Organization: South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation

Location: Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA

Express Interest!

About South Coast Botanic Garden:

Unique from the start, South Coast Botanic Garden (SCBG) is one of the world’s first botanical gardens to be developed over a sanitary landfill. The Garden is a masterpiece of creative land reclamation and environment improvement for all to share. It is a living testimonial to the fact that land reclamation not only offers a practical solution to refuse disposal problems, but also beautifies and improves land values at the same time. The Garden has become a beautiful and restorative urban oasis among the hustle and bustle of a major mega-metropolitan area.

It’s amazing to think that at one point in time the South Coast Botanic Garden was covered by the Pacific Ocean. In the ocean were vast populations of single cell algae called diatoms. As the diatoms died they settled to the floor of the ocean and collected, leaving behind a sediment known as crude diatomite or diatomaceous earth. It has myriad industrial uses, such as for filtration and as an insulating or strengthening component in building materials.

During the early 1900’s the Dicalite Company began mining diatomaceous earth, but at this time it was mostly surface mining. By 1929, open-pit mining was being pursued. In 1944 the mine was sold to the Great Lakes Carbon Company and mining began in earnest. By 1956, production of the mine declined and the site was sold to the County of Los Angeles. From the very beginning, the County planned to utilize the best possible technology and to reclaim the land for future use. In the meantime, the site was used as a sanitary landfill to help meet the County’s growing landfill needs.

In 1961, private citizens, headed by Frances Young, prevailed upon the County Board of Supervisors to convert this site into a botanic garden. It was an exciting experiment in sanitary landfill reclamation. In April 1961, the first major planting took place with over 40,000 donated trees, shrubs and other plants. Since then, the Garden’s plant collection has significantly increased to more than 200,000 plants. This also marked the inception of the South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation. The Garden is jointly administered by the County of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and Recreation and South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation.

From open pit mine to sanitary landfill to stunning garden is the extraordinary history of South Coast Botanic Garden. This continuing experiment in land reclamation has drawn horticulturists from all over the world, including Prince Charles of England, to study the feasibility of similar projects. The success of the reclamation effort is apparent in the peaceful, shady groves and areas of spectacular color.

The South Coast Botanic Garden has come a long way. Bursting with color and varied plant and wildlife, the grounds are a spectacular sight. The Garden has much to offer: members have access to 14 Clubs and Societies to become informed about specific plant varieties, i.e. roses, cactus, geraniums, etc. At least twelve flower shows are hosted for the members and public annually. Lectures, classes, concerts and weddings fill the calendar seven days a week. All of this make South Coast Botanic Garden a year-round attraction and an “Inspiration Site” for garden ideas.

The founding membership of the Garden had a vision that has been realized with the cooperative efforts of Los Angeles County, the Foundation, and Community. The South Coast Botanic Garden is a treasure to be cherished for this and future generations.

The Opportunity:

At this exciting point in its growth, the South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation (SCBGF) seeks a thoughtful, experienced and strategic Chief Operating Officer (COO) to join the senior leadership team and lead the Garden’s day-to-day operations, oversee finance and administration, and project manage the Garden’s capital growth projects. This is an ideal opportunity for a strategic, technically skilled and knowledgeable operations and finance professional to join a team that will transform SCBG to become one of the top botanic gardens in the Southern California region. The Garden is poised to increase its annual operating budget exponentially which will lead to several capital enhancements and improvements throughout the property over the next five years.

Serving as the key strategic partner to the CEO, the COO oversees all operational and financial activities related to the Garden and the strategic vision plan. The COO will report directly to the CEO and will provide leadership and managerial oversight to staff and vendors across the areas of operations, finance, IT systems and infrastructure, human resources, facilities and ancillary services (including the gift shop and plant propagation program), event services, and budget management, including for capital projects. A primary function of the role will be to work effectively to maintain the positive working relationship with the County of Los Angeles. The COO provides the CEO and Board of Trustees with operational and other pertinent information necessary for making key administrative decisions that are fundamental to the Garden. The Chief Operating Officer will establish, cultivate, and maintain excellent working relationships with staff and volunteers, external partners (including the County of Los Angeles), consultants, and will earn the respect and confidence of the Garden’s members and visitors.

Key Responsibilities

  • Serve as project manager and point person for all day-to-day activity at SCBG, including management of any filming or rental activity, gift shop, membership services, IT and other ancillary services including the propagation program. Working closely with the County of Los Angeles, the COO coordinates major projects involving the facilities and Garden, ensuring compliance with contractual, regulatory, and municipal requirements.
  • Serves as strategic projects administrator for the CEO, including the coordination and planning for all Board meetings. The COO will provide guidance and oversight to the CEO and the Board regarding any developments with the County of Los Angeles, and will oversee and coordinate as necessary.
  • Provides special project support to the CEO and the Board of Trustees related to planning for the capital campaign, planned or future capital improvements, and related projects/initiatives.
  • Serves as the Chief Financial Officer for SCBG, administering the business office and overseeing responsibility for SCBG’s financial and tax reporting as well as outside banking and accounting relationships. The COO will review and approve operational and project based budget, including cash management and cash flow forecasts, investment of operating cash, reserve funds, and endowment. S/he ensures compliance with contractual and external obligations, including with banking partners and IRS regulatory reporting.

