Meet SCANPH Board Member Welton Smith
Cesar Chavez Foundation
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.
Welton Smith is the Director of Real Estate Development at Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF) and serves on the Membership Committee of the SCANPH Board. He has direct responsibility for the Business Development and Project Management functions within Housing and Economic Development at CCF, and he brings with him more than 35 years of private and public sector real estate development experience. Mr. Smith began his career as a management consultant with two CPA firms, Pannell Kerr Forster and Coopers & Lybrand, conducting management and financial feasibility analysis for hotels, office buildings, shopping centers, multi-family housing developments and mixed- and multi-use projects. He also spent seven years with the Economic Development group of the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, at that time the Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority for the County of Los Angeles, helping to maximize the value of the Commission’s real estate assets through public/private development partnerships. Before joining CCF, Mr. Smith was Senior Vice President of Development for both Jamboree Housing Corporation and Palm Communities in Irvine, California, and spent 11 years as Senior Vice President of Development for National Community Renaissance, a national nonprofit development company with more than 75 properties and 10,000 units in four states. In that capacity, he was also responsible for a development team that included Business Development, Project Management and Construction and was involved in the development or acquisition of almost 6,000 units in California, Texas, Arkansas and Florida. Mr. Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and real estate development and finance certifications from multiple leading institutions and industry organizations.
Why were you interested in joining the board of SCANPH?
I thought that it would be really important to be part of an organization that influences affordable housing policy on a daily basis, particularly after the demise of redevelopment decimated gap financing availability.
What is the best part of your job?
It is always completely gratifying to be around when new residents get keys and see their units for the very first time. Some people cry tears of joy; others just seem sort of in awe.
How did you first get involved in the affordable housing sector?
My years at the LACDC, back then the redevelopment agency and housing authority of LA County, introduced me to high quality affordable housing built with public/private participation. I saw the impact and was hooked.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Back in the late 1990’s, my team embarked on a project with a city partner to acquire, rehabilitate and make affordable 166 units that had fallen into complete disrepair. That development was the highest source of calls for police and fire service with as many as 5 homicides in a typical year. That project was completely successful and the community is now the City’s flagship for affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization.
If you could enact one policy change with the snap of your fingers what would it be?
I would find a way to make prevailing wage less onerous to the industry; more manageable and less time consuming to monitor. I do get the importance of it, but wish it could be less detrimental to our industry.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
Perhaps that I was entirely catholic school educated, from kindergarten through college.
If you didn’t live in Southern California where would you live?
That is a hard question to answer because I love California. I was raised in the subtropics, so it would have to be someplace warm. I like the gulf coast of Florida (Naples and Sarasota) as well as Austin, Texas.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain). An icon and brilliant storyteller who depicted American life at its most basic. Twain also had a quick wit and amazing sense of humor that I would thoroughly enjoy.
If you could steal credit for any great piece of art, song, film, book etc which one would you claim?
It would probably be Song of the Evening Star from Tannhauser by Wagner. It is my favorite piece of music that really soothes my soul no matter the circumstances.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Always make your actions reflect your values. That is called integrity.