Meet Our Team

Our Leadership

Leslie Reynolds

Executive Director

Since 2010, Leslie has served as the Executive Director of Groundwork San Diego - Chollas Creek. She leads the Groundwork/San Diego Unified School District Climate Action Park master plan, and has led Groundwork in bringing/managing over $12 million in funding in support of education, community development and infrastructure funding. She serves on the City of San Diego Equity Stakeholder Woking Group, the Chollas Creek Coaltion, and the City of San Diego Climate Adaptation and Resilience Working Group, Parks Now Statewide Taskforce, San Diego Foundation Climate Initiative Working Group.

Prior to joining Groundwork, Leslie served as Vice President of University Relations
and Development. for San Diego State University from 1978 to 1994, where she was
responsible for university public, media, and legislative relations; university publications;
alumni programming; university advancement policy development.

Leslie also worked for the California State Legislature, where she served as Chief of Staff to a State Legislator. She managed District and Capitol offices, including development of environmental policy and legislation.

Patrice Baker

Community Outreach Director

Native of the Encanto Neighborhoods with over 30 years of professional and volunteer contributions to improve the quality of life for all residents of Southeastern San Diego. With advanced degrees in management and organizational leadership, Patrice leads the community engagement programs and activities for GWSD to ensure that all programs and projects reflect the vested interests, values, and vision of current and future residents.

Allie Sifrit

Director of Education

Allie is a Marine Biologist, has a Masters in Marine and Environmental Management and several years of environmental science education experience. Allie is directing the K-12 education programs for Groundwork San Diego. She is committed to providing high-quality STEAM education to San Diego youth as well as linking students to opportunities that support their future careers by working closely with local colleges, industry professionals and community organizations.

Margaret Booke

Climate Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator

Margaret Booke (she/her) was born and raised in Texas, but has lived in San Diego the past 5 years. Graduating from University of San Diego with a degree in Social Justice and Changemaking, she is passionate about amplifying the voices of those who have been historically ignored. Margaret is one of the Climate Safe Neighborhood coordinators as well as an EarthLab Educator, both of which she loves and is very proud to be a part of. With ample experience in outdoor education, as well as, community outreach, Margaret is committed to pursuing real positive change for the residents in our community and for the environment.

Javier Cardenas

Climate Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator

Javier Cardenas is a Chicano who was born and raised in San Diego, California. Javier is an alumnus of San Diego State University with an applied Psychology degree, and is the first of his family to graduate from a 4-year Higher Learning Institution. Javier is an Earthlab Educator and a Climate Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator. He has worked with students ranging from Kindergarten to Higher Education and now focuses his work with middle and high school students through teaching about environmental justice at the Earthlab. Being one of the Climate Safe Neighborhood Coordinators, he is committed to bringing greater opportunities to members in his community by helping their voices to be heard.

Kat Perkins

Education Program Coordinator

Kat Perkins coordinates food production and ecological restoration in EarthLab and teaches CulinaryLab at Millennial Tech Middle. Kat graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Before coming to Groundwork, Kat worked for The Edible Schoolyard, Sage Garden Project and the City of Sacramento. Kat grew up in East County San Diego, where they developed an early love of nature playing in the creek near their house.

Glorya Escobar

Program Assistant

Glorya Escobar comes to Groundwork with a background in environmental engineering, art, community outreach, and one-on-one tutoring with middle school and high school students. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. While in college, she worked with local non-profit organizations on the issues of sustainable real estate development and environmental sustainability education. Her time with these organizations taught her the importance of educating and getting the community involved in these efforts. After working on environmental remediation projects for a consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona, she is excited to be back in San Diego to help with student and community involvement for the restoration of Chollas Creek.

Board of Directors

The Groundwork Board of Directors is a of local leaders with knowledge, skills, and experience who are dedicated to the long-term health and well-being of the Chollas Creek Watershed and its neighborhoods.

Derryl Williams, President

Serves as a Subcontract Administrator for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. He served as President of the Webster Neighborhood Council where he assisted in the rezoning of the community to reflect its single-family character in harmony with a light industrial business focus. Under his leadership, the most successful Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) in the City of San Diego was approved. He served on the City’s Committee on Government Efficiency and Fiscal Reform, and as Chair of the Encanto Neighborhoods Community Planning Group. He served on the Board of Directors of the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation, and is a founding Board member of Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek.

