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Meet Elizabeth Timme of LA-Más

Image Credit: Javier De Leon and Diana Rongavilla

 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Timme.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Elizabeth. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I’m a 3rd-generation architect. I grew up with the notion that architecture was a social practice versus purely aesthetic. So after designing health facilities in resource-limited areas, that notion of architecture was reinforced, and I realized the impact that good architecture and design could have on people’s lives. Thoughtful architecture and design wasn’t a privilege, but a right.

To address this and other systemic issues that existed within Los Angeles, I co-founded LA-Más with Mia Lehrer in 2012. With my Co-Executive Director, Helen Leung, we really began shaping our organization to be what it is today – an urban design non-profit that leverages policy and architecture to enable low-income communities to shape their own growth.

Today, we continue to focus on communities in transition that are often underserved or overlooked by traditional service providers. Our unique fee-for-service model enables us to serve communities that need the most support and do so in a way that preserves the community’s identity. Since 2012, we’ve taken on a variety of projects that include supporting low-income small business owners with design and operational expertise and testing the viability of Accessory Dwelling Units as a method to address the housing crisis.

Has it been a smooth road?
Our line of work often has winding roads. We consider ourselves translators, advocates, and intermediaries for the communities we work with. In order to critically engage the systemic problems that these communities experience, our work couples architecture and policy together. This is often done by developing plans in collaboration with community partners, local government and additional partners.

This process can definitely be complicated, but we find this is the most effective way to address issues on a systemic level. Policies are often written without all of the stakeholders involved in the process – an issue that we are trying to resolve by making the design process more inclusive and involving community stakeholders when making policy recommendations.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Since 2012, our work has spread all across Los Angeles. We’ve done store-front makeovers through small business support programs, public realm enhancements in Koreatown and Reseda and pilot projects to develop affordable housing.

As an organization, our biggest endeavor and the one we are most proud of is our Backyard Homes Project. We recently launched this project which will allow average homeowners to contribute to Los Angeles’ affordable housing.

The program will serve as a one-stop-shop for the financing, design, and construction of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). We will support these homeowners through the process in exchange for their commitment to rent their newly constructed ADU to a Section 8 voucher holder for a minimum of 5 years.

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