President & CEO
Benjamin Torres is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community Development Technologies Center (CDTech). CDTech is 501 (C3) non-profit focused on addressing issues of community and economic development in low-income areas of Los Angeles through a social justice lens that empowers residents and communities to rebuild them. Mr. Torres worked side-by-side with Dr. Denise Fairchild (previous President/CEO) over the past eight years to (1) build the Community Planning program at LA Trade-Tech College; (2) lead CDTech’s comprehensive community initiative in Vernon-Central; and (3) provide leadership to our Working Democracy Division as Vice President. He is recognized as a major social justice leader both locally and nationally through his extensive background and work in developing grassroots and youth leadership, school and community partnerships as well as shaping community benefits agreements. He was instrumental in bringing the Public Allies program to CDTech, to build out the leadership and nonprofit workforce development pipeline in our underserved communities.
He is a faculty member and Director of the Community Planning Program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. In this capacity he has been responsible for the strategic planning and day-to-day management of the certificate and associate degree programs in community planning. He has ten years of experience teaching, curriculum design, student and faculty development and support at LATTC and is responsible for overseeing community outreach and student community service activities. He has utilized creative solutions to bring non-traditional students into the college and developed bilingual programs to provide courses for groups like the promotoras de salud and other immigrant communities of South Los Angeles.
His relevant prior experience includes two years at the Multi-Cultural Education Consortium in Santa Barbara where he developed and coordinated a project to diversify public school faculty and curriculum in the secondary school district and implemented Chicano/Latino and African American studies courses. He was the Youth Leadership Director for La Casa de la Raza in Santa Barbara. A program designed to teach youth community organizing and leadership training to address issues impacting at-risk youth. Most recently, from 1997 to 2002, he served as project director for the MultiCultural Collaborative Community School Initiative program in the Watts community of Los Angeles. He developed programs in the area of community capacity building and leadership development and served as technical assistant and trainer to their community outreach efforts with an emphasis on building grass-root African American and Latino leadership cadres. Mr. Torres holds a bachelors degree from the University of California Santa Barbara and is completing his Masters degree in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.
He is committed to building leadership capacity in South Los Angeles and serves on the Board of Directors of key organizations; Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), Figueroa Community Land Trust and the For Chicana/o Studies Foundation. Benjamin lives in Echo Park, where he proudly grew up and lives with his long-time partner Juana Mora and his daughters Aurelia and Camila Valentina.
Perry C. Parks
Perry C. Parks, III currently serves as a governmental and regulatory affairs consultant for Strategic Counsel PLC, a law firm which blends legal, public policy and strategic communications capabilities. He is a 20-year veteran of the telecommunications industry where he held operational and government/regulatory affairs positions in the nine cable television companies holding the Los Angeles franchise including Six Star Nielson, Communicom, United Artists, American Cablesystems, Continental, U.S. West, Media One, AT&T and Comcast. He has served at the President of Southern California Cable Television Association and Los Angeles Cable Operators Association where he developed a $60,000 revolving scholarship fund for high school seniors in the communications technology field. His current nonprofit affiliations include serving on the boards of Community Partners, Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, a committee member for Zimmer Children’s Museum and as an advisory board member for the African American Voter Representation Project. Mr. Parks earned his master’s degree in public administration from Pepperdine University, and his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles.
Claudia Monterrosa is the Director of the Policy and Planning Unit of the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD). She supervises a team of professionals that advise, through qualitative and quantitative analysis, the LAHD’s General Manager and executive management on a wide range of housing-related policies, legislation, rules and regulations promulgated at the local, state and federal levels of government. The LAHD is the principal housing agency of the City of Los Angeles, charged with the development of citywide housing policy and supporting safe and livable neighborhoods through the promotion and development of decent, affordable housing.