Bill Ponder, Vice President

has extensive experience in higher education administration, counseling, teaching, and urban planning. He served as Vice President for Student Affairs at Eastern Washington University, and as Registrar at the Pierce College District. At University of California Riverside, he directed student admissions and outreach. He served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Combined Fund of Washington, and a member of the Planning Commission for the City of Olympia. He served as a member of the Advisory Board for the Leadership Development Initiative at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and currently serves as an appointee to a San Diego Unified School District oversight committee.

Charles Davis

Charles Davis is the principal of Urban West Development providing project development and construction management services for residential, office, industrial, retail and environmental projects. He served as Director of Project Development for the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation from 2006-2013, where he was responsible for project management of housing, retail, environmental and commercial projects totaling over $350 million. He has served as a Board Member of the -San Diego Housing Federation and the San Diego Land Trust.

Dr. Hugh (Bud) Mehan

Is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Education at UCSD. He started the Teacher Education Program at UCSD and directed that Program from 1972 until 1998, when he became the founding director of The Center for Research on Educational Equity, Access, and Teaching Excellence. CREATE coordinates efforts at UCSD to improve the academic preparation of under- represented students. He has helped build equitable educational environments (The Preuss School UCSD and Gompers Preparatory Academy in Southeastern San Diego). He assists the Diamond Educational Excellence Partnership and Groundwork San Diego in Southeastern San Diego by advising those organizations on evaluation measures and educational policies. He has authored 7 books on a variety of educational equity issues; In the Front Door: Building a College-Going Culture of Learning, documents the political and cultural context surrounding establishing CREATE, Preuss, and Gompers.

Jeff Marston

Is the Co-Chair for the Independent Voter Project. The Independent Voter Project works to represents the rights and access of independent voters to the political process. Marston was president and co-owner of Marston+Marston, Inc., a full service public, governmental and community relations firm and, before that, was senior vice president of another San Diego-based public relations firm where he spent nearly four years serving as the lobbyist for the City of San Diego in Sacramento. Marston was a member of the California State Assembly representing San Diego’s 78th District and is active as the Past President of the San Diego State University Alumni Association.

John Gohl

Is a manager with Aspire Software Company, an ERP system tailored to the service industry – primarily landscape focused. He received his B.S. in agriculture, and has been in the green industry for 20 years, including related work with the US Embassies in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. He has a passion for youth development and landscape education.

Kristen Hurst

Is a TK-5th grade science teacher for the San Diego Unified School District. She serves as secretary for the Webster Neighborhood Council and is vice chair of the Eastern Area Communities Planning Committee. She is a passionate advocate for science education and serves on the leadership team for 52 Weeks of Science Barrio Logan and is the director of San Diego State Universities Aztec Science Camp.

Lara Gates

is the Principal/Founder of Gates Planning Strategies (GPS). She is a native San
Diegan and award -winning San Diego City Planner with more than 25 years experience developing and implementing urban long range community plans and zoning regulations. She led the Southeastern and Encanto Community Plan updates (2015) ; the North Park Community Plan update (2015); and the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update (2013). As Chief of Policy for Councilmember Gomez, she led the update of the City’s Inclusionary Housing regulations and prepared the City’s residential and commercial eviction moratorium. Lara is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff State APA Award; the 2015 National American Planning Association Award for Public Outreach for the Southeastern San Diego and Encanto Neighborhoods Pop-Up Outreach Campaign; the 2015 Large Jurisdiction Implementation Award for the Barrio Logan Gateway Sign; as well as the 2014 Environmental Health Coalition’s Healthy Communities Champion Award.

Margaretta Hickman

Has lived in and worked on behalf of the Chollas Creek Watershed since 1968. She was president of the Montford Point Marine Association Ladies Auxiliary, and volunteered for the American Legion. She was active in the Heroines of Jericho, Daughter of the Elks and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. She was a member of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, the Chair of the Webster Community Council and is now Chair of the Webster Heights Community Development Corporation.

Myles Pomeroy

Vice President for Planning) is a retired urban planner who worked for the City of San Diego Planning Department for 22 years. His responsibilities included planning for the Southeastern San Diego and Encanto communities and implementation of the Chollas Creek Enhancement Program, an officially adopted City planning document. Prior to working in San Diego, he worked for 15 years with the City of St. Louis Community Development Agency. He is also active in the League of Conservation Voters and other local organizations.

