Land Use & Entitlements

Land Use & Entitlements

The firm’s Land Use Group provides legal and planning advice at every stage of land use projects, from planning and permitting to financing and litigation.  Our attorneys have handled a variety of land use matters nationwide and in California, which has especially intricate land use and environmental protection laws requiring strong local legal representation. With our public and private sector experience in California and other states, we work effectively to entitle major projects and to secure the ordinances, zoning and plan amendments required to implement a project.

Obtaining entitlements from government for land use projects requires legal and planning knowledge of the state, regional and local plans, policies, and regulations. Our land use lawyers are conversant with a range of zoning and planning regulations and techniques, from traditional Euclidian zoning regulations, to form based codes, to LEED regulations. We have represented developers, financial institutions, partnerships and REITs in securing entitlements for master planned communities, new towns, mixed-use industrial, commercial and residential centers, conditional use permits and variances, development agreements, infill development, and annexation. Our experience representing developers or public entities in planning, development regulation and litigation gives us credibility with the public sector to obtain timely and effective development approvals for clients.

CEQA Compliance and Litigation
Our land use attorneys are experts in compliance with state environmental laws and regulations, including the California Environmental Act (CEQA). They participate in all phases of CEQA compliance, including preparation of Negative Declarations, Mitigated Negative Declarations and Environmental Impact Reports, and compilation of the documents that will constitute the administrative records for the entitlements. Our goal is to ensure to the greatest extent possible that project approvals are protected in any ensuing CEQA litigation before the trial and appellate courts. Our excellent litigation record demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach.

Master Planned Communities
We have unparalleled expertise in California with respect to master planned communities. We are or have been the primary land use counsel for numerous high-profile master planned communities in:

  • Los Angeles County
  • Orange County
  • City and County of San Francisco
  • Riverside County
  • Ventura County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Kern County
  • Contra Costa County
  • San Bernardino County
  • We assist master developers with complex issues, including all areas of land use, housing, planning and development, water supply, taxation, transportation and general infrastructure financing. We program and strategize major project developments, negotiate development agreements for the landowners involving the vesting of entitlements, and provide structure for annexations, as well as plan for litigation.

    Development Agreements
    Our attorneys are experts when it comes to drafting development agreements for our landowner and developer clients, to provide them with greater certainty in proceeding with a development project without being subjected to subsequently enacted regulations. We have handled the drafting and negotiation of development agreements for a wide range of complex land use projects, often involving multiple constituencies and interests. We also handle later related matters concerning amendments to or breach of these agreements.

    Planning and Zoning Approvals
    Our attorneys have extensive experience in working with general plans, general plan amendments, zoning changes and other permits pursuant to the Planning and Zoning Law, to assure a sound constitutional basis to guide development. We also have a track record of successfully defending these plans and amendments in court. Our experience extends to specific plans, which are especially appropriate when a development project faces unusual environmental or phasing constraints, and needs both flexibility and control.

    Subdivision Map Act
    We routinely represent many of our residential and industrial/commercial clients on matters relating to the California Subdivision Map Act, including processing tentative parcel maps, tentative tract maps and vesting tentative maps; dedications, exactions and fee requirements; subdivider improvement and reimbursement agreements; and improvement security issues. We also represent developers in legal challenges to governmental approvals of subdivision maps.

    Williamson Act
    For a phased development, a carefully planned strategy for incrementally removing Williamson Act agricultural use restrictions can maximize the Act’s tax benefits, while removing the restrictions at the most opportune time in the development process. We work with Williamson Act requirements, related contracts and mechanisms for relieving land from such requirements.

    SB 221 AND SB 610
    Our attorneys played a key role in the legislative process for SB 221 and worked with Senator Kuehl, the bill’s principal author, and development and water agency groups, to discuss and clarify the bill’s key provisions, and they have already written a number of water assessment reports under SB 610. Dubbed the “Marriage of Land Use and Water,” SB 221 is the California law requiring developers to provide evidence of a 20-year supply of water prior to obtaining approval for a tract map or development agreement involving 500 or more residential units.

    Other Services
    Conditional Use Permits, Special Permits and Variance Approvals
    Annexation Proceedings
    Initiatives and Referenda
    Public-Private Development





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