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Mary Lee


Mary is a Deputy Director of PolicyLink, a national advocacy organization working to advance racial equity, economic and social justice. As a member of the organization’s health team, Mary helps guide the PolicyLink Center for Health Equity and Place, providing research, technical assistance and training to public and private agencies collaborating to build healthy communities. She has coauthored reports and journal articles on access to healthy food, the built environment, and the impact of place and race on health. She is also a practicing attorney with more than 30 years of experience working in communities throughout California, with special emphasis on issues of housing, land use and community economic development. Her work has always focused on the legal rights of low-income people. She began her legal career at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and then joined the Western Center on Law and Poverty as a housing attorney. She later returned to LAFLA as Managing Attorney of that agency’s South Central Los Angeles office and later maintained a private practice focusing on community economic development and housing law, including housing discrimination, landlord/tenant, foreclosure, land use law and civil rights.

Mary began providing legal assistance to non-profit, community based organizations committed to improving the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods in 1990. She has worked extensively with community groups, particularly in South Los Angeles to revitalize neighborhoods and enhance public participation in the public policy arena. Among the projects she has undertaken are strategic revitalization campaigns in the Vermont/Manchester, Hyde Park, and Central City East (commonly known as “skid row”) sections of Los Angeles. She has also worked with groups that have developed affordable housing, child care centers, created jobs, and monitored the land use and redevelopment practices of local government. For many years,

Mary has worked with neighborhood groups in a number of California cities on issues related to restricting the availability of alcohol and drugs, and the negative consequences that result from substance abuse. Her efforts on behalf of non-profit organizations include drafting legislation at the state and local level, providing training and technical support, strategic planning, non-profit management and board development, administrative advocacy, and litigation in state courts.

In addition, Mary has been an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, and taught public policy at Occidental College. For more than ten years, she taught a class she designed on Fair Housing/Fair Lending regulations as part of the Mortgage Finance certificate program within the Los Angeles Community College District at L.A. Trade Technical College. In addition, Mary teaches courses on Health Policy Advocacy and Health Leadership and Community Development, also at the community college level, as part of a certificate program that seeks to build community based leadership on issues related to health and healthy communities.

Mary has also served as a board member of several community organizations, including the Liberty Hill Foundation and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, and she served as the president of the board of the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California. She has undertaken work in the public sector as well. She served as a Transportation Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles, and as a campaign manager for a successful candidate for the Los Angeles City Council. She worked as a consultant to the commission elected to reform the Los Angeles City Charter, and she completed a Community Builder fellowship with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mary currently serves as a member of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council that was established to make recommendations local government about food system reform strategies for the Los Angeles region. She was recently named to the board of the Community Coalition.

Mary is a native of Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley

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