Board of Directors & Advisors
Jeff Averill, AIA
Since 2003, Jeffrey Averill has served as the UCLA Campus Architect and Director of Design Services working as part of UCLA's Capital Programs. The Campus Architect has responsibility for the overall aesthetic development of the campus including the integration of new buildings, additions, renovation projects, hardscape, landscape, and signage into a coherent urban fabric. He is responsible for developing and maintaining architectural guidelines for the campus and ensuring that new projects develop in a manner that is consistent and compatible with the overall campus vision. The role involves balancing the aesthetic goals with the ongoing and changing needs of the campus of a major research institution. The Campus Architect is also responsible for shepherding the process of the selection of design professionals for all new capital projects on the campus. As Director of the Capital Programs Design Services, he leads internal UCLA efforts in conceptual master planning, feasibility studies of possible future buildings, and other preliminary design proposals.
Mr. Averill has been practicing architecture for over 26 years as a member of numerous offices. Prior to joining UCLA in 2001, he was a Principal at Johnson Fain Partners in Los Angeles, responsible for managing a variety of large scale office and institutional projects. Other design offices where he has worked include: Lomax/Rock Associates in Venice, CA, Bohlin Powell Larkin Cywinski in Philadelphia, Fee + Munson in San Francisco, James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates in London, Harry Seidler in Sydney, Australia, and Taft Architects in Houston. Mr. Averill obtained a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Rice University. He also received a Master of Architecture degree at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a Westwood resident and serves as vice-chair of the City of Los Angeles Westwood Design Review Board.
Ben Besley, VP Of Development
Ben Besley is the VP of Development for City Ventures LLC, a leading infill residential and mixed-use developer in California.
As Account Manager at Consensus Inc., Maria Luisa Camacho specializes in managing communications strategies for high-profile real estate development projects. As a result of Maria’s receiving her Juris Doctor and becoming a certified mediator, Maria brings extensive experience and unique insight into communicating with stakeholders and analyzing complex matters.
In 2006, Maria was hired as director of community relations and government affairs for a boutique real estate development firm in West Los Angeles, where she navigated a team of property owners through the process of re-creating a Westwood Village Business Improvement District and offered strategic counsel on outreach efforts surrounding future development projects. Prior to her law school experience and role as director, Maria completed fellowships as a Coro Fellow at Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), LA County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), Univision, Chuck Fuentes for Assembly campaign, J.S. Rosenfield & Co., and Pacoima Beautiful Youth Environmentalists.
Josh Kaplan, Director of Assett Management
Josh Kaplan works for Federal Realty, a publicly traded equity real estate investment trust specializing in the ownership, management, development, and redevelopment of high quality retail assets. Federal Realty's portfolio (excluding joint venture properties) contains approximately 18.6 million square feet located primarily in strategically selected metropolitan markets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and California.
Alisa Karlan, Associate VP
As Assistant Vice President of Land Use & Planning at Cerrell Associates Inc. (CAI), Alisa Karlan works closely with clients on real estate entitlement, community engagement and government relations projects and services. Alisa has a wealth of experience developing and managing strategic government and community outreach programs, and building grassroots and stakeholder coalitions for public and private clients. She also has extensive experience developing community outreach campaigns involving multiple communities and jurisdictions.
Michele McGrath has over twenty years of experience with the City of Beverly Hills where she is Principal Planner managing the current and long-range planning teams in the Community Development Department. Born and raised in California, Michele has an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA, served as past president of the UCLA Urban Planning Alumni Association and is currently a member of the UCLA Urban Planning Alumni Council. Michele received her AB in political science at Occidental College in Los Angeles and has lived in the Silverlake neighborhood for 15 years, bringing an eastside perspective to her work on the westside. Michele is involved with food security and food justice issues as a volunteer with Beverly Hills All Saints Episcopal Church’s Homeless Assistance Program, a founding member of the Havenhurst Community Garden in West Hollywood (now an affordable housing project and park) and currently as the coordinator of community gardens at Alegria, an affordable, supportive housing development in Silverlake.
Prior to attending law school, Ms. Paster worked for five years as a policy analyst and urban planner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ms. Paster received her J.D. from the University of New Mexico, graduating Order of the Coif, where she served as the editor of the Natural Resources Journal. She received her M.Sc. degree in Urban Planning from the University College of London, Bartlett School of Architecture, graduating with highest honors. She graduated cum laude from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. degree in the Growth and Structure of Cities.
Neal I. Payton, AIA, LEED-AP, is a Senior Principal at Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc. where he created, opened and directs the West Coast office in Downtown Los Angeles. Projects extend from central Texas, to the Pacific Northwest as well as throughout southern California and Hawaii, including urban design for the Los Angeles Metro’s Westside extension of the purple line, a.k.a., “the subway to the sea,” and the Wyvernwood Redevelopment, a 70-acre Specific Plan in Boyle Heights. He recently worked with the City of Oceanside, CA on the revitalization of a 3-mile stretch of Coast Highway, winning a California APA award for Outstanding neighborhood Design and with the City of Redlands on a downtown specific plan. Outside of the region he is also working with a Public Private Partnership in Austin Texas, station area plan and code for the end of the line rail station in Leander, TX and in Honolulu, he is directing the creation of a Form-Based Code for the Kaka’ako redevelopment area.
