Iqra casually discovered the field of landscape architecture while browsing through a local university listing of undergraduate majors. While initially assuming that her interests in both the arts and the environment were conflicting, she quickly realized that they could be combined! Since completing her studies, Iqra has joined the Callander Team and worked hard to pass her licensing exams and see various projects through from design to construction. Outside of work, you may find Iqra baking and photographing desserts, traveling to new places, and spending time with her family.
Whether it’s working with community members or our own staff, our professional enjoyment is a result of the interactions and experiences that happen in the workplace. That’s why creativity, mentorship and teamwork are invaluable attributes at CALA that make the process as rewarding as the outcome.
The belief that people and places thrive through collaborative efforts is what CALA has brought to Northern CA communities since Peter Callander put pencil to paper in 1973. Today, while our team has grown and evolved, managing principals Ben Woodside, Brian Fletcher, Dave Rubin, Marie Mai, and Melissa Ruth continue to build off the tutelage of Peter and the firm remains as relevant today as the day the doors first opened.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin.
In recognition that what we know today will not be sufficient tomorrow, we utilize a continuing education program centered around five action groups. Action groups are an opportunity to align employee passion with project types. We foster a culture of independence and inquiry, freely exchanging information and ideas, and even gently pushing each other’s boundaries.
Isabella (Izzy) CarreraProject Designer
Izzy is an aspiring landscape architect from Los Angeles, California. She has always loved visiting parks, which is partially what inspired her to pursue a landscape architecture degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As a designer she aims to create lively public spaces that place both community and sustainability at the forefront of the design. Outside of work, Izzy enjoys traveling, reading, doing Pilates and yoga, finding new recipes to cook, and looking for the best matcha latte in the Bay Area.
Dania CastroJob Captain
Whether she’s attending outdoor yoga classes or running through park trails, Dania not only loves utilizing outdoor spaces but has a strong passion for creating them. Her out of office hobbies within health and fitness have always influenced her design decisions. The goal of creating environments in which people can flourish is expressed in her work. If she’s not at her desk, she’s most likely on a plane to her next bucket list destination or at the gym lifting weights.
Alice DengJob Captain
Since relocating to California from China in 2015 and joining CALA that same year, Alice has been able to build a bridge between her two worlds through the language of graphic design! Although the style, standards, and materials may be different, the elements of great design are the same. Her exceptional Sketchup and graphics skills have been a welcome addition to the Burlingame office and to the company as a whole. Outside of work Alice indulges in her other passions for great food, fitness and travel.
Sonja DittoHR Director // Marketing Manager
In addition to the many hats Sonja wears, she is responsible for our internal growth (as our Human Resources Manager) and our external growth (as our Business Development Manager) since joining CALA in 2010. When she is not at work you can find Sonja feeding her soul at home or on the beach with her husband, daughters, and German Shepherd; or volunteering her time in her local school district as Chairperson and board member for a couple non-profits as well as coaching middle school boys and girls volleyball. “I have always had a coaching mindset and implement that in everything I do, whether it’s at work, volunteering, on the court or home. I believe good coaches are mentors, great listeners, empower others, and have an open mind to learn from those they are working with…all while having fun in the process!”
Brian FletcherPrincipal - PLA, ASLA, LEED AP
Since the start of my career I have been fascinated with the design process. Nothing excited me more than creating alternative after alternative on seemingly never ending rolls of tracing paper. My day wasn’t meaningful unless the trash can was full of crumpled attempts and my hands were covered in ink. However, it wasn’t until I experienced my first community workshop that I began to realize how dependent strong communication skills were to the design process.
Design and communication have continued to be my passions. Over the years I have been able to build confidence in my own abilities as well as develop a great set of tools and techniques. By working closely with our clients to determine their specific project goals, CALA is able to develop customized outreach strategies to maximize input and consensus. Now my most meaningful days include personal interactions with community members and well supported designs as they reach Council.
Now we are all challenged with continuing to build upon Peter Callander’s legacy. I have the opportunity and responsibility to shape the direction of the office and of the careers of our staff. My goals moving forward are to foster an environment that people want to work and grow in while providing exceptional service to our clients and building great communities.
Ronald HoProject Designer
Before transferring from community college to UC, where he was an Architecture major, Ron stumbled upon a presentation about landscape architecture and decided to give it a go! He transferred to UC Davis, where he was thrilled to study the combination of artistic environmental design and his passion for outdoor sports/activities. Ron took part in CALA’s internship program in 2022 and once graduated became part of the CALAfam full time! When he is not working, you can find him building Legos, playing/watching sports, playing PC games, watching movies, and hanging out with his super cute cat, Coco.
Amanda HoltmanJob Captain
After graduating from Iowa State university in 2016, Amanda moved to California to join the team at Callander Associates. Callander Associates has given her the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects expanding her knowledge of the profession. One thing she loves about landscape architecture is connecting different communities through design solutions. In her spare time, you can find Amanda hanging out with friends, playing ultimate Frisbee, cycling, hiking and cooking.
Grant HuangProject Manager - PLA
Grant was born and raised in the Bay Area and went to school at UC Davis where he quickly found his passion for a career in landscape architecture. Following graduation, he worked as a project manager for landscape construction in the new home building industry where he had the privilege of learning about the execution process of many of the projects he is now designing today. As much as he enjoyed being out on the construction site, his passion for creativity led Grant to Callander Associates where he contributes to developing the form and function of the urban setting here in the Bay Area. In his free time he enjoys surfing, rooting for Oakland sports and petting dogs.
Zachary KatzProject Manager - PLA, RQP
Zach’s love for plants and the environment started in kindergarten during a school-wide planting effort on Earth Day. While studying landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, he was able to continue developing his passion, focusing on environmental and planting design. Since joining Callander in 2012, he has become a Bay Friendly qualified professional and continues to apply what he learned in school to his everyday work. His favorite part of being a landscape architect is being able to create spaces for people to interact with the outdoor environment, in hope that they may develop a passion of their own. During his free time, he finds himself talking to plants once in a while, but for the most part playing sports, cooking, taking care of his carnivorous plants, and demanding extra rainbow sprinkles on his ice cream.
Kelly OcampoJob Captain - PLA, CPSI, SITES AP
Kelly is a young aspiring landscape architect passionate about design and sustainability (social and environmental). She enjoys working on parks, play areas, and streets. When she is not designing, Kelly likes to go rock climbing with friends and experiment with cooking recipes.
Marie MaiPrincipal/COO - PLA, ASLA, CPSI
For Marie, Landscape Architecture is the perfect marriage of creative artistry and technical finesse. Coming from a background in biology and history, Marie delayed graduation in pursuit of a triple major, eventually settling for a double. Fast forward 17 years and dozens of projects later, she is glad she took the “super senior” route. Every day brings a new challenge, and Marie is glad to work on such a wide range of project types to help clients resolve their most pressing problems. “The most rewarding aspect of landscape architecture for me is seeing the transformation of things. Sparks of ideas sketched on pieces of trace morph into public facilities that one can visit, play on, and walk through. A previously derelict parcel of land becomes a vibrant neighborhood park that serves local families. It’s gratifying to be part of the change that makes our communities better.” In her spare time, Marie likes to go to concerts, go camping, garden, and spend time with her family.
Carissa MaProject Designer
Carissa was born and raised in Elk Grove, California and went to college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. After choosing Landscape Architecture as a major out of curiosity, she became interested in the idea of sustainability and designing unique landscapes for people and communities. She often looks forward to spending time with my family and traveling, and appreciating the variety of landscapes she has come to see. During her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the beach, petting dogs, and eating!
Dan MillerSenior Associate - PLA, ASLA, LEED AP
Dan was an east coast transplant before finding home here in California in 2003. As a kid he had an excitement for design and building, whether it was with Legos or drawing comic books. Through the years this passion focused on design of the built environment. Initially beginning his studies in Architecture, Dan quickly began to appreciate the opportunities that the practice of Landscape Architecture provided and shifted his focus toward the study and design of outdoor spaces. “I love the opportunity to utilize all kinds of building materials (trees, shrubs, wood, rock, metal, concrete, etc.) to create spaces that people not only move through, but truly experience in a way that impacts their everyday life in some way.” In addition to his leadership role as Associate in the firm, Dan utilizes his love for technology and is continuously exploring opportunities to improve design and communication in the Callander studios. Outside of the office you can often find Dan DJ-ing Saturday morning family dance parties, passing his Lego passion to his two children or exploring the wine country with his wife and friends.
Brian NeshekProject Designer
Born and raised in sunny southern California, Brian has always been drawn to outdoor spaces. He is passionate about creating strong connections between communities while highlighting the benefits green infrastructure has on the environment and people. As an avid runner, he understands the importance of complete streets and safe trail networks, and since joining CALA in 2023 has had the opportunity to implement these concepts into the projects he is working on. When he is not at work, you can find him traveling and looking for the next outdoor adventure such as going to the beach, hiking, and camping.
Nate RitchieProject Manager - PLA
Nate’s interest in influencing the built environment started at an early age while helping maintain his parents’ elaborate gardens. Driven by an engineering mindset, Landscape Architecture provided a way to merge environmentalism with an enthusiasm for design and technology. He joined Callander Associates as a college intern in 2002; and after a brief leave to pursue a career in computer networking, Nate came back to the firm realizing it was well-aligned with his personal values and provided the perfect outlet for his creative passions. “It’s rewarding to participate in the design process, see my ideas get built, and ultimately think I am improving people’s lives when they use what I helped design.”
Outside of his work responsibilities, Nate enjoys the pursuit of health and human performance. Whether it’s providing nutritional support with his raw food diet, using bio-hacks to enhance mental function, or conditioning his body through fitness activities; Nate has found that maintaining a high-level of personal health increases his ability to manage complex projects at work with a determined focus and greater ease.
