‘It’s About Changing the Paradigm’ On ‘A Day Without a Woman,’ the Department of Urban Planning creates space for reflection and dialogue about women’s history, gender and equality

By Stan Paul

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

A century ago, the great-grandmother of UCLA Luskin’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris faced raising and educating her children alone. She and her family had been expelled from Russia following the 1917 revolution, losing their property, and Loukaitou-Sideris told those gathered at an open forum to mark “A Day Without a Woman” that her great-grandfather died on the journey to Greece.

Her great-grandmother persevered, raising one of the first women in the labor force in Greece, Loukaitou-Sideris’ grandmother, who soon was “climbing the ladder” on her way to becoming a manager in the Greek railway system.

Loukaitou-Sideris credits her family, especially her father, with supporting her decision as a young woman to find her own path in the United States, where her academic and professional aspirations led to her becoming a professor of urban planning at UCLA and also the university’s associate provost for academic planning.

“I was a lucky one,” said Loukaitou-Sideris at the March 9, 2017, dialogue for students, faculty and staff at the Luskin School in observance of International Women’s Day.

Other participants shared their own perspectives, recognizing women who had influenced their lives. Attendees also talked about ongoing equality issues and how to break down gender barriers that continue to exist. With gratitude, they recognized the strength, struggle, and perseverance of female role models in advancing women’s rights in society and the workplace.

“I’m here to show solidarity with my fellow women and celebrate the role we play in society,” said Leilah Moeinsadeh, a first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student.

Michael Lens

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, added, “I think of … things that women have to deal with that I don’t have to deal with, things my position and status as a man have exempted me from. So, it’s important to reflect on how to treat people, particularly women, with the respect they deserve.”

Lens said much of his life and career have been shaped disproportionately by women in positive ways, explaining that he grew up with his mother in a single-parent household. Mentors, advisers and supervisors in and out of academia — many of them women – “have shaped my career in ways I never expected,” he said.

Joan Ling, lecturer in urban planning, pointed out that challenges remain. “Today reminds me of all the work ahead of us,” she said. “It’s not enough, because it’s not about women being equal to men. It’s about changing the paradigm about how we look at power and influence.”

Ling, a graduate of the urban planning master’s program, added, “And, [it’s about] using different metrics to measure our ability to have control over our lives and live a just life.”

Day Without a Woman from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

Ling’s grandmother — raised in China during a time when young girls’ feet were bound to stunt growth — was “crippled because her feet were bound into 4-inch stumps when she was a child.” Ling’s mother didn’t go to school because at that time it was not considered important for a girl to be educated. “I want those things to change,” Ling said. “But beyond that — equality and education and opportunities — it’s really redefining how we run the world.”

The discussion also covered political issues such as gender-neutral restroom legislation across the nation and the day-to-day challenges of being a mother and keeping up with the requirements of a Ph.D. program. Other topics included the logic of planning buildings to include lactation rooms in the workplace, as well as discussion of housing, jobs, women of color, transgender women and the role of students in dismantling barriers.

“An international day of recognition is a great way to ignite conversation, but something as important as gender equality should not be designated to a discussion once a year, it must be ongoing,” said Alexis Oberlander, urban planning graduate adviser, who helped organize the event and served as moderator. “I was excited by the ideas the students presented, and I hope those ideas invigorate more dialogue and action.”

A Case of Arrested Development UCLA faculty members join the discussion on an upcoming city ballot measure that could block big development projects in Los Angeles for two years

By Zev Hurwitz

The merits of an upcoming ballot initiative, Measure S, that would mean big changes for big development projects in the city brought together a panel of UCLA faculty members.

If passed by voters in March 2017, Measure S would impose a temporary moratorium on development projects that require changes to zoning, land use and building height laws in Los Angeles. In addition, the measure would restrict other changes and impose mandatory review procedures to the Los Angeles General Plan, while preventing project applicants from conducting their own Environmental Impact Reports (EIR).

