Laura Archuleta has guided Irvine-based affordable housing creator Jamboree Housing since 1999, growing and expanding the company in terms of units and services provided.
The nonprofit has found success with motel conversions to homeless housing, having completed them in Orange County and up in Northern California.
Alicia Bramble has more than 18 years in the multifamily commercial real estate industry, with experience ranging from traditional multifamily property management to affordable housing compliance and asset management. In 2020, she founded her own company, Opportunity Real Estate Services, which focuses on workforce and affordable housing property management.
Bramble says it would be difficult to be where she is now without her tenacity, “most of which was learned from my parents, who taught me never to give up and that when I have a vision, I should settle for nothing less.”
Marika Erdely came to commercial real estate and sustainability consulting after an established career in accounting.
“Starting your own business as a second career can have its challenges,” she said, referring to her Santa Monica-based energy consulting and construction company. “Starting one in a male-dominated industry is even harder.”
It hasn’t kept her back, though. Erdely said that she loves being in an industry that is constantly changing and keeps her on her toes. She’s looking forward to working on decarbonization construction projects, blazing a trail for others in CRE to follow on the road to reducing commercial real estate building emissions.
Dani Evanson sits at the helm of two real estate companies: RMA, a real estate investment advisory firm, and Align Finance Partners, a private commercial real estate finance company that provides financing to buy, update and build affordable housing developments in the West.
Evanson is most proud of her work when she gets to be in service of others, like her mentorship of early career women in real estate, noting that “trailblazers are responsible for creating a path for others to follow.” She is also on the board of directors for affordable housing developer Abode Communities.
Kesha Fisher is always looking for new and more efficient ways to shake up the industry, saying that CRE can sometimes be stuck in its ways. Active in DEI initiatives at her company and helping women and people of color advance, Fisher looks forward to continuing her efforts in this arena and helping many of her colleagues advance.
“I am most proud of the people that I have been able to share my knowledge with and watch grow, whether that’s leasing consultants who are now regional managers or regional managers that are now VPs,” Fisher said.
Alisa Freundlich has years of experience as a commercial real estate attorney, investor, owner and developer, and has sourced permanent and bridge financing and joint venture equity for a variety of commercial property types. But one thing on her to-do list that she hasn’t yet done is develop adaptive reuse projects. She joined Tauro in 2018.
LaKisha Gant started at CDC Small Business Finance as an entry-level temp and is now an executive at the company — “something I never actually imagined,” she said. She has spent more than 20 years helping small-business owners across the country and continues to do so through vehicles like the Impower95 loan offering.
This loan vehicle, launched in 2022, comes with terms that “[put] ownership into the hands of small-business owners that do not qualify for SBA or traditional financing.”
Ellisa Glover entered property management 25 years ago, a time when property management was mostly a male-dominated industry, she says. “I continued to work hard at perfecting my skill sets, pursuing certifications and aligning myself with mentors who are now my colleagues in the real estate industry.”
In her more recent work with Coretrust, Glover takes pride in being on a team that was among the first to implement globally recognized health and wellness initiatives and certifications to drive tenants' return-to-office following the onset of the pandemic.
MaryBeth Heydt explored a handful of aspects of the legal field before finding her home in commercial real estate law, specializing in commercial real estate transactions, including finance, leasing, acquisitions and dispositions.
A native Midwesterner, she sits on the executive committees for the California Lawyers Association Real Property Law Section, or CLARPS, and the USC Real Estate Law and Business Forum where she enjoys working “with some of the best minds in the commercial real estate industry, bringing about education and change in the industry,” especially where DEI is concerned.
Cindy Hill has more than three decades of experience in commercial real estate. Specializing in the San Fernando Valley as well as Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, she’s worked with everyone from small, independent operators to major REITs and private equity outfits. But she reaps the most pride from what her transactions mean rather than their dollar amounts. “It is more the impact that I have had on people versus the size of the transaction,” Hill says.
Leia Jensen’s role focuses on the Southwest, where she leads all property management operations in the Southwest Region. Jensen has more than 20 years of experience and has managed some of Downtown’s most prominent buildings, including the US Bank Tower and Citigroup Center. When the ninth-generation Californian isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons and early morning runs.
With 22 years of experience in commercial finance, Marné Kaufman has seen quite a few closings, including that of a billion-dollar credit facility. But of all her accomplishments, she says, “what I am most proud of is where I am at today.”
A single mom at a young age, Kaufman committed herself to pursuing her bachelor’s degree, waitressing during the day and going to school and studying at night. She recalls those days whenever she finds herself staring down a challenge and remembers that her unflagging persistence pays off.
Rochelle Mills came to commercial real estate, specifically affordable housing development, by way of design, architecture and cultural tourism. She feels this perspective gives her an advantage. “I see opportunities for creative solutions in the challenges that naturally come with this field,” she says. Most proud of her ability to inspire others to think big, she is leading by example: Her immediate goal is for IHO to nearly double the number of units it has developed by 2025.
Kristi Paulson has worked on projects up and down the West Coast, including Google’s Spruce Goose offices in Playa Vista, but hopes to design high-quality daycares and schools someday.
Paulson has led the Los Angeles office of German-based Behnisch Architekten since 2020.
Lea Sandoval leaned into networking with and empowering other women in her field from early on. Now, after 22 years in a largely male industry, she hasn’t stopped and has only expanded the pool of people with whom she shares the lessons she’s learned along the way.
She also makes sure to remember that at the end of the day, “The world is evolving at a rapid pace and we are so much more than our titles or companies we work for. I hope I always have that perspective and utilize it to guide the path in front of me.” A native Coloradan, she loves spending time with her two dogs and enjoying the outdoors.
Susan Wallace and Vivo are doing something that many people talk about but few actually do: turning “undervalued, nonperforming hotels into affordable multifamily housing.” Wallace says the company has completed more than 22 acquisitions in the last two years, as well as completing many successful conversions. Wallace has over 25 years of direct experience in corporate and commercial real estate management, accounting and lease administration.
A San Diego native with nearly two decades of industry experience in the region, Bree Wong is excited about her role helping PCL Construction land a deal to build a 92-acre Oceanside development called OceanKAMP. The experience-centered mixed-use development sits 2 miles from the beach and will incorporate housing, office and hotel uses as well as a surf lagoon. Wong says she’s excited to see the “historically underutilized property transform into a unique, beautiful new destination to help bolster the region's tourism revenue while serving the community of Oceanside and surfers near and far.”
Nasim Yalpani began her career as an architect, but the Great Financial Crisis directed her to another path. Now, as a leader at Waymo — formerly Google’s autonomous car project and still under the Alphabet umbrella — she’s making real estate decisions for a team at the cutting edge of transportation.
“I’m proud to have delivered a number of firsts for Waymo during the pandemic, inclusive of our medium-term headquarters footprint, first trucking hub in Dallas and Rider-Only vehicle service, Waymo One, across San Francisco, downtown Phoenix and Los Angeles.”
With more than 20 years in design, Denise Zacky-Popoch has created and led global architectural project teams as they designed and delivered workplace projects while also having a family.
She’s an example to those just starting out in the field that “you can have an amazing career while being a mom.” Zacky-Popoch has taught at Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc) and the USC School of Architecture.
Sally Zesut made a “midcareer” switch from property management for institutional landlords to a career in commercial real estate brokerage. “There were very few women brokers at the time and many people discouraged me from making the transition,” but she listened only to the people who told her she could do it and gave her tips on how. “It has paid off,” Zesut said. She’s still setting goals for herself: She’d like to become a principal.