Meet SCANPH Board Member Dora Gallo
SCANPH Board Members – the strength behind its success – are geographically diverse and serve as experts, practitioners, and advocates for supporting policy and programming that addresses the needs of economically disadvantaged individuals and families who are most in need of affordable housing. Our team is grateful to be backed by the decades of experience and expertise of the board, who reflect a diverse and representative body of SCANPH organizational members.
SCANPH will introduce each of our board members and share background about the leadership we count on to guide our initiatives.
Dora Leong Gallo has worked in the community development field for over 26 years. As President and CEO of A Community of Friends for the past 15 years, she is responsible for execution of the organization’s strategic priorities and an advocate for increasing the supply of affordable homes for those most vulnerable. Under her guidance, ACOF’s portfolio has grown 240%, with the agency currently operating 43 supportive housing communities throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, ending homelessness for over 2,600 people, including 600 children. Prior to joining ACOF, Ms. Gallo served in various capacities on the staff of former Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas (now a County Supervisor), including Chief of Staff. Ms. Gallo also spent several years working for the Culver City Redevelopment Agency and the City of Los Angeles in the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst. Ms. Gallo received a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.
Why were you interested in joining the Board of SCANPH?
This is actually my second tour of duty on the SCANPH board, having served for six years in the mid-2000s. I returned to serve again because I believe in the critical work of SCANPH to provide a voice for nonprofit affordable housing developers doing this type of work.
What is the best part of your job (either for your organization or as a board member)?
A Community of Friends is a supportive housing developer, so the best part of my job is hearing the stories of our tenants – how their lives have changed after moving into an affordable home connected to services. I am particularly impacted by stories of family reunifications (mother and daughter, grandfather and grandson, sister and brother) as well as seeing our tenants develop leadership skills and living happy, fulfilling lives.
How did you first get involved in the affordable housing sector?
In high school I worked in a property management office and recorded Section 8 rents on Lotus 123. But my first exposure to affordable housing was working as an intern at the LA County Community Development Commission in 1988 on the County’s Mobile Home Park Rent Stabilization program.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I have special memories of every single ACOF project I have been involved in, whether because something happened during predevelopment, construction or perm conversion. But the project I am probably the most proud of is ND Sepulveda I and II, two supportive housing projects for veterans located on the North Hills campus of the VA. That project took nine years. I’m not necessarily proud of the time it took, but rather the resolve and perseverance of our team to get the project done. We were the first to use Enhanced Use Leases for supportive housing for veterans, we attended over 25 different neighborhood council meetings, and along the way we changed State and federal legislation to allow veterans-only housing. And now, 147 formerly homeless veterans have a place to call home.
If you could enact one policy change with the snap of your fingers, what would it be?
A fellow board member featured by SCANPH, Tara Barauskas, said it best – allow 100% affordable and/or supportive housing projects to secure entitlements and be fully funded within six months so these projects can start construction faster.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I love to eat, especially all kinds of Asian food (Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.) and can probably out-eat most people.
If you didn’t live in Southern California where would you live?
The Burgundy region of France. Lots of amazing wines, fantastic cheeses, great bread, beautiful vineyards, and farmers markets that fill your senses.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Probably President Obama.
If you could steal credit for any great piece of art, song, film, book, etc., which one would you claim and why?
I love Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” It’s quite clever and not quite what you think. And for music - the Eagle’s “Hotel California.”
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Yes, it’s a form of the Serenity Prayer: Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.