Maria Ornelas

Maria Ornelas

Los Angeles, CA, US

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I'm Maria Ornelas and I'm from Guadalajara, Mexico. I arrived to the US in 2005 and in 2008 I was accepted to Cal Poly Pomona as an Architecture student. I completed my studies by 2015 and started working as an independent contractor for a small office in West Los Angeles.

Initially, my career goal was to become a Medical Planner. During my years in Cal Poly I took some studios and classes related to Healthcare Design. My years in Cal Poly Pomona were very challenging due to my immigration status. Although I was able to study under the AB540 law, I couldn't either get a paid internship, much less a job, since I had no work authorization. Unfortunately I also didn't meet the requirements to obtain DACA, which probably would had helped me pursue the Healthcare Design goal.

Working for this small office, though, opened a wide space for me to learn. The office is an expert in multifamily projects. For the last five years, I have been able to get a lot of experience to deliver a comprehensive permit set for apartment buildings. Doing this job made me realize that I'm interested in research, building codes, and finding ways to solve problems for figuring out these buildings in terms of Program Eligibility (such as Density Bonus or TOC), maximum square footage, density, parking requirements and exemptions, open space distribution, specific plan guidelines, ordinances, Q conditions, and anything else that can affect the final product, and therefore, the client's finances.

For the last year, I opened up to the idea of opening my own office. Together with my husband, we founded FO Studio. At FO Studio, we are currently taking small projects such as ADU's using the latest Los Angeles ordinance, (new construction, and garage conversions), remodels, additions, and single family homes. We are also on the way to finish our ARE tests and become licensed architects in California. 

As of now, I don't know if the Healthcare Design path would be an option, but at least now there's more options and new windows opening by just persevering in this career.

Maria's School Blog on Archinect:


Welcome to my "blog"!!! A space where I have never known how to put in writing what I really think. If I feel inspired, I will be writing about whatever I feel like during the day. It may or not be about Architecture. So don't expect much, but let me know if somehow what I say made you think, reflect, or if you disagree. No Judgements here!

Category Title


FO Studio, Los Angeles, CA, US, Co-founder

-Assist clients to legalize, convert, or build ADUs and JADUs under the new ordinance in Los Angeles
-Home renovations
-Small Additions to Single Family
-New construction for Single Family homes

Jun 2019 - current

SG Design, Los Angeles, CA, US, Architectural Designer

-Involved in the delivery of Permit Sets for Multifamily Projects in all sizes.
-I collaborate in all design phases: schematic plans with 3D models, preparation of submittals to Planning Department (when applicable) and Building and Safety, as well as Fire Code, up to the Ready to Issue.
-Experience with both Density Bonus Program and TOC (Transit Oriented Communities) programs in Los Angeles.
- Basic coordination with Structural, Electrical, Civil, and Mechanical Engineers during the preparation of the plans.
-Building Code knowledge
-Ability to address RFI's and questions from the job sites.
-Ability to work in a fast paced-efficiency environment.

Jul 2015 - current


Sep 2008 - Jun 2015


Interim Exhibition Spring 2014, Honorable Mention

Transit Orienter Design Studio
Professor Barry Milofsky


LA Conservancy Interview, Other

The LA Conservancy showed up to the Final Review of our Transit Oriented Design studio. Since the project was dealing with a restaurant (Johnie's Diner in Los Angeles) that at the time was fighting not to be demolished, the LA Conservancy was interested in looking at students' work to see the possible solutions in incorporating the now LA landmark into a mix-use building as well as a train station. I was interviewed and my short response to the project will be up in their website as soon as they finish editing the video.


Areas of Specialization