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Land Use

Land Use

As a California law firm, we have extensive experience representing clients in all phases of the California land use approval process, from simple use permits to complicated specific plan adoptions, development agreements, and other legislative approvals. We also, when the need has arisen, have litigated land use issues in state and federal court.

With respect to the entitlement process, our attorneys have developed close working relationships with agency staff and public officials across the entire State, from Humboldt County to San Diego County. With offices located in Northern California, the Bay Area, and Southern California, we have experience in most California cities and counties, and are adept at forging valuable partnerships in new jurisdictions. 

We represent developers, property owners, investors, financial institutions, private citizens, and governmental entities in all aspects of development, and have helped them entitle hundreds of millions of square feet of development throughout California, including:

  • Residential projects (including affordable, market-rate, faculty, work force, transitional, supportive, and other housing types)
  • Life science campuses supporting international operations
  • Regional hospitals
  • Research and development centers
  • Wineries and vineyards
  • Agricultural facilities
  • Innovative mixed-use development
  • Mining and quarry operations
  • Desalinization facilities
  • Recycling facilities (handling both waste and aggregate)
  • Shopping centers
  • Office campuses and business parks
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Terminal expansions
  • Race track facilities
  • Solar energy projects 
  • Battery storage projects
  • Intermodal transport facilities at California’s busiest ports

Our land use team not only has proficiency in securing approvals and conducting environmental review, but has extensive experience litigating land use matters in judicial and administrative venues. Having experience in both disciplines helps our attorneys, in entitlement matters, "see down the road" and avoid litigation risks whereas, in litigation matters, understanding how administrative records are formed has positioned our litigators formulate arguments and identify evidence with greater efficiency, comprehensiveness, and creativity.

To bring added value, we work closely and cross-train with our environmental and real estate transactional practices, enabling us to efficiently assist clients in identifying, evaluating and resolving potential environmental and real estate issues in real property acquisitions, sales and project approvals. This includes participating in clients’ due diligence by analyzing Phase 1 Environmental Assessments, title documents, and other materials to documenting existing issues to minimize risk.


  • General plans, specific plans and amendments
  • Zoning ordinances and amendments
  • Initiatives and opposition to referenda
  • CEQA and NEPA compliance
  • Subdivision approvals
  • Housing laws and entitlement strategies under the State Density Bonus Law and Housing Accountability Act, including under Senate Bill 330 and the Builder's Remedy 
  • Development agreements
  • LAFCO/boundary changes
  • Design review and historic preservation
  • Due diligence review in acquiring, selling, leasing, and financing real estate
  • California Coastal Act
  • Surplus Lands Act
  • Takings, exactions, dedications, and fees
  • Vested rights
  • Permit Streamlining Act
  • Brown Act
  • Prevailing Wage
  • Williamson Act
  • Natural resource permitting (including under the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act Sections 401 and 404)
  • Code enforcement 
  • Religious facilities

Representative Clients

  • Developers
  • Property owners
  • Investors
  • Financial institutions
  • Private citizens
  • Governmental entities (e.g., cities, counties, water districts, transportation districts, and joint powers authorities)

Representative Matters

  • Assisted multinational pharmaceutical corporation redevelop its $1 billion campus in proximity to the San Francisco Bay, including negotiation of a development agreement and coordination of environmental review.
  • Assisted developers with obtaining approvals of affordable housing projects, requiring implementation of various strategies under the Housing Accountability Act, including the filing of Senate Bill 330 applications and exercise of the Builder’s Remedy.
  • Assisted multiple developers in processing approval of specific plan developments in Northern California and the Monterey Peninsula, with each project consisting of thousands of residential units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial and industrial uses.
  • Represented a large, well-known Bay Area computer animation studio in securing a development agreement and zoning for a four- phase headquarters project.
  • Represented numerous trucking  terminals and other logistic facilities near California ports in securing entitlements and conducting environmental review.
  • Assisted multinational company redevelop and expand its terminal in the Port of Los Angeles, including navigation of federal and state environmental review processes.
  • Represented one of the West Coast’s largest recyclers of aggregate in their operations and expansion projects.
  • Assisted a residential developer in obtaining local and coastal permits, including through several lawsuits and global settlement of California Coastal Act, wetland, subdivision, traffic and inverse condemnation issues.
  • Represented a Bay Area city with a specific plan and EIR for mixed-use development of a local valley.
  • Obtained approval of a 545 unit residential condominium project in a new 18-story building in San Francisco.
  • Represented a large San Francisco hotel company in obtaining approval of a new 200 room hotel built on land leased from the City.
  • Negotiated approval of a new residential/ retail project to be built above what may become a future subway station in Downtown San Francisco.
  • Represented clients in the conversion of warehouses to office and multi-media use throughout San Francisco.
  • Represented numerous Northern California developers in obtaining approvals for the subdivision of land, and in obtaining approvals for new condominium projects (both vertical and traditional), including the drafting of all governing documents.
  • Negotiated approval of a large multi-use project in San Francisco that includes a public library, supermarket and new housing.
  • Worked with a Bay Area developer on an EIR, development agreement and permits for a mixed-use, phased redevelopment of commercial uses on port lands.
  • Represented a unique, mixed-use development including work-live, residential, and retail components in a coastal city known for environmental opposition.
  • Represented county in litigation over vested rights claimed by riverbed sand and gravel mining operation, successfully obtaining a judgment in favor of the county.
  • Successfully litigated the terms of an existing development agreement against a city on behalf of a large phased residential and office development.
  • Prevailed over challenges to county’s refusal to issue unconditional certificates of compliance under the Subdivision Map Act.
  • Defended in court the EIR and entitlements for a 20,000-acre residential development and open space preserve in the Carmel Valley.
  • Negotiated and defended a development agreement and gaming ordinance for a card room facility at a Bay Area live horse racing venue.
  • Successfully defended an appeal of a local coastal permit for a beachfront hotel and obtained a permit from the California Coastal Commission.
  • Takings case against the United States for a ranching family in central Nevada resulting in a $14.2 million dollar judgment for the taking of water rights from a cattle operation.
  • Representation of three separate governmental entities of the State of Nevada against the United States in an Administrative Procedures Act challenge to a federal regulation that required the interpretation of and challenge to federal legislation.
  • Assisted Fortune 500 national drugstore company negotiate various land use issues in operating regional distribution center in the Central Valley.
  • Represented client in approximately $700 million project entailing entitlements and CEQA for construction of 7-mile tunnel and outfall from a wastewater treatment plant to terminus in San Pedro.
  • Represented client in the acquisition and renovation of indoor composting facility in San Bernardino County valued at $70 million.
  • Represented client in approximately $200 million project entailing CEQA work for the development of effluent treatment system in Santa Clarita.
  • Represented client in the acquisition of approximately 12,000 acres of farmland and development of $150 million composting facility in Kings County.

Key Contacts

Sean Marciniak
Sean Marciniak
San Francisco, CA

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