Ryan Beal

Graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. in Management. Driven by his faith, Beal looks to provide strategic vision that decreases both educational and income disparities amongst communities through ownership. Beal enjoys the artistry of business – strategic planning and problem solving allow him to be both analytical and create. Whether it’s holding multiple leadership roles or having to make decisions that affect multiple stakeholders, he thrives in high-pressure situations. His capacity to build interpersonal relationships allows him to successfully form and lead diverse teams in order to accomplish a common goal. He recently was the Founder and Chair of the Young Professionals Advisory Council for Climate Action Campaign and currently handles Corporate Accounts for WAXIE Sanitary Supply in San Diego. When he is not busy working, he enjoys spending time handling finances and traveling to new places.

Sara Giobbi

Is the Manager of Environmental Engineering for National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), the largest full service shipyard on the West Coast of the United State. Prior to joining NASSCO, she worked for the City of San Diego’s Industrial Wastewater Control Program. Sara holds her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Humboldt State University and a professional Certificate in Project Management. She is an experienced environmental compliance professional with 25 years’ experience working for improved air and water quality in both public and private sectors. Sara was born and raised in San Diego and is married with one son. She enjoys hiking, camping, gardening, and travel.

Sasha Knox

Is the Job Development Coordinator for San Diego City College. She is an alumnus of California State University Chico – in journalism and public relations. She obtained her Masters in Organizational Management and Project Management from Ashford University. She is currently studying at San Diego State University to earn her doctorate in Educational Leadership through the Community College Leadership program with an emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. For over a decade, Sasha has worked in community development and career services and programming to impact the education development of global diversity and inclusion. She has piloted education programs in over 6 YMCA’s nationwide to bridge the educational gap, including a college preparatory program for Black and Latino first-generation college students. She has served in various student services and student affairs positions in higher education to support students in their educational journey to reach their highest potential.

Teresa Wilkinson

Is principal and owner of TTG Environmental, a consulting firm focusing on environmental planning, project management, compliance and permitting. She is passionate about mentoring students in conservation/planning issues, and recently received the Rosa Parks Diversity award from the Women in Transportation (WTS) in recognition of her outreach efforts with students from Southeastern San Diego. Ms. Wilkinson served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, Central America and was the environmental coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. She also co-authored the “Politics of Water Management in the Tijuana River Watershed”. Borderlinks Journal.

Vicki Estrada

Is a landscape architect and urban designer and President of Estrada Land Planning, providing land planning, landscape architecture, GIS, re-vegetation, visual analysis, and urban design services. Her projects have included the Balboa Park Master Plan, the Otay Ranch New Town Plan, the San Ysidro Mobility Study, the Rancho San Diego Specific Plan and the Downtown San Diego Streetscape Manual. She serves on the San Diego Canyonlands Board, the County of San Diego Historic Site Board, the Cal Poly SLO School of Architecture Deans Advisory Board, the Media Arts Center San Diego Board, the San Diego Athletic Club Board, the C3 Parks Board, and the San Diego Foundation Board.

Board of Advisors

Marti Emerald

Marti Emerald excelled as a broadcast journalist for 30 years before taking the oath of office for the San Diego City Council in 2008. Most notably, Marti was the Consumer Advocate (The Troubleshooter) at San Diego’s ABC television affiliate for 22 years, earning more than 100 awards for community service and journalistic excellence. During her tenure on the San Diego City Council Marti focused on repairing the image of City government through fiscal restraint and increased transparency in City government functions. Marti chaired the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee during her entire eight years at council. Marti retired from the City Council in December 2016 and lives with her husband Karl Bradley in Imperial Beach.

Teddy Cruz

Teddy Cruz is a professor of Public Culture and Urbanization in the Department of Visual Arts at the UCSD, and Director of Urban Research in the UCSD Center on Global Justice. He is known internationally for his urban research of the Tijuana/San Diego border, advancing immigrant neighborhoods as sites of productivity, from which to rethink urban policy and inclusion. He has received the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, the Architecture Award from the US Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2018 Vilcek Foundation Prize in Architecture.