Ms. Monterrosa leads a unit that helped secure the City‘s first MacArthur Foundation grant; a significant grant awarded to enhance the affordable housing preservation program. Her team played an instrumental role in the successful application of three Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) rounds of funding totaling $142.8 million to help address the City’s foreclosure crisis. Under her leadership, she and her staff have embarked on policy and data analysis of transit-oriented development and the sustainability issues. This includes the mapping, analysis, and development of equitable policies and tools to help promote the creation of new affordable housing units as well as to protect existing affordable and rent stabilized housing units located within existing and new transit corridors and stations throughout the City. Most recently, she and her team have been charged to lead in the mapping and data analysis for preparation and completion of the City’s upcoming Five-Year Consolidated plan.
Ms. Monterrosa’s experience includes leadership positions at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Denise Fairchild is the inaugural President of Emerald Cities. She has dedicated over 30 years to strengthening housing, jobs, businesses and economic opportunities for low-income residents and communities of color domestically and internationally. In 1995, Dr. Fairchild founded the Community and Economic Development (CED) Department at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, as well as an affiliated non-profit community development research and technical assistance organization, CDTech. She helped launch the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI), an initiative of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to provide inner city residents with career and technical education for high growth/high demand jobs in the L.A. region.
From 1989-1994, Dr. Fairchild directed the L.A. office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and is credited with raising over $100 million in equity, grants, and loans for community-based housing and commercial development projects and, generally, with building the non-profit housing and community development industry in the L.A. region.
Her civic and political appointments have included the California Commission on Regionalism, the California Economic Strategy Panel, the California Local Economic Development Association, the Urban Land Institute National Inner City Advisor, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Development and the Los Angeles Environmental Quality Board. She recently served as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s special advisor for South LA Investments.
As Director of Local Government and Community Relations, Rubén is the liaison between the Campus the City of Berkeley, Richmond and other cities in the East Bay. Ruben also plays a leadership role in supporting local and regional campus-community partnerships across the East Bay and greater Bay Area.
For much of his career, Rubén has worked with local community organizations and city government, as well as with state and federal policy makers in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton, Salinas, Fresno, Los Angeles, Watts, San Diego and more. Rubén comes to UC Berkeley with an extensive background in community outreach, organizing and research. As Senior Director at Oakland-based PolicyLink, he led efforts in research, public education, training, and technical assistance to strengthen community and civic participation in local decision-making and economic development. Rubén has a long history establishing successful partnerships in education, health and the economy. While at PolicyLink he also coordinated the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. During his time at California Tomorrow, he established the Community College Equity Network. While in Los Angeles, Rubén served as Co-Director of the MultiCultural Collaborative (MCC); and as the Director of the Community Planning & Economic Development Program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Rubén served as President of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, and was awarded the California Peace Price for his work to reduce youth violence.
Zahirah Mann is an experienced Land Use and Environmental Law Attorney with a background in international human rights. She has worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Strumwasser & Woocher, LLP, Relief International, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, among others. She serves on the boards of the Planning and Conservation League and Communities for a Better Environment, and was appointed by the Board of Governors to the State bar of California’s International Law Section Executive Committee. Zahirah is currently a Program Officer with the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
Dr. Manuel Pastor
Dr. Manuel Pastor is Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pastor currently directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC and co-directs USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. He holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has received fellowships from the Danforth, Guggenheim, and Kellogg foundations and grants from the Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the W.T. Grant Foundation, The California Endowment, the California Air Resources Board, and many others.
Pastor’s research has generally focused on issues of the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and the social movements seeking to change those realities. His most recent book, Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, co-authored with Chris Benner (Routledge 2012), argues that growth and equity can and should be linked, offering a new path for a U.S. economy seeking to recover from economic crisis and distributional distress. Previous volumes include: Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future (W.W. Norton 2010; co-authored with Angela Glover Blackwell and Stewart Kwoh), which documents the gap between progress in racial attitudes and racial realities and offers a new set of strategies for both talking about race and achieving racial equity; This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity are Transforming Metropolitan America (Cornell University Press 2009; co-authored with Chris Benner and Martha Matsuoka) which highlights a promising set of organizing efforts across the U.S.; Staircases or Treadmills: Labor Market Intermediaries and Economic Opportunity in a Changing Economy (Russell Sage 2007, co-authored with Chris Benner and Laura Leete) which offers a critique of current employment strategies and argues for a new “high road” approach to connecting demand and supply in labor markets; and Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together (University of Minnesota Press 2000; co-authored with Peter Dreier, Eugene Grigsby, and Marta Lopez-Garza), a book that has become a standard reference for those seeking to link neighborhoods and regions.
Dr. Pastor speaks frequently on issues of demographic change, economic inequality, and community empowerment and has contributed opinion pieces to such outlets as the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Huffington Post, and many others. He served as a member of the Commission on Regions appointed by California’s Speaker of the State Assembly, and in January 2002 was awarded a Civic Entrepreneur of the Year award from the California Center for Regional Leadership.
Benjamin Polk is Justice Deputy with LA County District 1 Supervisor Hilda Solis. Mr. Polk was previously a Student Attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau where he managed case loads as Lead Counsel for family law, wage and hour and unemployment cases. He was selected for this position through a competitive writing and interview process. Mr. Polk also held a position as a Summer Associate with Wilmaerhale/Susman Godfrey and as a Certified Law Clerk with the Los Angeles City Attorney and the Los Angeles County Counsel’s office.
In addition to his legal career, Mr. Polk served as a Senior Associate Consultant with Bain and Company where he performed as a member of the Private Equity Group, on numerous due diligence analyses on companies and markets, including a one year operations project in a South African mine. He was also Editorial Assistant for the Penguin Press.
Benjamin has extensive volunteer and public service experience including her service with Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, the Harlem Educational Activities Fund and Rosie’s Place, to name a few. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, his Master of Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government and his B.A. from Cornell University.
Jess Tirado is Senior Vice President, Regional Director of Local Market Outreach, for Wells Fargo’s Government & Community Relations team based in Los Angeles, California. Tirado is responsible for supporting Wells Fargo’s home preservation efforts, advancing the housing market recovery, promoting sustainable home ownership, and educating partners on the changing regulatory environment in his market, consisting of Southern California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Previously, he held the role of Vice President, REO Operations Manager, for Premiere Asset Services, the Wells Fargo division responsible for the management and disposition of bank-owned assets. He has worked in the home lending and servicing industry for the last 34 years, managing national fulfillment operations for various lending institutions. With a strong commitment to community, Tirado focuses his time and energy on mentorship programs, educating young people about financial literacy, volunteerism, and supporting local non-profit organizations.
Susan E. Walters
Susan E. Walters is the Senior Vice President of the California Emerging Technology Fund. Susan joined the Fund after working as the Regional Director of Community Relations for Citibank in Southern California. Prior to Citibank she operated a small consulting practice focusing on corporate social responsibility. The work focused on building strategic partnerships between nonprofit organizations and corporations, strategic planning, communications and marketing. She has worked in myriad areas ranging from telecommunications policy, disability access to multimedia projects. Examples of her work include designing a highly successful technology job training program for low income adults and youth, creating a brand strategy for a buy local food campaign and marketing programs to reach emerging markets. Her firm’s clients included: AOL, Verizon, Microsoft, Independent Television Service (ITVS), San Francisco Giants, Freddie Mac Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the FoodRoutes Network.
Susan has held executive positions in Communications and Marketing with Odwalla and Pacific Bell. Prior to her work in the private sector Susan served as a senior staff member to Willie L. Brown, Jr. during his tenure as Speaker of the California Assembly. She is an alumna of the Coro Fellows Program, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters of Public Policy degree from Claremont University. She serves of the Board of Directors for CD Tech, World Institute on Disability and the Center for Accessible Technology.