“If you’re a developer and you want to do some affordable housing … it would be informally discouraged in wealthier areas,” said Joan Ling, a longtime lecturer in the UCLA Luskin Department of Urban Planning. “There’s a lot of talk about reforming land use laws in L.A., but there’s very little desire for actual results because the councilmembers want control of what gets built and that is tied to election campaign fundraising.”

In addition to Ling, the panel, which was produced by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studiesincluded urban planning faculty members Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Manville. Jonathan Zasloff, a professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, also joined the conversation, which was moderated by Rosslyn “Beth” Hummer, the chair of the Land Use Planning and Environmental Subcommittee of the Real Property Section of the L.A. County Bar Association.

Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, introduced the panel and gave background on the ballot measure. Most panelists oppose Measure S, he noted, but the goal of the forum was to forecast both electoral scenarios.

“Measure S is something that urban planners should be informed about,” he said to an audience comprised mostly of master’s students in UCLA Luskin’s program. “Our goal here is not to push you in any one direction. We’re hoping to provide you with the best possible projections for what might happen if Measure S is actually passed.”

Ling talked about the housing regulatory infrastructure in the city, the leadership of which includes a planning director designated by the mayor and the 15-member City Council. She described the zoning and development realities for what she referred to as Los Angeles’ three cities, “the rich areas, the very low-income areas and the transitional areas.”

Monkkonen discussed a recent White Paper he authored in which concerns of residential leaders about construction in California were voiced. He identified several major reasons why neighborhoods and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) leaders opposed big development projects.

“Some people have concerns about the built environment of their neighborhoods,” Monkkonen said. “They’re concerned about strains on services, their roads, their schools. They have anger at developers for being rich and seeming to get away with things.”

Zasloff noted that the movement to put Measure S and similar initiatives on the ballot is not uncommon for residents who want to maintain the status quo for housing in their neighborhoods.

“When you consider that the vast majority of wealth for many Americans is tied up in their house … many people are scared for what this is going to do to their property values,” he said. “It’s a real concern for people when they set financial expectations for themselves and aren’t sure where to go with them.”

Opponents of big development projects are often concerned about increases in traffic resulting from new population density. Manville said he thinks Measure S would provide little benefit regarding congestion, however.

“It ends up being a very small and uncertain reduction in traffic, played against a much more certain cost in housing prices,” Manville said.

The measure is opposed by the Los Angeles chapters of both the Democratic and Republican parties —giving it a rare bipartisan opposition.

Asked to name one positive that is coming out of the Measure S movement, Zasloff replied that the threat of ballot items similar to Measure S keeps pressure on local elected officials to be more involved with constituency planning.

“If there were a way to scare the bejesus out of City Council on a regular basis, that would probably be helpful,” he said.

The forum was co-sponsored by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and drew more than 50 students, faculty and community members.

3 Alumni Are True Change Agents When recruiting for gender, cultural and ethnic diversity, founders of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors start at UCLA

By Les Dunseith

Working together from a restored 1920s office building in the heart of a city they are helping to revitalize, three graduates of the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning program are fulfilling a shared vision of diversity and innovation.

Their goal? Change the world.

“UCLA, when we went there — and I think it is still the case today — is really about integration,” says Jennifer LeSar MA UP ’92, one of the founding partners of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors. “You are not just a transportation planner or an affordable housing person or an environmental planner. You understand the integration of it all.”

The company, which provides strategic counsel to public agencies, foundations, business associations and civic organizations, reflects the partners’ deep respect for each other, a bond that first formed about three decades ago for LeSar and her close friend and company co-founder Cecilia V. Estolano MA UP ’91. Through professional interactions, they later met their third business partner, Katherine Perez-Estolano MA UP ’97, and her values were closely aligned.

“We knew that there were diverse people of color who were anxious to make a difference,” says Perez-Estolano.

ELP Advisors and its sister firm, San Diego-based LeSar Development Consultants, makes a point of recruiting smart, talented people who reflect the gender, cultural and ethnic diversity of Southern California.

“Every time I would go and meet with other people who had their own companies, their top folks were all white men,” Perez-Estolano remembers. “And I thought this is not the world that we are planning for.”

Their vision crystalized at UCLA — they cite faculty members such as Martin Wachs, Joan Ling MA UP ’82 and Goetz Wolff as key influencers — and their commitment to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs remains a vital aspect of their personal and business interactions today. All three are active in alumni activities, and Estolano and Perez-Estalano have both served as Luskin Senior Fellows. They coordinated a visit by a delegation of planners from Panama a few years ago. Their firm also hosted a reception for Professor Ananya Roy when she first came to UCLA in 2015.

And the close association with UCLA has benefited the company as well. Three of ELP Advisors’ six full-time employees are also UCLA Luskin alumni, and the firm has employed a steady stream of interns from the Luskin School since its founding in 2011.

LeSar notes the “amazing talent pool at UCLA.” Estolano says their firms are a direct reflection of the “particular way that UCLA teaches students how to be urban planners. In order to be an activist planner, you have to have strong sense of civic purpose.”

Estolano continues:  “The idea of building a company owned by three women with multiple core competencies in Southern California, the most diverse place in the country, based upon the graduate educations and work experience that we have had, and an ability to hire staff  out of the institutions from which have come, was our vision then and still is to this day.”

Their many professional accomplishments contributed to the three founders’ decision to join forces at ELP Advisors. But there is a personal side to it, too.

Katherine Perez, a former Deputy to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, and Cecilia Estolano, the former chief executive officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, married in 2013. LeSar’s spouse is San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who served as Assembly Speaker from 2014 until March of this year.

The three also believe that their backgrounds mesh particularly well. “If you look at Katherine’s career, and my career, and Cecilia’s career, we have all worked in different sectors,” says LeSar, who also has an MBA from UCLA and is an expert in community development and real estate finance. Estolano, who is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, has expertise in sustainable economic development and urban revitalization. Perez-Estolano, who in 2013 was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the board of directors of the California High Speed Rail Authority, brings knowledge of transportation and stakeholder engagement.

They have a professional contact list — “a giant Rolodex” as Perez-Estolano notes it once would have been called — that few companies can match.

It has helped them land clients such as Los Angeles County, the Metropolitan Water District, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Goldhirsh Foundation. The latter is a great example of the firms’ strengths, Estolano says.

The Goldhirsh Foundation “wanted to completely change their approach” to philanthropy and orient it toward making L.A. the best it can be by 2050. The resulting 2050 Report “really put us on the map,” Estolano recalls. “And the folks we hired to do a lot of the analysis, gather the data and design the report, they are just top-flight. And they are still working with us.”

ELP Advisors takes pride in solving solutions that have stumped others.  “We are just scrappy,” Estolano says, “and resourceful. We are smart people, and we have  broad-ranging interests. So, if a client has a difficult problem and they really can’t figure out how to get at it, sometimes they just give us a call and ask us what we think. And I say, sure, we know how to do that. We can figure it out!”

Success hasn’t always come easily, however. For one, they started ELP Advisors while the Great Recession was still dragging down the economy and hindering new projects. Then, just a few months after ELP Advisors opened for business, Gov. Brown dissolved the state’s redevelopment agency.

“We formed at a time that, in hindsight, was the worst possible,” LeSar recalls.

But they quickly adapted, putting their knowledge to good use to help clients adapt to the new reality they were facing. “So,” Estolano says, “we made lemonade out of lemons! What we thought would be a negative for us ended up creating a base for our company to expand.”

LeSar adds, “We learned some hard lessons, and that’s OK. You know, most small businesses don’t survive. Most women-owned businesses don’t survive. Most businesses of color don’t survive. And I don’t really know any other businesses today that are quite like ours.”

Each partner brings talents that complement the others. They say their success is based on hard work and smart choices. And it’s also based on staying true to their principles: Inclusion. Diversity. Gender equality. Community engagement.

