Mary M. Lee 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.
Mary is a practicing attorney with more than 25 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 is now a Deputy Director of PolicyLink, a national advocacy organization.
Since 1990, Mary has provided legal assistance to non-profit, community based organizations committed to improving the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. 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 her current projects 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 the last twelve years, Mary has worked with neighborhood groups in a number of California cities on issues related to 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 the last ten years, she has 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 now teaches courses on Health Policy Advocacy and Health Leadership and Community Development, also at L.A. Trade Tech, as part of a newly developed certificate program that seeks to build community based leadership on issues related to health.
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 is currently serving as a member of the L. A. Food Policy Task force that has been convened to make recommendations to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about food system reform strategies for the Los Angeles region.