Core Competencies:

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) will serve as the thought partner to the CEO on all operational and financial activities and initiatives at South Coast Botanic Garden. The ideal candidate will be strategic and results-driven with strong leadership skills and a proven track record of success in similar roles of progressively greater responsibility. S/he will have a strong finance and operations background, excellent relationship-building capabilities, and impeccable communication skills. A strong complement to the CEO, the COO will be relied upon for good business judgment, an analytical mindset, great capacity for flexibility and adaptability to shifting priorities or needs, and sound and influential decision-making abilities. This leader will also be integral in shaping a positive and spirited internal culture and will address opportunities and challenges in this area as the Garden operations grows and evolves.

The ideal candidate will have at least 8 years of management experience in a finance and/or operations role at a nonprofit, arts and cultural organization, or education institution. Finance and operations executives with private sector experience who are mission-driven will also be considered. Ideally, this individual will also have an elevated technical capacity, able to effectively lead the IT infrastructure at SCBGF. The COO will also understand the basic principles of leading the human resources and facilities functions at the Garden. S/he will have the business savvy and good judgment to establish the necessary trust and credibility with the CEO, Board of Trustees, the County of Los Angeles, SCBG colleagues, volunteers, members, and other external partners.

In addition, ideal candidates will have the following core competencies, personal qualities and qualifications:

Expertise in Operations and Finance

The Chief Operating Officer will have had strategic oversight over finance and operations with a measurable track record of success in developing and implementing strategies, policies, and processes. Knowledgeable of current best practices in IT, with the skill to implement and manage the technical infrastructure at the Garden, this executive will have demonstrated expertise in a range of administrative functions with knowledge of best practices, tools and metrics, and be a resourceful problem-solver. S/he will be a self-motivated team player who will partner with the CEO, Board of Trustees and staff in identifying key operational and administrative needs, opportunities and strategies. The COO will understand and have the ability to provide advice and counsel around the planning and implementation of large capital projects, human resources management and administration, and be flexible in adapting to the emerging needs of the Garden as they develop through the implementation of the Garden’s vision plan. S/he will serve as the thought leader in these areas for SCBGF’s Board of Trustees and CEO, providing thoughtful, focused insight on various projects and initiatives in a clear, collaborative manner.

Strategic and Entrepreneurial Leadership

In partnership with the CEO, the Chief Operating Officer will have the ability to develop and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies aimed towards elevating the overall administrative function of SCBG, including in the areas of human resources, facilities, and operations. S/he will inspire quality performance and enhance morale with the leadership capacity to build, nurture and retain a strong team of professionals that is focused on excellence, accountability and efficiency. Critical to success in this role, the COO will be flexible in adjusting as priorities emerge and change; s/he will be a nimble problem-solver, able to balance multiple tasks efficiently and effectively. The COO will have a high level of business acumen and judgment, with the ability to make practical, realistic, data driven, and timely decisions. S/he will understand, analyze and interpret complex problems and utilize appropriate approaches to achieve sustainable solutions with the sophistication to be creative in identifying and developing new strategies to ‘get things done’.

Relationship Builder and Collaborator

The Chief Operating Officer will have demonstrated success in developing, managing, cultivating and leveraging major relationships. The COO will be a collaborative partner with all administrative functions, and will lead by developing strong working and interpersonal relationships across all levels of SCBG, including with the County of Los Angeles and the Board. With strong facilitation and negotiation skills, the COO will possess the ability to communicate effectively with diverse constituencies, including the Board of Trustees, the County, members, visitors, and SCBG staff and volunteers. A superior communicator, s/he will be a bridge-builder internally and an effective networker who seeks relationships that further SCBG’s mission and vision plan. The COO will effectively share information with any appropriate individuals, keeping the CEO and others up-to-date on matters related to overall finance and operations priorities or needs, and will work to establish regular, structured communication across the organization. By leading collaboratively from relationships and partnerships, the COO will be able to synthesize divergent views and coalesce all community members around a shared plan.

Passion for the Mission

The Chief Operating Officer will have a passion and commitment for mission, history and vision for South Coast Botanic Garden, a respect for its place in the community and a desire to elevate the profile and overall experience of the Garden. S/he will understand how the role of COO contributes to the overall mission, drawing inspiration for the position from the community and SCBG staff. The COO will prioritize the experience of the members and visitors, Board of Trustees and staff, endeavoring to raise the quality of the overall environment at SCBG. Driven by the mission, s/he will influence the culture and impact of SCBG through the modeling and adoption of best practices. The COO will be an empathic individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values, treating others with respect.


The South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Medelene Beasley. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here or email Michelle and Medelene at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director
Medelene Beasley

South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from all individuals regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and evaluate all candidates based on merit.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit