy capacity for bikeways and complete streets through LACBC’s Regional Partnership program and developing the recently launched Neighborhood Bicycle Ambassador program. Alexis holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. While at UCLA, she initiated a student-led course on bicycle and pedestrian planning that continues today and authored the report “Cycling in Los Angeles” as a Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative fellow. Alexis serves as the chairwoman of the CalBike Board and is a Los Angeles Walks a steering committee member.
Max Podemski, Pacoima Beautiful
Max Podemski is the Planning Director at Pacoima Beautiful, a member-based environmental health and justice nonprofit working in the Northeast San Fernando Valley where he has led the organization’s efforts to improve mobility and open space. Mr. Podemski co-authored the Pacoima Wash Vision Plan which calls for the conversion of the channelized Pacoima Wash into a multi-modal greenway and park. This plan has been incorporated into official planning documents for the City of Los Angeles and the first park along the Wash is set to open in the coming year. He has also spearheaded efforts to create the Bradley Plaza, one of the first new public spaces built under the city’s People St. Program. Mr. Podemski also serves on the cities Pedestrian Advisory Committee as the representative for Council District 6. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Occidental College and a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University.
Stephanie Ramirez, AARP Former Investing in Place Advisory Board Member 2015-2016
Stephanie Ramirez is a Los Angeles native with extensive experience in public policy, community outreach, government relations, and civic engagement. As Associate State Director of Advocacy for AARP California, she is responsible for driving the organization’s social mission, including fighting for issues that matter most to Californians 50+ and their families. Prior to joining AARP, Stephanie worked at the Southwest Voter Registration Project and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Most recently, she was Director of Constituency Services at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. In her role, Stephanie was leading the development and implementation of NALEO’s health policy programs, and advancing the governance and policymaking success of Latino policymakers across the country. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Riverside with a double major in Latin American Studies and Political Science-International Affairs.
Mohja Rhoads, PhD. Senior Research Associate, South Bay Cities Council of Governments; Research Consultant, Former Investing in Place Advisory Board Member 2015-2016
At the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), Mohja conducts cutting edge research on zero-emission vehicles and neighborhood oriented development and planning. The SBBCOG has implemented several large-scale projects tracking and monitoring the use of low-speed and full-battery electric vehicles. Both programs monitored the use of these vehicles for 2 years for over 50 households. Mohja has been responsible for analyzing the vehicle data, assessing the travel and land use behavior of the households as well as emissions and charging patterns. She has also helped the SBBCOG develop and research innovative transportation and land use concepts on neighborhood-oriented development and planning. Mohja has worked with Los Angeles Metro and the University of Southern California in developing a big data archive of real-time transportation data from arterial and highway sensors as well and transit ridership and GPS data- the Archived Data Management System (ADMS) for Los Angeles County. With this project, she helped to create planning applications showcasing how the data can be used in planning efforts. Mohja received her PhD in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California (USC). She received her Master’s degree in Planning from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and French from Columbia University.
Ryan has extensive professional experience in multiple issues including climate change, transportation, and land-use and has dedicated himself to the achievement of healthy, equitable, and economically vibrant communities throughout California and beyond. Currently he works with both TransForm and Transportation for America as the State Cap-and-Trade Campaign Manager and the chief California Organizer. With TransForm he coordinates a statewide coalition to ensure that revenues from California’s landmark cap-and-trade program – the keystone of the Global Warming Solutions Act – are reinvested in world-class transit systems and livable communities that improve the health and prosperity of all Californians. With Transportation for America he collaborates with high-profile California stakeholders to support transportation and policy solutions at the federal level that will provide the resources to invest in a multimodal, well-maintained, and economically competitive transportation system. Previously he also worked extensively on freight policy with a focus on reducing diesel port pollution in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Before entering the transportation advocacy world, Ryan lived in Washington D.C., Costa Rica, and Guatemala, studying and working on international development issues and human rights. He also is a veteran of the United States Navy. Ryan is originally from New Mexico. He holds a B.A. in International Relations from UC Davis and a dual M.A. in International Affairs from American University in Washington D.C. and Natural Resources and Sustainable Development from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica.