Staff

Janelle Orsi, Attorney at Law, SELC Co-FounderJanelle Orsi

Executive Director & SELC Co-Founder

Outside of her work with the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Janelle Orsi is an attorney and mediator focused on helping individuals and organizations share resources and create more sustainable communities. Through the Law Office of Janelle Orsi, she works with cooperatives, community gardens, cohousing communities, ecovillages, and others doing innovative work to change the world.  She attended UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. In 2010, Janelle was profiled by the American Bar Association as a Legal Rebel, an attorney who is “remaking the legal profession through the power of innovation.” In 2012, Janelle was one of 100 people listed on The (En)Rich List, which names individuals "whose contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures." Janelle is author of the book Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy (ABA Books 2012), and co-author of The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community (Nolo 2009), a practical and legal guide to cooperating and sharing resources of all kinds. 

Neil Thapar, Staff AttorneyNeil Thapar

Staff Attorney

Neil@theSELC.org 

Neil represents clients and provides legal advice to community-based entrepreneurs and organizations, specializing in food and agriculture-related legal issues. He also advocates for policy changes that remove legal barriers to cooperative models of ownership, strengthen laws that promote urban agriculture, and support the viability of small businesses. Aside from his role at SELC, Neil maintains a small legal practice dedicated to serving the nonprofit and small-farm and food communities. In 2013, Neil researched and authored several case studies on social justice in agriculture for inclusion in the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems’ farm apprenticeship curriculum. He also holds a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture for completing the same apprenticeship in 2012. Neil earned a B.A. in Economics and International Area Studies from UCLA, and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law. 

Christina Oatfield, Policy Director, Legal ApprenticeChristina Oatfield

Policy Director  

Christina@theSELC.org 

Christina Oatfield works with a diverse array of stakeholders to propose and advocate for laws that enable more sustainable, local and resilient economies. She played leadership roles in support of the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) in 2012, a cottage food law for California, and the Neighborhood Food Act (AB 2561) in 2014. Christina also contributes to SELC's publications and educational events related to food and financing. She serves on the Steering Committees of both the California Food Policy Council and Slow Money Northern California. She is also pursuing an attorney license as part of the Law Office Study Program of the State Bar of California, which is an alternative to law school for aspiring attorneys seeking experiential learning and expertise in topics not often taught in accredited law schools. She studies corporate and securities law, among other legal topics, with support from attorneys at Kassan at Katovich & Kassan Law Group in Oakland. Christina earned her B.S. in Environmental Sciences at UC Berkeley where she wrote a thesis about student-run food cooperatives and co-founded the Berkeley Student Food Collective. Prior to working for SELC, Christina identified and counted insects in an agroecology lab, worked for a tech start-up, managed a green retail store, ran an underground restaurant, planned events and was an assistant at another nonprofit organization.

Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, Legal Apprentice, City Policies Director, Community Currencies Program DirectorYassi Eskandari-Qajar

Community Currencies Program Director & City Policies Program Director  

Yassi@theSELC.org

Yassi directs SELC’s City Policies and Community Currencies programs, identifying the legal barriers to the grassroots sharing economy, including shared transportation, shared housing, urban food systems, local currencies, barter networks, and time banks. These programs also produce essential legal resources and timely policy solutions that foster localized production, ownership, and exchange.

Yassi holds a B.S. in Conservation & Resource Studies and minor in City & Regional Planning from U.C. Berkeley (’11). While a student, she received numerous leadership awards and co-founded and served on the board of Berkeley’s first student-run food collective. Today, Yassi is enrolled in the California State Bar's Law Office Study Program, which will enable her to become a lawyer without going to law school. Once a licensed attorney, Yassi intends to practice in the areas of food & farming, housing & land, community-owned renewable energy, and community currencies, and to continue to strengthen the grassroots sharing economy through local and regional policy change.

Ricardo Samir Nuñez, Legal Services Program Director, Cooperatives Program Director, Legal ApprenticeRicardo Samir Nuñez

Cooperatives Program Director & Legal Services Director 

ricardo@theSELC.org

As Cooperatives Program Director, Ricardo coordinates SELC's legislative strategies, popular education, and legal research around worker-owned businesses. He also manages Co-opLaw.org, a collaborative legal resource library for US based cooperatives. As Legal Services Director, Ricardo coordinates SELC's direct legal services and public education programming. One of these is the Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, a program that provides direct legal support to individuals and groups creating new solutions for resilient economies in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and beyond. He also manages SELC’s social media communications and community outreach initiatives. Ricardo is also participating in the Law Office Study Program of the State Bar of California under the auspices of Janelle Orsi. The Law Office Study Program is an alternative to law school that allows would-be lawyers to obtain their attorney’s license through a four-year legal apprenticeship.

