Community Corporation of Santa Monica (“Community Corp.”) is a non-profit organization that restores, builds, and manages affordable housing for people of modest means. Founded by community leaders in 1982, Community Corp. has pioneered the development of architecturally significant and environmentally sustainable affordable housing. It has built or restored more than 90 properties throughout Santa Monica, creating nearly 1,700 affordable homes and transforming the lives of more than 4,000 people every year. Our work contributes to the distinct character of Santa Monica, making it a more inclusive, caring, and environmentally sustainable city.
Tara Barauskas joined Community Corp. in 2016 as the Executive Director. She is responsible for the overall management of the organization and achieving its strategic goals and vision. Ms. Barauskas has been working in the affordable housing industry since 1999, in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. During this time, she has developed over 20 affordable housing projects throughout California, and has overseen development activities for a non-profit that produces permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless in the Los Angeles area. Tara’s passions are affordable housing, creating equity and social justice in communities, and sustainability. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from California State University Long Beach, and earned a LEED AP (Homes) credential from the US Green Building Council, and a Living Future credential from the International Living Future Institute.
Durinda Abraham manages Community Corp.’s portfolio of nearly 1700 units. She is responsible for project performance (physical and fiscal), and regulatory and statutory compliance. Durinda has 20 years of experience in the affordable housing industry. Prior to her current role, she worked as a property supervisor, certified compliance specialist and resident services coordinator. In those capacities, she prepared grant applications and conducted research to help create a sustainable workforce development program for homeless individuals with mental illness.
Miguel Ceballos joined Community Corp. in 1988 and has held several positions over his 27-year tenure. He has worked primarily in the Facilities and Maintenance Department, but has also worked closely with the Property Management Department to develop procedures that better serve tenants, and with the Development Department to develop building material standards that yield better-functioning properties.
Jesús Hernández is the Director of Housing Development of Community Corp. An 11-year affordable housing development professional, Mr. Hernández has a proven track record in securing and developing approx. 860 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing. In his current capacity with Community Corp, Mr. Hernández is tasked with overseeing the organization’s real estate department including both new construction opportunities and the rehabilitation of existing buildings. Mr. Hernández received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Minor in Urban Planning from University of California, Los Angeles.
Robert Connell joined Community Corp. in 2004 and rose through the Accounting Department to the position of Accounting Manager in 2010 and Controller in 2014. In 2018 he was promoted to Chief Financial Officer and is responsible for overseeing all financial matters of Community Corp. and its affiliates. He works closely with management and the board of directors to develop and implement various strategies across the organization along with ensuring the long term financial sustainability of Community Corp. Robert received a BS and MS in Accounting from the University of Wyoming.
As the Director of Resident Services, Leila Towry joined Community Corp. with over twenty years of community development, social services, education, and green living expertise. Ms. Towry has worked to address macro issues in many communities, working at institutions such as Occidental College and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, as well as several affordable housing developers in Los Angeles. Mrs. Lowry holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Comparative Cultures, from Whittier College, and a Master’s Degree in Anti-Bias Education from San Francisco State University.
Martha Martinez joined Community Corp. in 1989 as an accountant. During her tenure, the organization has grown to 80 employees. She has worked to improve the company’s payroll systems, employee benefit programs and performance evaluation processes. She also oversees the development of company employment policies and procedures, and she manages risks associated with workman’s compensation claims. Martha ensures that Community Corp. employees have the proper skills, orientation and training to be successful in their jobs.
The corporation is directed by a 16-member board that represents the diversity of Santa Monica, comprised of housing and finance experts, City residents, and professionals with relevant skills in their fields.
Patricia Hoffman owned and operated small businesses in Los Angeles and Santa Monica for more than 20 years. A Santa Monica resident continuously since 1979, Ms. Hoffman is passionate about social justice and civil rights, and has served as the Co-Chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) for more than 10 years, along with serving on the Board of Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM), and Chairing from 2013-2015. In addition to her advocacy for renters, Ms. Hoffman cares deeply about education, and served 8 years on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, and as President of the Board in 1990 and 1994. Ms. Hoffman has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2000, and Chair of the Board since 2004.
Doug Willis is a Certified Public Accountant, recently retired after nearly forty years working for the Department of Finance at UCLA. He has served as the Treasurer of the Santa Monica-Venice NAACP, along with serving as Housing Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica, and Board member for the Santa Monica Rent Control Board, Pico Neighborhood Association and Family Services of Santa Monica. Mr. Willis has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 1990, currently as Treasurer.
Joanne Leavitt has been an active resident of Santa Monica since 1973, and her passion and advocacy work is in the area of children and family issues. Ms. Leavitt’s support for education is reflected in PTA Council membership from 1979-1999 including president in 1986-88. Other community involvement includes membership in the Virginia Park Advisory Board from 1985-2014, membership in Child Care and Early Education Task Force 1986-present and currently serving a second term on the Santa Monica Housing Commission. Ms. Leavitt joined the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica in 1984 and continues as a local board member, twice serving as local president as well as serving on the county-wide board 1993-2004 including President 2002-04. Advocacy work included chairing both state and national committees focused on education and children. Currently Ms. Leavitt is LWV California vice president for advocacy and program, an opportunity to advocate for affordable housing at the state level. She was asked to join the Community Corp board in 1991 and has served continuously, currently as Secretary.
Father Michael D. Gutierrez has served as a Catholic priest for 23 years. He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Diamond Bar, California. Currently, he is the Pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Baldwin Park, a community of 10,000 families. Prior, Fr. Mike was also the Pastor of St. Anne’s in Santa Monica from 1999 to 2009. He was an active clergy person in many causes and sat on Santa Monica’s Housing Commission from 2005-2009. He is currently active in issues of affordable housing, immigration and organized labor issues on both a regional and national level. Fr. Mike has received honors from the LA County Federation of Labor, the National Conference for Community and Justice, Catholic Charities, and CLUE Justice for his commitment to social justice. Father Mike has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2001.
John Jalili was the City Manager for the City of Santa Monica for 15 years. During his tenure, Santa Monica received national recognition for housing and economic development, transit services, sustainability and the arts. The City’s financial rating was upgraded three times to Triple A. Jalili holds a BA from Colgate University and Masters in City Planning from the University of Oklahoma. His extensive background in local government led him to provide consulting expertise to numerous jurisdictions including the cities of West Hollywood, Malibu, Lomita, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. Mr. Jalili has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2002.
Bob Gardner serves as Managing Director of RCLCO Real Estate Advisors’ Los Angeles office, and has over 43 years of experience in providing market and financial feasibility evaluations, and fiscal and economic assessment of commercial and residential real estate projects for both private and public sector clients. Mr. Gardner serves on ULI Los Angeles District Council’s Management Committee and co-leads its Technical Assistance Panel Committee. He is also a 40-year Santa Monica resident of Sunset Park. Mr. Gardner has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2005 and also serves on its Finance Committee.
JoAnne Yokota is the Founder and Principal of Yokota & Associates, an affordable housing development consulting firm. Ms. Yokota has over 25 years of experience in this field, including work on affordable housing projects in the City of Los Angeles for families, seniors, homeless households, transition age youth and homeless veterans. Prior to that, Ms. Yokota was the Executive Director of Beyond Shelter Housing Development Corporation for 8 years, along with the Housing Manager for the City of Santa Monica and Division Manager for the Century Freeway Housing Program. JoAnne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Ms. Yokota has served as a Community Corporation Board member for over 20 years.
Sandra Strength is a resident of Community Corporation housing, and serves as the voice and perspective of Community Corp’s over 4,000 residents. Ms. Strength is an independent design consultant and worked in advertising for numerous years. Sandra attended Art Center College of Design in Advertising, and graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Psychology. Ms. Strength has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2009.
Maggi Phillips is Associate Professor of International Business at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University. She holds a B.A. in psychology from UCLA, an M.S. in administration from the Merage School of Business at UC Irvine, and a Ph.D. in management from the Anderson School at UCLA. In her teaching, research, and consulting, Dr. Phillips focuses on issues of cross-cultural management and organization design. Dr. Phillips and her family have been residents in Santa Monica continuously since 1985, and she has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2010.
Ted Roth is a retired founding partner of the CPA firm RBZ, LLP. As a partner he was involved in management of the firm and its technical departments. With over fifty years of experience, his specializations are taxation and auditing of real estate entities of both residential and commercial properties. Additionally, he has served as a bankruptcy examiner appointed by the US Bankruptcy Court. Mr. Roth has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2006.
Mike Russell is the Principal of The Russell Company, a real estate consulting and expert witness firm. Mr. Russell has over 40 years of expertise in development of residential and commercial properties, including the development of the Howard Hughes Center, Bunker Hill and Warner Center in Los Angeles, and a variety of affordable housing projects during his time at the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. In addition, Russell consulted on the development of Reston Towne Center, an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence winner. Mr. Russell writes about affordable housing and housing for homeless on the blog, UrbDeZine. Mr. Russell received his BA in political science and his MPL (Urban Ecology) from the University of Southern California, with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ford Foundation and Rotary International. Mr. Russell has served as a Community Corporation Board member since 2004.
Nishith Bhatt is a strategic communications and marketing consultant who focuses his work on amplifying the impact of mission driven organizations and social causes. Nishith has nearly 20 years of experience in communications, marketing, branding, and development in the social, public, and private sectors. His social-sector work includes leadership roles at the RAND Corporation and the American Heart Association, as well as consulting with and serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. In the public sector, Nishith has served as Chief of Public Affairs and Development with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and as Deputy Communications Director to United States Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. Nishith’s was also co-founder and Managing Director of a boutique brand strategy agency whose clients included Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Nike India, Microsoft, Proflowers, Burger King, and the Coca-Cola Company.
Nishith is a former Recreation and Parks commissioner for the City of Santa Monica. He received his B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park; a certificate in the study of literature from Wadham College at the University of Oxford; and master’s degrees in English from the University of California, Irvine and UCLA.
Ralph is an architect with significant experience in affordable housing. He has served on the City’s Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board and is currently a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
Dr. Berenice Onofre is an active community member, a parent advocate, especially for parents whose voices are many times not heard. She also advocates for social justice and equity in education, health care, and economic development. Her two sons attended public schools; she was an active PTA member in her son’s schools and in the district.
Dr. Onofre worked as elementary school teacher and principal in Perú. In the United States she worked as a registered nurse in every specialty of hospital and public health nursing; additionally she has over 30 years experience in nursing administration.
Her education includes: Bachelors of Nursing, Masters of Nursing Administration and Public Administration, and doctorate in Education Leadership all at CSULA. She joined the Community Corp Board of Directors as the Pico Neighborhood representative in 2017.