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Federal environmental lawyer, Matthew J. Sanders, recently joined Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell as Of Counsel in our San Francisco office. Sanders’ federal and California environmental law experience includes successfully litigating myriad federal and state appeals, writs, and motions and providing strategic representation and counseling on major projects and enforcement actions. Through his experience in government, the non-profit sector, and private practice, Sanders has developed strong relationships throughout the environmental and energy legal community.

In his recent article entitled Economic impacts in ESA critical habitat designations, co-authored with Alicia E. Thesing and published by the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, Sanders and Thesing discuss the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Building Industry Association of the Bay Area v. U.S. Department of Commerce and its implications for future critical habitat decisions and challenges.

The decision — which affirmed the designation of more than 13,000 square miles (8.6 million acres) of critical habitat for the federally threatened green sturgeon — holds that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has discretion in how it considers the economic impacts of designating critical habitat. Sanders and Thesing write that the decision “will give federal agencies more leeway in making critical habitat decisions” and have potentially different implications for environmental and industry plaintiffs.

Economic impacts in ESA critical habitat designations

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Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce that environmental lawyer Matthew J. Sanders has joined the firm as of counsel in its San Francisco office.

“As a former federal environmental lawyer, Matthew will be invaluable to our clients. I have no doubt they will greatly benefit from his past experience,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department.

Sanders joins JMBM with thirteen years of broad experience, ranging from federal and state court litigation to complex counseling and compliance work. Most recently, Sanders was a clinical supervising attorney and lecturer at Stanford Law School. He has also served as an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, as an attorney in the Real Estate and Environmental Group at Paul Hastings LLP, and as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Many of our mining, traditional energy, and alternative energy clients will benefit directly from Matthew’s experience with public land and natural resources issues acquired during his time at the Department of Justice,” said Kerry Shapiro who heads JMBM’s Natural Resources and Construction and Building Materials Groups in San Francisco.

Sanders’ federal and California environmental law experience includes successfully litigating myriad federal and state appeals, writs, and motions; providing strategic representation and counseling on major projects and enforcement actions; and developing key relationships throughout the environmental and energy legal community.

“JMBM’s environmental and natural resources lawyers are known throughout California for delivering excellent results to their clients,” said Sanders. “I am thrilled to join the JMBM team and believe my experience as a federal lawyer will benefit the firm’s many clients whose projects and businesses are regulated by federal agencies.”

Sanders received his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he was co-editor-in-chief of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, and his B.A, magna cum laude, from Carleton College. He is a frequent writer on environmental law issues and is active in the American Bar Association, the Stanford Law School Alumni Association, and a number of other organizations.

About JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Group
JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy (GLUEE) attorneys have vast experience in litigation, regulatory, and administrative matters. We handle permitting and compliance issues for clients seeking to locate and develop new sites, relocate, or expand operations; we assist them in resolving environmental issues including air, water, hazardous materials, and soil-related work; and we represent their interests before every level of government, particularly throughout the state of California. The Group publishes the California Land Use Blog.

About JMBM
Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP is a full-service law firm committed to providing clients with outstanding results. From our offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County, we serve our clients’ needs worldwide. For more information, visit www.jmbm.com.

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Los Angeles — The Government, Land Use, Environment & Energy Group of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to welcome Daniel Freedman as an associate in its Los Angeles office.

Mr. Freedman’s experience includes representing and advising clients on matters relating to real estate development, zoning, project entitlements, CEQA, NEPA, federal and state environmental law, and governmental advocacy. He has advised clients working major commercial, residential, and industrial developments, renewable energy, high-speed rail, billboard siting, mining and government contracting. Daniel also has civil litigation experience in both state and federal courts.

