Melani Smith, 2017 Health Leader


Title: Senior Director, Transit Oriented Communities
Organization: LA Metro
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Melani has 20 years of experience in urban planning, following nearly 10 years in marketing for architecture/engineering firms. She is a Senior Director for Transit Oriented Communities at LA Metro and an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Price School of Policy at the University of Southern California, where she teaches in the sustainable land use concentration. She is recently completed an Encore Gen2Gen Fellowship at Playworks in southern California. As a member of that Non-Profit Leadership Team, she is working to ensure the long-term viability of inclusive, healthy play at southern California Playworks schools. She is also expanding Playworks’ strategic partnerships with allied professional organizations.

Melani engages in numerous civic and professional activities, including co-chairing the Central City Association’s Downtown 2030 Committee in Los Angeles, and being a long time active member of the Downtown Breakfast Club. She is also an Urban Land Institute Member, and is serving as a Member of the LA District Council’s Advisory Board, and Vice Chair of the Sustainability Committee, focused on Healthy Corridors.

Much of her career has been focused on building and leading led vision-driven urban design and planning practices in Southern California, most recently in her nearly 12 years at Meléndrez in downtown Los Angeles, as Principal and President. Prior to Meléndrez , she was appointed to the Board and led the Governmental and Design Teams at The Planning Center (now Placeworks), in Costa Mesa, CA She has a Bachelor of Arts in History from UCLA, and a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UC Irvine.

Why are you motivated to participate in the Health Leaders Network? How will your participation enhance your current and future work?

ULI’s holistic approach to Building Healthy Places has always spoken to me. It is completely consistent with the broad view of sustainability that I now teach, and that has manifest in my work, in over 20 years leading design firms. ULI always has its finger on the pulse of the cutting edge practice in real estate across the nation, and I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had thus far to engage with ULI’s national membership. I’m interested in new cross disciplinary opportunities to share solutions and learnings in this initiative. I will bring practical urban design and urban planning expertise, in a variety of project types including: countywide First/Last Mile Strategic planning for Metro in Los Angeles, complete streets/corridor revitalization, transit oriented development, and urban open space projects such as freeway cap parks and freeway closure and open space conversion projects, in park poor and health impacted areas such as west Long Beach near the southern California port complexes. I will also bring my expertise in community stakeholder engagement and mobilization to bear in this initiative, as movements such as this one need to grow through engagement with a wide range of constituencies if they are to have impact in the long run. I also teach in the sustainable land use concentration of USC Price School of Policy, and hope to bring my work in the health leaders network to the university, as well as connections with the school, and its master’s students, to this initiative.

ULI Health Leaders Network

The ULI Health Leaders Network is designed to empower real estate and land use professionals with the skills, knowledge, and networks to improve health outcomes in their professional practice and communities.