“You live in our city, you live in our neighborhood, and you have a right to participate in these processes,” Perez-Estolano says about the firm’s commitment to getting involved at every level. “We had people who would understand how they could actually change the outcome by getting involved, participating on local city commissions, by running for city councils, by running for county offices or state offices. That was, to me, the pipeline of future leadership.”

A recent example of this commitment to the community is a project spearheaded by Estolano and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14, a senior associate at ELP Advisors. The L.A. Bioscience Hub and its Biotech Leaders Academy launched in summer 2016 to promote entrepreneurship training for community college students from underrepresented groups. The pilot program, funded by a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, introduced 10 students of color (six of them women) to professional opportunities related to a growing biosciences sector in the East Los Angeles area.

It’s another example of the three UCLA graduates’ commitment to open doors for people who might not otherwise get a chance to succeed. It also shows their dedication to the value of education, which underlies everything they do, including their advice to current and future UCLA Luskin students about what it takes to succeed.

“I think the core skills are in writing, research and quantitative analysis,” LeSar says. “And be a creative thinker!”

For Perez-Estolano, being adaptable is important. “The world changes rapidly today,” she says, “and you have to embrace that as a planner.”

Estolano advises today’s students to take full advantage of their educations at UCLA Luskin. “Your classmates are going to be your greatest network,” she says. “Do not turn your back on the school. Your school can be a huge asset for you, and even if you can only do a little bit, always give to this school.”

“It’s about changing the future,” she says. “If you have a commitment to keeping the school strong — to honor its mission — it will continue to graduate people that will change the world.”


From left, Leah Hubbard, Katherine A. Perez-Estolano MA UP ’96, Jennifer Lesar MA UP ’91, Cecilia Estolano MA UP ’91, Richard France MA UP ’10, Cynthia Guzman MURP ’12 and Tulsi Patel MURP ’14. Photo by George Foulsham

Joan Ling Named Third District ‘Woman of the Year’ The Urban Planning alumna and lecturer was honored on March 9.


Urban Planning alumna (MAUP ’82) and adjunct professor Joan Ling was recently named “Woman of the Year” in Los Angeles County’s Third District for her work to improve public policy, legislation, and government regulations that impact quality of life.

District 3 Supervisor Sheila Kuehl presented the award to Ling at the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles on Monday, March 9. In her newsletter, Kuehl included a mention of the award saying: “At the thirtieth LA County Women’s Commission luncheon, I was very pleased to honor amazing affordable housing builder, activist and visionary, the incomparable Joan Ling, as the Third District’s Woman of the Year. Congrats again Joan!”

According to Kuehl’s website, the Los Angeles County Commission for Women and the Board of Supervisors honored a “Woman of the Year” from each Supervisorial district in celebration of Women’s History Month (March).

The website said: “These awards provide an opportunity to lift up and recognize courageous and dedicated women for their outstanding accomplishments in seeking gender equity as well as their valued contributions in addressing a variety of wellness and quality of life issues facing women throughout the County of Los Angeles.”

Last year, Ling was the Department of Urban Planning’s Alumna of the Year. Her projects include the first multi-family structure in the country awarded the gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

To read more about Ling’s accomplishments from Supervisor Kuehl’s website, go here.





Graduating Student Profile: Adam Monaghan MURP ’14

“I wouldn’t have gotten this job if I hadn’t come to school at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in the Urban Planning program,” says Adam Monaghan. He’s reflecting on his academic and career journey days before he crosses the stage at commencement on June 13 with his master’s degree. And, no, we didn’t ask him to say that.

The job Monaghan is referring to is with real estate development company, Community Dynamics, which teams up with municipal agencies and financial institutions to create sustainable communities that attend to the needs of residents, such as proximity to workplaces and access to transportation, schools, day care and recreation. For Monaghan, it’s an opportunity that presented itself in the last quarter of his degree program. Along with many other talented and ambitious UCLA Luskin graduates, he will be starting his new position a few days after receiving his diploma.