“In addition to his impressive legal experience, Daniel’s consulting background in government and public affairs will bring an added dimension of effectiveness for our clients,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Daniel advised government agencies, energy and infrastructure development companies, and environmental organizations on issues relating to environmental policy, government affairs, and political strategy. He also organized and managed regional and statewide advocacy and outreach campaigns on environmental policy and regulatory issues, and clients working on complex projects such as concentrated solar, off-shore liquefied natural gas terminals, waste-to-energy, long-haul transmission, wind energy, carbon capture and sequestration and water infrastructure. Daniel also takes pride in his role as co-founder and board chairman of the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative, an executive committee member of the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council, and volunteer for United in Harmony. Daniel is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Conservation Resources Studies, and UCLA where he earned his Master’s degree in Urban Planning. He then received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

“I’m excited to join a law firm with such a strong reputation for effective advocacy in the land use and environment arena,” said Freedman. “I look forward to contributing to the success of our clients.”

About JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment & Energy Group

JMBM’s land use attorneys represent a wide range of industries, businesses, trade groups and individuals with interests before all levels of local, state and federal government, especially throughout California. Our particular strength is handling all permitting and compliance issues for clients seeking to locate and develop new sites, relocate or expand operations. Projects we have helped move through the approval process include residential developments and apartment complexes, hotels, shopping centers, theaters, office buildings, and a wide range of industrial projects such as mines, energy plants and manufacturing facilities. Jeffer Mangels is recognized as a “2015 Best Law Firm” by U.S. News & World/Best Lawyers®, ranking in the first tier for Land Use and Zoning Law in Metropolitan Los Angeles.

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By Benjamin M. Reznik
The Los Angeles area, which once boasted two professional football teams, has been without an NFL franchise for twenty years. That’s not to say there haven’t been several stadium proposals during that time, among them a renovated Los Angeles Coliseum, Majestic Realty’s proposed 600-acre site in the City of Industry, and AEG’s proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles, Farmers Field. While some observers blamed cities and local politics for a lack of movement on the stadium front, the reality is quite different – and both team owners and the NFL itself are in a position to call the shots.
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By Benjamin M. Reznik
In terms of land use regulations that have far-reaching effects on development in California, the application – or misapplication – of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is near the top of the list. CEQA, when first implemented, certainly had a well-intentioned purpose: to protect the environment. But too often, CEQA is used as a Trojan horse by development project opponents to delay or ultimately thwart construction, increasing costs along the way. One of the most egregious examples of this took place in San Francisco, where a CEQA lawsuit even delayed the construction of environmentally-friendly bike lanes.
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By Benjamin M. Reznik
Downtown Los Angeles’ real estate market is riding a wave of success, due in no small part to investment from major firms based in China. This past August, our client Shenzhen Hazens Real Estate Group Co. acquired the 178-room Luxe City Center hotel, located across the street from Staples Center and L.A. Live, and will be adding condominiums and retail space to the site. As noted by the Wall Street Journal’s Craig Karmin, this purchase is part of a “flurry of new development and property sales,” and comes on the heels of two other major Chinese-based investments in major Downtown Los Angeles properties: the Greenland Group’s purchase of the Metropolis site just east of L.A. Live, and Oceanwide Real Estate Group’s purchase of the Fig Central site in Downtown’s South Park neighborhood.

It’s important to note that Shenzhen Hazens Real Estate Group’s investment is for the long-term: just after the purchase of the Luxe site, Shenzhen Hazens and the Luxe Hotel Group signed a five-year contract to continue their partnership and to maximize their opportunities.

Why is Downtown Los Angeles appealing to large, institutional investors? First, Downtown Los Angeles’ status as an urban center with a solid base of residential, retail, and hotel real estate makes it very appealing for investors looking for longer-term investments. Second, unlike San Francisco and New York City, Downtown Los Angeles still has underutilized parcels, such as parking lots, in strategically-located areas that are appealing as sites for future large-scale projects. Third, as a trading hub that is home to one of the world’s busiest container shipping ports, Los Angeles is in a prime location in the Pacific Rim to benefit from future global economic growth.
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JMBM Named as a 2015 Best Law Firm in Land Use and Zoning Law
JMBM’s Land Use Group Recognized for Third Year in a Row

Best Law Firms BadgeLOS ANGELES – Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce it is has been named a 2015 Best Law Firm by U.S. News & World Report / Best Lawyers® and is recognized with a Metropolitan First-Tier Ranking in the area of Land Use and Zoning Law. This is the third year in a row that JMBM’s Land Use practice has been included in the first tier for Metropolitan Los Angeles.

