UCLA Anderson Alumna Elected President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission

UCLA Anderson Alumna Elected President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission


Monique Lawshe (’90) pairs real estate finance skills with a commitment to service

March 25, 2024

UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate advisory board member Monique Lawshe was elected president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission
  • UCLA Anderson alumna Monique Lawshe has been elected president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission
  • A valued member of the UCLA Ziman Center’s advisory board, Lawshe combines real estate finance and development skills with a deep commitment to educational and social service partnerships
  • In her career in both nonprofit and for-profit organizations, she has helped preserve existing subsidized housing to ensure low-income families have a safe place to live

Monique Lawshe (’90) is president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission. She was elected in February 2024 after serving as vice president of the commission, which reviews land use ordinances, amendments to the General Plan and development projects in a city of 35 separate “community plan” areas. Lawshe combines her long and deep experience in real estate development and acquisition with her real estate finance skills to help Los Angeles create a more livable, affordable future for all its residents.

“I was walking through framing when I was seven,” Lawshe says. “You could say real estate development is in my DNA.” There are three architects in Lawshe’s family, including her uncle Wendell Campbell, who was one of the founders of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). “He and my mother designed the house that I grew up in in Gary, Indiana, so my interest in development runs deep.

“Being a member of the L.A. City Planning Commission helps me put my passion for development to good use,” says Lawshe, who also serves as a sustaining member of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate’s advisory board. “With each decision, the commission tries to improve the quality of life for Angelenos all over the city. Each of the commissioners has a unique expertise that they bring to the table in reviewing the projects brought to us for approval. I bring the ‘developer’s’ mindset to our discussions, which I honed through a somewhat circuitous but ultimately rewarding and satisfying professional journey.”

Lawshe says she knew when she was starting out in the real estate business that she would need stronger credentials than just her degree in industrial management and engineering to break into a sector that was predominantly white and male. “I decided to get an MBA, and I chose Anderson for its renowned real estate finance program. Anderson gave me the technical skills and the brand credentials I needed,” Lawshe says.

However, graduating in the middle of a recession made it tough for Lawshe to land a development job immediately. Her first job after business school was with a real estate lending group, analyzing borrower financial statements while learning what was important to lenders. “That’s where I learned that doing development on a large scale required understanding of how to structure the capital stack — debt and equity —to get a project done.”

Lawshe eventually broke into development with a project management role at A Community of Friends, a small nonprofit that builds and manages affordable housing for individuals with mental illness. Lawshe notes that for women and people of color, access to capital continues to be a challenge. Spending time in the nonprofit development sector helped her to learn the complex processes involved in financing affordable housing and also deepened her knowledge, all without her having to invest a significant amount of personal capital.

“I chose Anderson for its renowned real estate finance program. Anderson gave me the technical skills and the brand credentials I needed.”

“ACOF was building multimillion-dollar, subsidized apartment buildings, each typically using six or more sources of financing to make a single project feasible,” Lawshe says, adding that a successful project included not only delivering completed units on time and on budget, but also providing essential supportive services for very low-income households. “I eventually became CEO of ACOF. Looking back at my 10 years there, I feel great knowing that we increased the supply of affordable units from two buildings and 40 units at the time I started, to about 1,000 units throughout L.A. County by the time I left.”

In addition to championing affordable, high-quality housing, Lawshe also invested in bringing women and people of color into the industry. “I wanted ACOF staff to do the work, rather than hire development consultants,” she says. “We developed a reputation for having top talent who knew how to put together competitive financing applications, and how to layer the financing necessary to get the project done.

Lawshe has maintained a professional relationship with Audrey, a graduate of the All Ways Up Foundation scholarship and mentoring program

“I didn’t start my career targeting the nonprofit affordable housing industry,” Lawshe adds. “I loved the deal-making aspect.” But, she says, it was knowing the nuts and bolts of how to layer multiple funding sources and mastering the application process for various levels of public funding that helped her segue into the for-profit affordable housing sector.

Her next career stop was vice president of acquisitions for GHC Housing Partners. GHC is a nationally recognized owner and operator of affordable housing, specializing in the acquisition and operation of properties having a Project Based Section 8 Contract through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In her role, Lawshe identified properties for GHC to acquire, renovate and manage, allowing these units to remain in the pool of affordable housing resources available to tenants who qualified for the HUD rental subsidy.

Lawshe’s talent for running the numbers helped GHC grow rapidly through acquisitions all over the country. “I transitioned successfully from nonprofit affordable housing to the for-profit sector by joining a partner with significant access to private capital,” she said. “But my work still fit the values I honed at ACOF: I helped preserve existing subsidized housing by extending the useful life through renovations and common area upgrades, ultimately helping low-income families have a safe and updated place to live,” Lawshe says.

Soon, though, Lawshe realized that the population living in Section 8 housing properties continued living there generation after generation. “There are systemic, structural issues in our society that prevent younger generations from moving on and moving out,” Lawshe said. “I knew that providing some social support services, similar to what we did at ACOF, would help the next generation break out of this cycle.” GHC’s portfolio now includes locations with case managers and partnerships with local organizations for health screening, voter education, summer lunch programs and back-to-school support.

“I feel great knowing that we increased the supply of affordable units from two buildings and 40 units at the time I started, to about 1,000 units throughout L.A. County by the time I left.”

Her GHC partner Greg Perlman had a similar vision and, with his wife Jodi, set up the All Ways Up Foundation to further assist in breaking this cycle. The foundation provides scholarships and mentoring programs to low-income students attending a four-year educational institution. Every summer over a seven-year period, the program hosted 50 students on the UCLA campus for a week, introducing them to life at college through a variety of workshops, activities and speakers. She has followed the educational and professional success of students like Audrey, who graduated from Loyola Marymount and went on to work for J.P. Morgan in New York. “Audrey is just one example of success that the 500 students participating in the program have had,” she says. Today, Lawshe remains a partner in GHC’s affiliate PK Management LLC, where she continues to champion social service partnerships and programs to break the cycle of poverty.

As a member of Ziman’s board, Lawshe takes the opportunity to connect with leaders in real estate to hear their perspective on current topics and challenges. “Updates from national experts regarding trends, in a setting that allows for dialogue, is invaluable,” she says. “The center’s Levine Affordable Housing Development Program has been a stellar way to support education in affordable housing in ways that didn’t exist when I entered the field.”

Lawshe’s unique blend of numbers sense, development savvy and social service ethos got her noticed by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass when an opening on the Los Angeles City Planning Commission came up in 2023. Mayor Bass is clear about her priorities for the city’s development, implementing her first directive in December 2022 to address L.A.’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. The directive expedites the processing of 100% affordable housing and shelter projects. Today, Lawshe’s depth of experience in affordable housing places her at the head of a planning body that could positively impact thousands of Angelenos sooner than ever before imagined.

“One of the most intriguing parts of the commission’s work is approving the long-term community plans for each of the 35 separate communities in Los Angeles. It’s fascinating to imagine the L.A. of the future while staying acutely aware of how the changes will impact specific neighborhoods and the quality of life for all Angelenos.”

Lawshe adds, “I love meeting the students who are involved with the Ziman Center. Their passion for the real estate industry is apparent, and that is encouraging for the future of development. My advice to anyone graduating from Anderson is: be open. Find ways to keep learning about the industry you’re interested in. You never know where the next opportunity to grow and make a difference will come from.”