Villa Alamar opened in 1996 and quickly became the gold standard for memory care in Santa Barbara, California. Its architectural features are uniquely suited for the care of residents living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Residents can safely make use of indoor and outdoor environments to maintain an active and engaging lifestyle.  A stimulating environment is emphasized at Villa Alamar.  Its open pathways and beautiful courtyards offer a perfect dementia care community.

In 2018, Villa Alamar was acquired by a group of local residents who are now responsible for its management.  At the core of our care philosophy is our belief in working in close collaboration with family members and medical teams to achieve the best ongoing quality of care for each of our residents.

Our Management Team


Mitch Leichter

Mitch started his healthcare career as a Recreation Therapist  in 1996, specialized in aromatherapy and holistic treatments. He obtained his Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) Administrator’s license in 2000. Today, in addition to Villa Alamar, Mitch is the Administrator/Partner at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living in Santa Barbara.

Mitch is a past recipient of the California Assisted Living Association (CALA) Award for his Sensory Integration Program for dementia patients, program which he brings to Villa Alamar to the delight of our residents.

In his spare time Mitch enjoys being at the beach with friends and family. He is always looking to add an awesome new design to his extensive Hawaiian shirt collection.


Joseph Newlan, LVN
Associate Executive Director

Joseph has over 25 years of experience as a nurse. He is certified in Advanced Care Planning Facilitation, phlebotomy, and RCFE Administration.  Joseph’s nursing career encompasses many fields ranging from Sub-Acute Care, Hospice, Home Health, Adult Day Care, Dementia, and Assisted Living.

He is a 5th generation Santa Barbarian and has a passion for serving seniors in our community. Along with his work at Villa Alamar, he is the Associate Executive Director at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living.

He believes it is important to build a working team that provides consistent, quality care with a resident/family focus. “We treat the residents and their family as one unit,” says Joseph.  “The emotional health and care of our family members is as important as the care we give our residents.”


Shandy Newlan, LVN
Resident Services Director

Shandy is a SBCC graduate and has been an LVN for over 25 years. She started her nursing career at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in their Subacute unit.  Then Shandy has served as a hospice nurse for 21 years with Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara, working in their inpatient hospice house for 5 ½ of those years and in the remainder years in in-home hospice services.

Being born and raised locally adds to her commitment to our community.  She loves being a part of Villa Alamar’s wonderful team and champions our collaborative approach to caregiving. Working in close partnership with her husband, Joseph, is definitely another plus of the job!

Shandy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, playing music and dancing.


Luciana Mitzkun Weston
Community Services Director

Luciana is a licensed RCFE Administrator and memory care specialist, with over 25 years of experience in assisting families and patients affected with dementia, such as in Alzheimer’s disease. Formerly a Care Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association, Luciana brings extensive knowledge in care planning and working in collaboration with diverse supportive organizations and community leaders. She is also a certified Mediator and Support Group Facilitator, providing additional direct support to our families.

Luciana is the author of two popular books on memory care, Ahead of Dementia and Ahead of Memory Loss, resources that bring valuable information and strategies to patients and caregivers affected with memory-related conditions. Her work is also available in Spanish, Un Paso Adelante de la Demencia.

When she is not assisting patients and their families or writing, Luciana likes to travel, swim, snorkel, and dance to country music with her husband, The Roy.



Ingrid Estrella
Administrative Services Director

Ingrid earned her A.A. in Liberal Studies and her certification in Addictive Disorders Counseling at Santa Barbara City College. She is a licensed RCFE administrator.

A proud Santa Barbara native, first generation Mexican-American, Ingrid is also the owner of Game-Seeker, a popular table games store on 537 State St.

In her spare time Ingrid enjoys riding her Vespa, relaxing at the beach, and spending time with family and friends.




Maria Porter
Life Enrichment Director

Maria was born and raised in Seattle, where she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in drama.

She volunteered in nursing homes during her high school and college years, where she found her passion for working with seniors. Maria has worked as an Activity Director since 1997. She moved to Santa Barbara in 2014.

Maria loves working with our residents and their families. She believes it is her life’s calling and feels very blessed serving seniors, who thoroughly enjoy the fun activities and programs she creates with them.

Beyond her work day, Maria enjoys abstract acrylic painting, participating in toastmasters (a public speaking club) and dancing.