Dave RubinPrincipal/CFO - PLA, ASLA, QSD/P
Since joining Callander Associates in 2004, Dave has risen through the ranks and grown into an Associate role. Over the years, he’s had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of project types and project scales, delivering top-notch facilities for his clients. As a die-hard sports fan and former baseball player, he particularly enjoys the opportunity to design athletic facilities. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his son’s little league team and dancing with his daughter in the kitchen.
Melissa RuthPrincipal/CCO - PLA, ASLA, QSD/P, CPD
Since joining Callander Associates in 2003, Melissa has designed and managed a wide range of projects from small urban plazas to 100+ acre community parks. Her involvement in projects from concept to construction has allowed for a well-rounded knowledge of the built environment, including designing for site safety and sustainability. As a Gemini, Melissa thrives on a good design challenge and looks for ways to implement subtle surprises into the design to help activate spaces. “One of my favorite things about this profession is not only seeing your creations built but enjoying them with my two boys and hearing them ask to go back!” Even when she is not at work her favorite things still involve creating…from designing and working in her garden (which surprisingly looks nothing like her designs, as she is a self- described plant hoarder), to creating the most amazing meals for her family with limited pantry ingredients (while pretending to be on one of those cooking competitions shows).
Shawn SanfilippoConstruction Manager/Arborist - CLIA, ISA
A third generation Californian with a BS degree in Horticulture, Shawn never imagined being a Construction Manager for a Landscape Architecture firm. He worked in various landscape fields before coming to CA; estimating, project management, sales, construction and even working on a golf course, but no job felt right. Now, he review’s plans and specifications, work closely with the clients and contractors and see projects to construction. It’s not always easy, but is rewarding in the end. His Arborist and Irrigation Auditor certifications add another aspect of value to already talented team of individuals. When not working, he enjoys just about everything outdoors and when inside, cooking and watching movies with his family.
Belinda SetliffProject Designer
Belinda is a Northern California native growing up in the foothills of El Dorado County. It was here that she developed a passion for the outdoors tending to the landscape of her family home. While attending UC Davis she rowed for the collegiate team and had the opportunity to study abroad in France. While in Europe she was greatly influenced by the many urban parks the cities have to offer. Her passions include rowing, games, eating ice cream, spending time with family and friends and all things travel.
Melinda WangJob Captain - PLA
Melinda’s interest in environmental studies and design led her to find landscape architecture. She feels landscape architecture has the greatest potential to improve urban environments where there is a higher density of people and a greater need for public amenities. Landscape architecture creates and enhances those public pockets, be it creating safer streets for all users, or activating plazas and improving neighborhood parks. As someone who runs and bikes for recreation, she knows how important safer bike lanes and trail networks are. She also has a strong interest in projects related to food systems, mental health, and marginalized communities. Engaging community members in the design process is crucial to creating spaces that work well, and Melinda always looks forward to opportunities to hear from the people she’s designing for. When she’s not in the office, she is probably running in her neighborhood, or thinking about the next time she’ll go trail running in the redwoods.
Arum WoodProject Designer
Arum grew up in South Korea playing in her grandfather’s garden, and she believes everyone should have a happy place surrounded by plants. Her interests include sustainability, aesthetics, and comfort of design. She is passionate about blending the connection between landscape and building with subtle details. Before joining Callander Associates, she moved from Seattle to Monterey to Dallas, and finally to Northern California experiencing a variety different and unique landscapes. In her free time she loves working on her art projects and playing with her dog.
Ben WoodsidePresident/Principal - PLA, ASLA
The busier life gets the more folks value public spaces. Landscape Architecture improves lives by providing an escape from the grind and technology that drowns them, making places where we can be human together, be families together.
Having started at CALA as an intern, my biggest influence was – and continues to be – Peter Callander. He took what I learned while at Cal Poly (‘learn-by-doing’, context-oriented design, form follows function, the importance of site analysis – all that good stuff) and nurtured and refined it in such a way that it continues to shape my career. He taught all of us that being honest and likable goes far and that building trust is everything. Most challenging about being a principal at CALA is balancing the desire to do anything for our clients and staff with the reality of running a business. On the flip side, it’s important to not take ourselves too seriously and I enjoy reminding myself and others to laugh on a daily basis.
Danielle ZepedaAdministrative Specialist, Contract Administrator
Born and raised in Northern California, Danielle describes herself as a tried and true “City” kid. Splitting her childhood between the multicultural Mission District in San Francisco, and the suburban Peninsula she is deeply connected to her Hispanic roots and loves living between the best of both worlds. At Callander Associates she is our administrator extraordinaire making sure everything is running smoothly in our Burlingame office and is our Contract Administrator and Marketing Coordinator for all offices. With a Libra’s keen eye for organization and attention to detail, these are her favorite hats to wear! In her spare time, she can be found cheering on the San Jose Sharks and Barracuda at a hockey game, volunteering with Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, counting down the days to Halloween, spending time at the movies, and ALWAYS running away to Disneyland.