Mia Lehrer, founder and president of landscape architecture and urban design practice Studio-MLA (formerly Mia Lehrer + Associates), has been nominated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to the powerful L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners. The naming of Lehrer as LADWP Commissioner set the stages for a board composed entirely of women—a first for the department, which was founded in 1902 and is the largest municipal utility in the United States.
“Mia will bring her proven leadership, firsthand experience, deep expertise, and extraordinary drive to ensuring LADWP remains one of the most sustainable, reliable, and responsible public utilities in America,” said Mayor Garcetti in a press statement. “When Mia takes her seat on the Board, we will make history for our city and mark a critical moment of progress on the road to true equity — all while deepening the department’s commitment to safeguarding our environment, combating climate change, and creating good-paying jobs.”
Although Studio-MLA maintains a busy office in San Francisco, a bulk of the firm’s heralded design work has been in and around L.A., where Lehrer, who was raised in El Salvador and earned her Master of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, founded the practice in 1996. The firm has completed numerous projects including Franklin Ivar Park in Hollywood, Vista Hermosa Park in downtown Los Angeles, the Nature Gardens at the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County, Ishihara Park in Santa Monica, the redesigned landscape at Caltech Keck Institute for Space Studies in Pasadena, and an overhaul of the 260-acre hillside grounds of Dodger Stadium. However, the studio is perhaps best known for its transformative work in reactivating and revitalizing the Los Angeles River, a passion project for Lehrer who has championed restoring habitat along and improving public access to the long-maligned urban waterway.
Completed in 2007, Studio-MLA’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan was considered a “milestone achievement” for the city per the firm, which is also highly regarded for its pro bono and advocacy work on environmental issues alongside its public and private sector-commissioned projects. In addition to the protection and preservation of urban waterways, Lehrer is active in advocating for green schoolyards.
Named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 2007 and as a member of the U.S. Commission for Fine Arts (2014-2018) by the Obama administration, Lehrer has also served on Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs Commission, the Zoning Advisory Committee, and the Mayor’s Design Advisory Panel. If confirmed to the LADWP Board of Commissioners, she would replace former commissioner Mel Levine and join commissioners Jill Banks Barad and Nicole Neeman Brady along with board president Cynthia McClain-Hill and board vice-president Susana Reyes.
As noted in a press release announcing Lehrer’s nomination, women now hold over half of the positions on the city’s more than 40 boards and commissions, and there are no longer any male-only commissions.
“I am excited to be a part of this commission comprised of women leaders, and look forward to working with the LADWP team to make Los Angeles a model of sustainability,” said Lehrer in a statement. “This appointment is a true honor, and I can’t wait to work with Mayor Garcetti to advance the goals of L.A.’s Green New Deal principles, put this plan into action, and help keep this city front and center in the movement to preserve our environment, strengthen our economy, and promote equity.”