Monaghan’s introduction into the urban planning world was as fortuitous as it was unexpected. After graduating from Boston College with a theology degree and a penchant for travel, Monaghan left home to fulfill his two-year commitment with the Peace Corps. His assignment was in Guajiquiro, Honduras. His job was to be an urban planner – a field he knew nothing about.

“I had to look up what an urban planner was. I had no idea,” Monaghan laughs. “But it’s one of those things that just kind of works out.”

Adam talking to villagers in Guajiquiro, Honduras during his time as an urban planner for the Peace Corps.
Adam talking to villagers in Guajiquiro, Honduras, during his time as an urban planner for the Peace Corps.

After initial training and on-the-job learning through immersion and help from fellow urban planning volunteers who had interrupted their work or retirement to also join the Peace Corps, Monaghan found himself helping to draft a 10-year strategic plan for economic and infrastructure development in Guajiquiro, and managing a project to design a potable water system for 2,700 people in six villages. It was through the work that Monaghan learned he had a knack for it, and the passion.

When his stint with the Peace Corps ended, Monaghan landed in Nicaragua. He’d gone there on a surfing trip with Nick Mucha, a friend he met in the Peace Corps, and discovered that the waves were attracting scores of surfers and tourists to the small fishing village of Gigante. With his urban planning hat on, Monaghan settled in the town and spent time talking to the locals about organizing a development team. He and Mucha founded Project Wave of Optimism aimed at helping the community capitalize on the inevitable transition into a tourist destination and foster development in a sustainable way.

Key to Project WOO’s development model, Monaghan says, was that projects were voted on by the town’s residents, so that they had a voice in getting what they wanted. By fundraising through individual donors and securing corporate sponsors, Monaghan and Mucha purchased and converted a truck into a bus that would transport people easily in and out of town – something that had never before existed.

“I facilitated a process where local people were able to share their ideas about community development. It was like community organizing, which is what we did in the Peace Corps – going door-to-door from town to town. After coming to Luskin I learned that what I was doing is called ‘local participatory planning and based on the theory of communicative action in the urban planning world,’” Monaghan says.

Incidentally, his non-profit has recently opened a health center and is hosting a UCLA Public Health intern this summer. Project WOO is expanding and can also be an internship destination for UCLA Luskin students.

After completing that first development project in Nicaragua, Monaghan was on to his next job with the international development company, Chemonics International Inc., which took him to Washington D.C., Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan, and Gaziantep, Turkey. For those years, he oversaw various projects and teams working to repair infrastructures, improve socio-economic conditions and support community groups impacted by development projects. It was sensitive work in tumultuous areas, but the conditions for development were ripe, though often dangerous.

Monaghan recalls a harrowing experience in which a local member of his team was threatened by the Taliban. After returning home, he also learned that various locations that he frequented were later bombed or attacked by gunmen. It was around that time that Monaghan met and married his wife and began to think about graduate school.

“I saw that people were doing really cool data management and mapping with geographic information systems in Afghanistan,” Monaghan says. “I wanted the framework and the practical urban design tools like Geographic Information System (GIS). And it was a way to take a step back from the hectic work environment and learn things.”

Monaghan and his wife began checking out the nation’s top 25 Urban Planning programs – UCLA Luskin was one of them. He ultimately chose UCLA Luskin over other schools because of the location and because of key recommendations from two colleagues at Chemonics, who were UCLA Luskin graduates.

Adam stands near the bus his non-profit, Project WOO, converted for the residents of Gigante, Nicaragua
Adam stands near the bus his non-profit, Project WOO, converted for the residents of Gigante, Nicaragua.

“This has been a very ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of experience,” Monaghan says of his time at UCLA where he also worked as project manager for Luskin’s new Global Public Affairs certificate program, which just graduated it’s first set of students. With help from the Timothy Papandreou Fellowship established by Urban Planning alumnus Timothy Papandreou, which is given to students that demonstrate innovation in projects that have solved problems or helped transform communities, Monaghan’s initial goals as a student were to focus on regional and international development and to learn GIS. Instead, he ended up choosing the design and development concentration and becoming interested in real estate.