“Our clients are involved in development projects that range from urban mixed use developments and master planned communities, to coastal development and industrial siting. We are also involved in both traditional and renewable energy projects, representing the land use and environmental needs of solar energy companies as well as those in the oil and gas industry,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department and publisher of the California Land Use Blog.
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by Benjamin M. Reznik
Once considered an area of Los Angeles that had virtually nothing to do after 5pm, downtown Los Angeles is experiencing a development boom. Sure, part of it is due to the fact that our regional economy is on an upswing. But it’s more than that – what we’re now seeing is an entire section of Los Angeles undergoing an incredible transformation that’s changing the minds of the most hardened skeptics.

New residential, mixed-use, office, and hotel projects make up nearly 100 active development projects in the downtown area, with 14 projects alone announced since May of 2014, according to the Downtown News. My firm and I are proud to be part of this boom firsthand. JMBM is working on behalf of a major hotel project in the area, which will also include condominiums and retail space, on the site of the current Luxe City Center across from LA Live and Staples Center.

So, what accounts for downtown Los Angeles’ new-found appeal?
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Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Saudi Prince in Benedict Canyon Case
Rejects arguments that ordinance requires environmental review

In the much publicized case of a Saudi Prince seeking to build his residential estate, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal published a decision in which it affirmed a lower court judgment and ruled in favor of the Prince and against the City of Los Angeles, Bruce Karsh and Martha Karsh. In Tower Lane Properties v. City of Los Angeles, Bruce Karsh, Martha Karsh, the appellate court rejected the City and Karsh arguments that the residential project must first file a tentative tract map and undergo environmental and discretionary review before issuance of a building permit.

In reaching its conclusion, the court considered the plain meaning of the subject ordinance (Los Angeles Municipal Code 91.7006.8.2) as well as the City’s historical interpretation and application. The court found that the prior owner of the Prince’s property has been granted grading permits in 2005 and 2006, and that “…the Karshes obtained grading permits for nine projects on their large hillside property, all without undergoing any environmental review under the Ordinance.” The court concluded: “Thus, out of 22 grading permits for properties having hillside grading sites larger than 60,000 square feet, only one required any type of clearance, which was obtained without undergoing any environmental review.”

The court rejected the City’s efforts to interpret the Ordinance in such a manner as to require the Saudi Prince to undergo environmental review, concluding: “Because the City cannot point to a consistent and long-standing interpretation, its current interpretation is entitled to no deference.”

Tower Lane’s land use attorney, Benjamin M. Reznik of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP in Los Angeles, stated that his client, who has been the target of allegedly unfair and at times vicious attacks by local residents and the media, feels completely vindicated by the court ruling. “The City continues to single out the Saudi Prince with new requirements never before applied to other property owners all in an effort to deny him the right to a building permit. This unfair treatment has to stop,” said Reznik.

Tower Lane Properties is an entity established by Saudi Prince Abdulazziz ibn Abdulazziz al Saud, who is currently the Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, to develop his family residence in the hills above Benedict Canyon. Next door neighbors Bruce and Martha Karsh have been leading and funding efforts to stop the Saudi Prince.

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At the recent Hotel Developers Forum hosted in JMBM’s Los Angeles office, LA City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana emphasized the City’s commitment to development, particularly of hotels in the downtown area. Santana is the chief financial advisor to the mayor, and his office has direct oversight over the city’s budget, labor negotiations, and development incentives for the City.

“We’re big advocates for hotel expansion in the City,” he said, adding that the City of Los Angeles is willing to work with property owners in a variety of ways to create projects that balance profitability with revenue for the city.
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