Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara Counties
Land Use & Zoning Attorney
New development projects are big investments. Don’t leave things to chance.
As an experienced land use lawyer in Santa Cruz County, I will help you evaluate project feasibility, timing and risks, and then guide you through the permit approval process towards a successful project. I handle matters in Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara Counties, and the entire San Francisco Bay Area.
My land use practice includes:
- Zoning research and analysis;
- Boundary line and title research and analysis;
- Land use permit applications;
- Zoning compliance counseling and red tag removal;
- CEQA and Coastal Act compliance counseling and litigation;
- Writ of mandate litigation (against or on behalf of public agencies)
Land use law involves the state and local rules regulating what a landowner can and cannot construct on his or her property, what uses are permissible, impermissible and conditionally permissible, and what environmental review is required. Land use law also involves various public processes governing these types of governmental decisions.
This is how I can help you successfully complete your project:
I analyze and explain applicable development regulations, how they apply to the client’s project, and potential problems.
Clients understand what types of structures and/or land uses are permissible or conditionally permissible as part of initial decision-making and development project strategizing, or as part of decision-making and strategizing to oppose a development project.
I advocate for development application approval.
In representing applicant’s interests before permitting agencies I advocate for interpretations of local regulations that favor the applicant, I advocate for permit conditions that are not unreasonably burdensome, and I work with agency staff to resolve other permitting agency issues.
I ensure that agency approvals comply with the law and that administrative records are complete.
Providing oversight to agency decision-making to make sure the agency properly documents permit approvals can preempt certain legal challenges by neighbors.
I work to resolve boundary, title and other real estate issues and conditions raised by permitting agencies.
Permit applicants may not be able to anticipate all of the concerns and issues that are identified by the various departments that review development permit applications. As a lawyer, I can work with other landowners, landlords, tenants, banks, and et cetera, whose cooperation is needed to solve a certain issue, and I can draft and negotiate various types of legal documents that may be needed to resolve legal real estate issues.
I defend project applicants (and permitting agencies) against lawsuits challenging project approvals.
Lawsuits challenging development approvals cause significant delay and expense. With good legal counsel, many potential issues can be addressed at the permit application and approval stage so they do not become issues in litigation. If litigation cannot be avoided, then I can provide project applicants high quality, efficient, and experienced legal representation throughout the process so that their projects can be ultimately be completed.
More About Land Use Law
As a subset of real estate law, land use law is also quite interesting because of the variety of facts and situations unique to each property and each project. In addition to questions about buying and selling real estate, and in addition to questions involving who owns and/or has the right to use certain areas of dirt (vacant land), land use practice includes the interpretation and application of state and local regulatory laws that impose substantive and procedural conditions on real property construction and use.
Except for very small scale or low-impact projects, property owners and developers in Santa Cruz County or anywhere in California are required to obtain some type of development approval from the local government entity for: new construction and for significant changes in use of existing structures; all kinds of subdivisions and boundary line changes; re-zonings; and general plan amendments. In addition to compliance with substantive development restrictions (such as maximum building area and height, setbacks, parking requirements, and et cetera), land use law is also satisfying various procedural requirements (notice and public hearings, etc.), as development and use of private land can have significant impacts on the public.
Land Use Law – Basic Principles
- All new development must comply with applicable zoning regulations, and be consistent with the applicable general plan (and in coastal areas must be consistent with the local coastal plan pursuant to the Coastal Act);
- Government agencies taking action on an application for significant new development projects must provide applicants with minimal due process, that is, with an opportunity to be heard, at all levels of application approval and appeal;
- Government agencies taking action on an application for significant new development must evaluate the project’s potential impact on the environment, and must disclose those potential impacts to the public, unless the project is exempt from environmental review;
- Government agencies taking action on an application for significant new development must give the public notice of the project and an opportunity to comment and/or challenge it; and
- Ultimately, the resolution of many types of land use approvals and/or appeals are political decisions because the local legislative body has significant authority and discretion to make these decisions (within the constraints of the law).
Some of the land use and land use litigation work I have done:
- Representing developer of farmworker housing project: 1) in defense of CEQA lawsuit; and 2) challenging school impact fees assessed against the project (Monterey County);
- Representing private landowner and County of Santa Cruz in defense of CEQA and zoning code lawsuit challenging approval of home occupancy permit (Santa Cruz County);
- Assisting private developer with lot split and condominium subdivision of a duplex (City of Capitola);
- Assisted private homeowner in obtaining a lot line adjustment necessary to remove red tag (Santa Cruz County);
- Assisting private property owners in: 1) removing red tags arising from illegal grading and development related to agricultural cultivation; and 2) subdividing the subject property between the co-tenants (Santa Cruz County);
- Represented the City of Gilroy in a lawsuit challenging the City’s moratorium on development east of Highway 101 (Santa Clara County);
- Represented the City of Gilroy in a lawsuit enforcing zoning requirements prohibiting store front medical marijuana dispensary from operating without a business license (Santa Clara County);
- Represented the County of Santa Clara Office of Education in a lawsuit challenging its approval of a charter school under a zoning exemption (Santa Clara County);
- Represented the developer of a 50-home subdivision in a lawsuit to compel City of Richmond to approve final subdivision map after it approved tentative map (Contra Costa County);
- Represented the City of Los Altos in a lawsuit challenging the City’s rescission of a tree removal permit (Santa Clara County);
- Represented developers and the Town of Danville in a CEQA lawsuit challenging the adequacy of an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for a 70-unit residential subdivision on undeveloped ranchland property in the Town of Danville (Contra Costa County);
- Represented the City of San Jose and the property owner in a CEQA lawsuit challenging an environmental impact report (EIR) addendum prepared for a rezoning at Santana Row (Santa Clara County);
- Negotiated settlement of a CEQA case challenging the County’s approval of an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for a multi-family development project adjacent to a riparian zone in Aptos (Santa Cruz County);
- Represented developers and the Town of Los Gatos in a CEQA case challenging an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for a 7-unit residential subdivision on former agricultural property adjacent to a creek in the Town of Los Gatos, including appeal (Santa Clara County);
- Represented the City of Redwood City in a CEQA lawsuit challenging a master environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for the City’s downtown specific plan (San Mateo County).
- Provided litigation defense of environmental impact report prepared for 70-unit residential subdivision on ranch land property in the Town of Danville;
- Provided litigation defense of addendum to environmental impact report prepared for rezoning at Santana Row in the City of San Jose;
- Negotiated settlement of litigation challenging approval of environmental impact report prepared for multi-family development adjacent to riparian zone in Aptos, Santa Cruz County;
- Provided litigation defense of environmental impact report prepared for 7-unit residential subdivision on former agricultural property adjacent to creek in the Town of Los Gatos, including appeal;
- Provided litigation defense of master environmental impact report prepared for Redwood City downtown specific plan;
- Provided litigation defense of City of Gilroy moratorium on development east of Highway 101;
- Represented City of Gilroy in litigation to enforce zoning requirements against store front medical marijuana dispensary;
- Represented County of Santa Clara Office of Education in litigation to defend its approval of zoning exemption for charter school in City of San Jose;
- Provided litigation defense of City of Los Altos’s rescission of tree removal permit.
Get help with your land use application. Anticipate and pre-empt opponents’ issues. Get the approving agency on board. Avoid litigation.
Now it’s your turn. Anxious to propose a development project that assures a successful outcome for you? I can help. Contact me at my Capitola office today.