Ricardo was formerly on the board of the Los Angeles Worker Ownership Resources and Cooperative Services (LAWORCS) Committee, an initiative to start a worker cooperative incubator for the greater L.A. area. Before that, Ricardo was a Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Case Manager working with low-income families to stop pending evictions and re-house homeless neighbors in southern LA County. Prior to his housing work, Ricardo was a Rural Education Development Specialist in Zambia with the U.S. Peace Corps. Ricardo led efforts in capacity building with 15 rural, up-country schools, also establishing two village based Women’s Cooperatives, and training multiple Farmer’s Cooperatives on sustainable farming practices.

coop_chris.jpgChris Tittle

Director of Organizational Resilience  

Chris@theSELC.org

Chris is passionate about cultivating more democratic and place-based models for building community resilience. In his role as Director of Organizational Resilience, he is working to build SELC’s internal resilience, diversify SELC's sources of support, and bring principles of social and economic justice into SELC’s funding strategy. Among his other roles, he contributes to SELC’s Community Currencies, Resilient Communities Legal Cafe, and Rethinking Home programs. As an advocate of self-directed (and debt-free) education, he is excited to be participating in the California Law Office Study program at the law office of Linda Alvarez. Chris recently completed an MA in Economics for Transition at Schumacher College, an international whole-person learning center near Totnes, UK. His dissertation explored permaculture and a Rights of Nature framework as more culturally-appropriate and generative responses to climate change adaptation in the Global South. Chris has previously worked as an ecological educator and outdoor guide with inner-city youth, and an environmental journalist, earning his BA in Non-Western History and Poverty Studies from Washington and Lee University. His writing can be found on Shareable.net, MNN.com, and his blog at oaktreegarden.wordpress.com.

Eunice Kwon - Chief Operations Officer

Eunice Kwon

Chief Operations Officer  

Eunice@theSELC.org

Eunice Kwon developed her interest in economic justice while working for organized labor. Her experiences include co-writing a national report on the status of Asian Pacific American workers for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO) and researching the relationship between food manufacturers and water and irrigation districts for the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council. More recently, she was the Interim Director of the Asian Pacific American Student Development at UC Berkeley and a Coro Fellow in San Francisco. She has also worked as a graphic designer for several congressional and local campaigns, served as a housing commissioner for the City of Berkeley, and is currently on the board of Asian Women United, a non-profit that spotlights the diverse experiences of Asian American Pacific Islander women through publications, digital productions, and educational materials. She graduated UC Berkeley with dual bachelors in Ethnic Studies and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies and is committed to promoting economic empowerment in communities of color.


Sara Stephens, Staff AttorneySara Stephens

Staff Not-Yet-An-Attorney  

Sara@theSELC.org

Sara Stephens has been involved in economic and environmental justice work for several years. Her initial interest in these issues took root during her five years in Bangkok, Thailand prior to law school, where she worked with communities struggling with poverty, pollution, and displacement. After returning to the States, Sara volunteered in a community organizing effort to oppose the unjust siting of a waste transfer station in Pomona, California. During law school, Sara led a student workshop that supported Brazilian communities threatened with displacement due to a destructive development project, and participated in a community-based research project in a low-income Central Valley community. She volunteered with SELC for most of her time in law school, working with low-income entrepreneurs through the Legal Eats workshops and the Refugee Farmer Project. Her research for classes and internships focused on affordable housing law, community benefits agreements, and supporting low-income entrepreneurs and worker cooperatives. Sara has a JD from Berkeley Law and a BA in Sociology and Journalism from the University of Washington. 

Consultants


Elizabeth Burnett, Funding Development Consultant

Elizabeth Burnett

Funding Development Consultant  

In her role as a funding development consultant to SELC Elizabeth Burnett is focused on developing and diversifying the current funding sources upon which SELC relies to launch and grow the programs that build community resilience and grow local sustainable economies. An employment lawyer by training, Elizabeth developed her commitment to building community resilience and local economies four years ago working in a blighted urban food desert in Philadelphia transforming abandoned vacant lots into organic community food gardens. Upon returning to the East Bay in 2013, she became a volunteer attorney at the Legal Cafes hosted by SELC and opened a law practice to further support and grow a more just and sustainable economy by offering affordable employment law advice and assistance to cooperatives, non-profits, social enterprises and small businesses who are operating in and growing the local, sustainable economy. A graduate of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, Elizabeth has been practicing employment law in various settings for more than twenty years. She has worked at law firms, both large and small, as in-house counsel for a commercial start-up, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In these roles Elizabeth has been advising human resource professionals, drafting employment policies, preventing, investigating, mediating, arbitrating and litigating employee claims and other disputes, and developing employee training programs. In her free time she loves to bike, hike, garden and support community gardens and local farmers.

Advisors


Linda Cristal Barrera, Community Renewable Energy Program Director

Linda Cristal Barrera

Community Renewable Energy Program Advisor  

Linda@theSELC.org

Linda is a passionate advocate for solar power. She gained interest in renewable energy through her hands-on work building solar systems in communities in Nicaragua and California. At SELC, Linda keeps her finger on the pulse of local and community owned energy systems — identifying legal barriers that inform SELC’s community renewable energy policy recommendations and advocacy efforts. She also contributed to “Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy,” Janelle Orsi’s ABA bestseller.Linda earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she also obtained a Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law. She previously practiced in the area of utilities regulations as an attorney for the California Public Utilities Commission. Outside of her volunteer work with SELC, Linda serves as a natural resources attorney with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Jenny Kassan, Community Supported Entrepreneurship Program Director and SELC CoFounderJenny Kassan

Community-Supported Entrepreneurship Program Director & SELC Co-Founder 

Jenny Kassan is an attorney and community development consultant, specializing in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ventures. She is the managing director of K2 Law Group and C.E.O. of Cutting Edge Capital, a business that helps social enterprises raise capital from their communities. Her legal practice areas include small business start-up and financing, securities regulation, nonprofit law, business agreements, real estate development, franchising, cooperatives, and assessment districts. Jenny earned a masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley and earned her J.D. from Yale Law School. She worked for eleven years at the Unity Council, a nonprofit community development corporation in Oakland, where she served as staff attorney and managed community economic development projects including the formation and management of several social ventures designed to employ and create business ownership opportunities for low-income community residents.