“I took Joan Ling’s real estate development and finance class in winter quarter of this year and my mind was blown. I didn’t know that real estate development was so similar to project management,” Monaghan says. It was in Professor Ling’s advanced real estate class where he met his new employer.

“My future boss served as a panelist for our final presentation in Joan’s class. I followed up with him afterwards and it turned into a job,” Monaghan explains. “If it wasn’t for Joan Ling’s classes, I wouldn’t have been in a position to even know that jobs like this existed or have the framework and skills to seek them out.”

It’s been a decade-long unconventional journey, but Monaghan is ready to take the next step in his urban planning career. Asked what advice he might have for future students hoping to secure employment upon graduation, Monaghan says with a laugh: “Planning.”

“You have to be thoughtful about your two years,” he notes. “I can’t tell you how many times I sat down – even before I started here – and planned out what I wanted to do. And once a quarter I would reassess to think about what I’ve learned, what I still need and what I have time for.”

Monaghan also encourages students to be open to doing hard work, even grunt work or things that don’t come naturally.

“Do things you think you’re not good at and be a student in every opportunity. Go into everything with an open mind to learn.” But most of all, he says, have your eyes open and be tenacious.

“There are all these opportunities out there. Some have more light shined on them than others. Some you have to dig a little harder for than others. Sometimes you have to wait your turn, but when it is your turn, you have to pounce.”

Joan Ling Named Urban Planning Alumna of the Year

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Joan Ling MA UP ’82 has been named 2014 Alumna of the Year by the department of Urban Planning. Ling currently works as a real estate advisor and policy analyst in urban planning.

As a child, Ling developed a passion for carpentry and building that later inspired her to pursue a career in urban planning.

Ling recalls: “My father was a doctor by vocation and carpenter/cabinet maker by avocation. When I was 12, I designed and built a house for my dog from scratch . . . I love working with my hands and building things.”

“My intellectual interest in the nexus between social theory and practice led me to the UCLA Urban Planning Department,” Ling continues. “And during the two years I attended school here, my love of cities blossomed, along with a growing awareness of work opportunities that could fulfill my emotional, spiritual and creative needs. “

Following graduation, Ling used her hands-on experience to improve public policy, legislation and government regulations. Among the many issues she has affected, highlights include reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to streamline affordable and urban in-fill housing production, negotiating the California Mello Act implementation in Los Angeles, running a successful voter initiative to authorize affordable housing development under Article 34 of the California Constitution, passing local ordinances giving land use incentives and protections for affordable housing development projects, and advocating for more and better targeted financial resources in California’s tax credit and bond-funded housing programs. She is currently working on promoting a range of housing choices in Los Angeles transit station areas, land use incentives for affordable housing, and a dedicated funding source in California.

Ling has taken about 60 development projects totalling 1,400 units from acquisition through entitlement, financing, construction, marketing and building operations. Her projects include the first multi-family structure in the country awarded the gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as well as two buildings that received the National American Institute of Architect’s Design Honor Awards.

Ling served as the Executive Director of Community Corporation of Santa Monica for 20 years. She has also worked for the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission; Kotin, Regan, and Mouchly; and The Planning Group. She was the Treasurer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles for over six years until its dissolution in February 2012. She is a director on the Housing California board and the chair of its Land Use and Finance Committee. In addition, she serves on the MoveLA Advisory Board.

Ling holds a certificate from Harvard Kennedy School of Government after completing an 18-month program in Achieving Excellence in Community Development. Fannie Mae Foundation honored her as a National James A. Johnson Fellow. Ling also currently teaches real estate, housing and planning courses in the Urban Planning department.

“Returning to teach in the department after a 30-year professional career is one of the best choices I made in my life,” says Ling. “The students’ energy, enthusiasm and commitment make me feel alive and hopeful for the future.”