Fonna Forman

Fonna Forman is a professor of Political Theory and Founding Director of the Center on Global Justice at the University of California, San Diego. Her work engages issues at the intersection of ethics, public culture, urban policy and the city-including human rights at the urban scale. Fonna serves as the Vice-Chair of the University of California Climate Solutions Group and its Bending the Curve report on climate change; and on the Global Citizenship Commission-advising UN policy on human rights.

Chris Kehoe

Chris Kehoe served from 2004 to 2012 as a member of the California State Senate representing the 39th district. She was previously a member of the California State Assembly (2000–2004) and of San Diego City Council (1993–2000). She served as executive director of the California Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative, as one of California’s 55 electors in the Electoral College, and is currently a member of the California Transportation Commission.

History and Mission

Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek is an environmental enhancement non-profit organization empowered by the City of San Diego to restore the Chollas Creek Watershed through citizen engagement. It’s mission is:

To improve the environment, economy and quality of life for residents in the Chollas Creek Watershed through new approaches to community and educational development

To link energy, economic, and health equity with environmental justice by improving water quality; developing alternative forms of energy and economy; and increasing the capacity of low-income communities to lead climate action

To develop and deliver K-12 experiential environmental education, impacting formal and informal learning and serving as a model for other underserved communities

To construct and steward The EarthLab, a 4 acre climate action park, as a collaborative community asset to benefit the youth, families and communities of the San Diego region

Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek was founded in 2007 at the request of the City of San Diego to lead the master plan for the Chollas Creek Watershed. Initial funding came from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Endowment in recognition of the role the environment plays in the well-being of low-income citizens. The master plan, entitled the Chollas Creek Enhancement Program, was developed through extensive stakeholder collaboration that represented neighborhoods, community planning groups, nonprofits, and faith-based institutions across the watershed. Its vision was to recover the pre-urbanization beauty of the natural resources of the region through education, advocacy, and compelling environmental design. To this end, Groundwork as generated over $10 million in government and philanthropic funding and engaged thousands of volunteers and stakeholders.

Our Watershed Communities

Chollas Creek is a 32 square mile natural waterway and drainage system that traverses neighborhoods within City Heights, Oak Park, Encanto, Chollas View, Mt. View, Mt. Hope, Barrio Logan, and Southcrest, from its headwaters in La Mesa and Lemon Grove to San Diego Bay. Located in the Pueblo Watershed, Chollas Creek was a significant settlement for the Kumeyaay, and has amongst the richest cultural, biological, and geological assets in the region. Once it is restored to its natural state, Chollas Creek will bring untold recreational, educational, and economic benefits to the communities along its banks and beyond
The Chollas Creek Watershed crosses and includes four planning areas:

City Heights

The population is 79,925, with 54 % hispanic;12 % white;13 % black;19 % asian. 72 % do not speak english/english is not first language and live 29 % below poverty level
The average yearly income for a family of four is between $19,393 and $24,400, within the range of the federal poverty level of $22,050. It is estimated that City Heights only has 1.52 acres of park per 1,000 residents.

Barrio Logan

The population is 51,210, with 78 % hispanic;12 % black;5% white;3% asian.73 % do not speak english/english is not first language, the median income is $29,782, and 33 % below poverty level. There is a 33.13 acre park deficit.

Southeastern San Diego

The population is 56,757 , with 83 % hispanic; 9 % black; 2 % asian; 4 % white. The median income is $31,414, with 34 % living below the poverty level.


The target area is the Encanto Neighborhoods community (population 66,461 in 2011) in Southeastern San Diego. Encanto demographics are 39% Hispanic, 34% African American, and 16% Asian, with over 25% of residents living below the federal poverty level. Encanto’s Area Median Income of $35,000 is approximately half that of the overall region. Students enrolled in the elementary and middle schools serving Encanto are 85% to 100% eligible for free or reduced price meals.

State Models

Groundwork programs carry impact beyond the local community. The Earthlab figures prominently in the University of California Bending the Curve Report presented by Governor Jerry Brown to the Climate Collaborative meeting in Paris; the residential water conservation upgrade project was nominated to compete for the prestigious Engaging Local Government Leaders national water conservation award; the California Energy Commission-funded Advanced Energy Community Master Plan is being shared as a model of participatory climate action planning for all California low income communities; the EarthLab is a centerpiece of the C4 Climate action work in California; .the Chollas EcoVillage master plan was presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Energy Services Professionals.