Articles Posted in City of LA

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The Los Angeles Superior Court’s decision in the case, Yes In My Back Yard, Sonja Trauss, and Janet Jha v. City of Los Angeles, provides important guidance to developers and local agencies on how to process housing development projects located on sites where the density permitted by the General Plan (or applicable specific or community plans) is greater than the density allowed under the zoning code.

The court held that the developers are entitled to the highest available density, even when the zoning density is less than the density allowed by the General Plan or other plans. This is true even where the applicable plans specify a range of permissible densities.

JMBM Attorneys Matthew D. Hinks, Daniel F. Freedman, and Julia Consoli-Tiensvold successfully argued the case on behalf of a multi-family housing developer. The case resulted in the court granting of a writ of mandate against the City of Los Angeles under the Housing Accountability Act.


On May 19, 2020, JMBM client Janet Jha submitted an application to the City of Los Angeles seeking to build a 67-unit, multi-family density bonus development on a site abutting Ventura Boulevard in the Woodland Hills community of the San Fernando Valley. The project site is zoned for single-family uses, but the City’s community plan designates the site for commercial and multi-family uses.

On June 8, 2020, the City rejected Jha’s application on the basis that the project includes more housing units than the site’s single-family zoning permits, and insisted that a rezoning of the site was required to approve a multi-family development. Over the next several months, the City demanded that Jha either reduce the density of the project to comply with the residential single-family zoning, or seek rezoning – even though the project density complied with the Community Plan’s “Limited Commercial” designation for the site. Continue reading

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By Martin Stratte for Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP

In August 2018, the California Court of Appeal decided Citizens Coalition Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, 26 Cal.App.5th 561 (2018), commonly referred to as “Target II,” which arose from a years-long challenge by citizen activist organizations to the development of a Super Target in Hollywood, California.

As discussed below, the court was asked to resolve the following issue of first impression: what level of environmental review is required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for a legislative action that re-designates a project site for the purpose of mooting pending litigation that was filed in opposition to an already approved project?

In essence, what the City of Los Angeles did was re-zone the site of a previously approved Super Target to remove the need for the variances that were adopted in support of the project, which the trial court had struck down in the litigation commonly referred to as “Target I.”


Target applied to the City of Los Angeles (City) for land use entitlements to develop an approximately 75-foot high, three-story Super Target at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood, California, the top floor of which would contain the 163,862 square foot “Superstore.”

The City certified an EIR for the Target project and granted eight exceptions (variances) so that the project could exceed height and parking-space restrictions, among others.  Thereafter, two citizen activist organizations filed a petition for writ of mandate alleging: 1) the project violated CEQA; and 2) the variances violated the City’s Municipal Code because they were not supported by substantial evidence.  Target proceeded with construction while the litigation was pending; that litigation is commonly referred to as “Target I.”

The trial court denied the petitioners’ CEQA claim in Target I, but found that six of the eight variances were not supported by substantial evidence.  Accordingly, the court ordered Target to stop construction.  Target filed an appeal and the petitioners filed a cross-appeal. Continue reading

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Los Angeles—Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce it has been ranked as a Los Angeles Metropolitan Tier 1 2019 “Best Law Firm” for Land Use & Zoning Law by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. This distinction is achieved by capturing the consensus opinion of clients and professional references about the abilities of the firm.

“We have assembled some of the most talented and experienced lawyers who specialize in land use and zoning and are extremely grateful to be awarded this recognition,” said Ben Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environmental & Energy Group. “Our goal has always been to provide exceptional service and to emphasize the success and priorities of our clients.”

Additionally, JMBM earned a National Tier 1 ranking for its Trusts and Estate practice, and numerous Metropolitan Tier 1 rankings across all three of its offices including:

Los Angeles: Commercial Litigation, Criminal Defense – White-Collar, Litigation – Trusts & Estates, Tax Law, Trademark Law, Trusts & Estates Law

Orange County: Litigation – Patent

San Francisco:
Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law, Litigation – Bankruptcy, Mediation

The “Best Law Firms’ rankings follow the recent 2019 edition of Best Lawyers in America in which 19 JMBM attorneys were recognized.

About JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department
JMBM’s government, land use, environment, and energy lawyers represent a wide range of industries, businesses, trade groups and individuals before every level of government, and in litigation. We routinely advocate for our clients’ interests before the myriad of regulatory authorities, administrative agencies and elected bodies that govern business and development activities. Our negotiation expertise and lobbying experience includes representing clients seeking to locate and develop new sites, relocate, expand operations, and all related permitting and compliance.

About Best Law Firms
The Best Law Firms designation is based on a rigorous process that includes client and lawyer evaluations, and peer review from leading lawyers. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be ranked for inclusion. Firms are evaluated on expertise, responsiveness, understanding clients’ businesses and needs, cost-effectiveness, integrity and a number of other factors. For more information see

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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
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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By Matthew Hinks
JMBM has prevailed in the Court of Appeal on behalf of its client in a well-publicized and hotly-contested development project in the City of Los Angeles. The court’s published opinion will come as welcome relief to property owners who got caught in the bureaucratic mire when the City chose to “re-interpret” a half-a-century-year-old ordinance dealing with subdivision proposals to apply to all large hillside lots. However, the lasting impact of the decision will be what the court had to say about the deference a municipal authority is entitled to in connection with the interpretation of city ordinances and regulations.
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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.