Before coming to California, he directed Torti Gallas’ Urban Design efforts in their Silver Spring, Maryland office. His work centered on Urban Design and Town Planning at a variety of scales including inner city revitalization, inner suburban infill and refill, transit oriented development in emerging development areas as well as regional plans for counties and metropolitan areas. Many of these efforts included TOD’s along Washington, DC’s metro system. Prior to joining Torti Gallas, Mr. Payton served as a professor of architecture and urban design at a number of universities including The University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, Rice University and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Architecture from Syracuse University. In 2002, he was named a Knight Fellow in Community Building at the University of Miami.
Paul is a land use and transactional real estate lawyer representing governmental entities, nonprofit educational institutions, developers, and property owners in land use and entitlement matters, the acquisition, sale, optioning, and ground leasing of real property and in the making of various agreements including joint development agreements and construction related agreements. He has worked extensively with public/private transactions, air-rights or "TFAR" transfers and in the creation of special use districts for signage. Paul has appeared in front of city councils, planning and architectural commissions and community redevelopment agency boards in support of his clients' projects. He works with governmental officials, private parties and nonprofit entities to create development solutions that are economically and socially viable. In addition, Paul actively participates in the consideration, drafting and passage of state and local laws and special use districts to facilitate smart growth, transit-related density and the provision of affordable housing. He was a member of the task force that drafted the air rights or "TFAR" transfer ordinance for the City of Los Angeles.
Paul served as a law clerk to the Honorable Arthur L. Alarcón, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 2002-2003. He received a J.D. from the Yale Law School in 2002. While attending the Yale Law School he was a Coker Fellow, a Tercentennial DeVane Fellow and Book Review Editor for the Yale Journal of International Law. He also worked with faculty, administrators and students to create an ongoing Linkage Program between Yale Law School and the Faculdade de Direito do Largo de São Francisco at the University of São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil. Paul received a B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999. He graduated from UCLA, summa cum laude and with College Honors and University Honors. Prior to attending law school, Paul worked for fifteen years in nearly every area of the real estate industry, including sales and acquisitions, leasing, development, and property management.
Tibby Rothman writes for LA Weekly and The Architect's Newspaper. From 2001 – 2007 she founded and edited VenicePaper which brought quality coverage of urban planning, development and architecture to the Venice community. The publication's innovative pieces included printing separate interviews with Thom Mayne and Mark Lee in a side-by-side format to reflect the similarities and contradictions each architect had experienced in designing different homes for the same Venice walk street 2-4-6-8 House and Sale House. Her first story about architecture, which chronicled a day in the firm Pugh + Scarpa, was touted by Taschen in the publishing house's volume "1000 Favorite Websites." Investigate her current collaboration with the firm, an interactive web feature that explores Pugh + Scarpa's design philosophy at:
Maria Rychlicki is the Executive Director of the Westside Cities Council of Governments (WSCCOG,) directing and managing the inter-governmental affairs of the voluntary cooperative effort of the Cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, adjacent Council districts of the City of Los Angeles, and portions of western Los Angeles County. She is challenged with forging consensus and implementing policies and programs of regional significance that improve the quality of life within the COG boundaries. Maria served the City of Beverly Hills in many positions, including Director of Transportation; Director of Community Relations/Ombudsperson; and Director of Human Services (1981-2008.) Maria also assisted the City of West Hollywood with its General Plan update process and served as Acting Director of Community Development (2009/2010.)
Scott Schonfeld is Managing Partner of Centennial Real Estate Company, a commercial real estate firm specializing in the ownership, development, leasing and management of high-quality retail and office properties in the Western United States. Prior to joining Centennial in 2010, Mr. Schonfeld was a Vice President at The Praedium Group, a New York-based real estate private equity firm, where he was responsible for sourcing new investment opportunities in the western United States and oversaw the asset management, leasing and disposition of Praedium’s retail investments in California, Texas and Arizona. He spent five years in Praedium’s New York headquarters and opened Praedium’s West Coast office in Los Angeles in 2008. Mr. Schonfeld holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Columbia University.
A Los Angeles native and longtime journalist, Josh Stephens has covered planning, land use, and architecture as an editor and freelance journalist for the better part of a decade. As a freelance writer Josh has been a regular contributor to CP&DR, and he contributes frequently to, among others, Planetizen.com, Next American City, Sierra, InTransition, and Planning Magazine.
Josh holds a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University and did graduate work in public policy at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He formerly taught high school journalism and English at the Archer School in west Los Angeles. He is also a freelance college counselor and board member of the Brentwood Community Council. Josh served on the board of the Westside Urban Forum from 2005 to 2008 and gladly returned following a misadventure on the East Coast.
Josh is eternally loyal to the Westside but wouldn't mind if it had a few fewer cars and a few more places to drink a beer after a long day of writing.