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Land Use and Environmental

Land Use

The attorneys in the Firm's Land Use and Environmental Department have the expertise and experience to address the broad spectrum of legal issues that arise from the use, development, and management of real property and natural resources. 

Our attorneys assist clients in obtaining permits, licenses, certifications and other governmental approvals for new real estate development projects, the expansion, modernization or closure of existing commercial and industrial facilities, and the remediation of contaminated “brownfield” sites.  The Firm's technical expertise and extensive experience working with regulatory, administrative and adjudicative bodies at all governmental levels enable our lawyers to identify issues, evaluate options, develop viable strategies and foresee problems that could lead to litigation.  If litigation becomes necessary, our attorneys can effectively challenge unlawful agency decisions and defend our clients' rights in both trial and appellate courts.

The attorneys in the Land Use Group, chaired by John Bowman, have the experience and specialized knowledge necessary to navigate the increasingly complex maze of local, state and federal laws regulating the use and development of real property.  The Firm's land use attorneys have worked in jurisdictions throughout California and have particular expertise in the areas of zoning and building codes; general and specific plans; subdivisions and lot line adjustments; conditional use permits, variances and other discretionary land use approvals for residential, commercial, industrial and mixed-use projects; development agreements; development fees and other exactions; historic preservation; coastal development, restoration and permitting; regulatory “takings”; and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Our attorneys are adept at developing and implementing effective strategies for obtaining the broad range of permits and land use approvals (entitlements) needed for various development projects.  Our services cover the entire spectrum of activities involved in the land use planning, entitlement and development processes, including the completion of land use “due diligence” reviews; preparing and processing applications for permits and land use entitlements; coordinating the efforts of other project consultants; negotiating and drafting agreements concerning the use and development of land; working with environmental professionals and agency staff to ensure that required environmental documentation (e.g., environmental impact report) is legally adequate; communicating with agency staff, elected and other public officials and community stakeholders; representing our clients before Planning Commissions, City Councils, and other decision makers throughout the entitlement process; and advising our clients throughout project construction and occupancy to ensure that all applicable legal requirements are met.  We also represent clients in the prosecution or defense of lawsuits challenging governmental land use decisions, including actions brought under CEQA.

Recent experiences include obtaining entitlements for a creative office project in West Los Angeles; sucessfully defending a real estate developer in a lawsuit involving signage rights in Hollywood; negotiation of a favorable settlement in a CEQA action challenging the approvals for a medical mixed-use project; performance of land use due diligence reviews for several major real estate transactions; representation of a geologic hazard abatement district in connection with a 1.1 mile beach and dune restoration project; representation of multiple coastal property owners in connection with coastal development permitting and entitlements; advocacy on behalf of multiple Malibu-area clients regarding septic system upgrade and retrofit issues

Environmental issues arise in litigation, transactional, or regulatory matters concerning the sale, purchase, financing, or operation of real property; project development and redevelopment; the operation, sale or purchase of businesses; applications for licenses or permits; public offerings and private placements.  The Environmental Group, led by Ken Ehrlich, assists clients in the identification, analysis and resolution of problems related to: a) the discovery, assessment, management, remediation and disposal of hazardous materials; b) sensitive or threatened habitat or species; and c) the use, reuse or disposal of mining and other natural or renewable resource areas.

Our lawyers bring vast regulatory and administrative expertise to the most complex environmental problems involving manufacturing and production facilities, brownfield properties, mining sites, port terminals, energy facilities, oil and chemical facilities, coastal parcels and retail businesses. The group regularly represents clients in matters involving litigation, regulatory and administrative compliance, disclosure, cleanup or any of the full range of environmental issues involving air, water and soil media.  

Our clients' environmental matters typically concern air or water quality regulatory  compliance issues, including the RECLAIM program, SB 32, waste discharge requirements, streambed alteration agreements, and water quality certification processes imposed by regional air boards, regional water boards, or the Army Corps of Engineers.  Environmental or hazardous materials issues also arise under the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) regulations and related “right to know” rules.

Environmental litigation often concerns the allocation of responsibility for  contamination, as well as obligations of parties to determine and disclose potential environmental problems and the existence of hazardous materials on property.  Other environmental litigation involves statutory violations, administrative or legal actions initiated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, State Water Resources Control Board and other federal, state and local agencies.  Litigation may also require parties to claim or participate in paying for clean-up costs of hazardous materials, particularly under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (“RCRA”), the federal Clean Water Act, federal Clean Air Act, or California's Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, and other statutes and regulations, as well as other common law theories.

Further, disaster recovery presents significant environmental problems requiring immediate attention.  Firm lawyers have developed significant expertise representing policyholders in disputes with insurance companies involving environmental contamination claims.

Recent experiences include defending multiple parties in a private cost-recovery and contribution action brought under CERCLA in connection with the cleanup of a Superfund landfill site; a similar defense in connection with claimed discharges of pollutants into Southern California coastal waters; resolving enforcement and permitting issues related to a major regional limestone mine; representation of landfill owners/operators and brownfield developers before state and local agencies, and performance of due diligence on hundreds of transactions involving real estate and other corporate assets.

Attorneys in the Environmental Group also represent mining and renewable resource clients in all aspects of project development, permitting, construction, operations, maintenance and closure.  These engagements involve the full range of federal, state, regional and local agencies. 

The Firm’s Land Use and Environmental Department works collaboratively with the Firm’s real estate, tax, litigation and corporate departments to counsel a wide array of clients whose businesses are best served by a multidisciplinary approach.  The Firm’s lawyers have the depth of experience to handle land use, environmental, and natural resource matters in a client-centered, efficient matter—always focusing on the desired outcome.

For example, our land use and environmental lawyers work together in matters involving sensitive or threatened habitat, biological assessments, endangered species, Marine Protected Areas, mining and natural resource matters to achieve the preferred result within complicated, and sometimes overlapping, federal, state and regional jurisdictions.