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by Kerry Shapiro, Esq.

The recent submittal of significant proposed revisions to California’s mining law, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (“SMARA”), signals potentially broad-reaching changes to the statute. On February 21, 2014, Senator Fran Pavely (D) introduced SB 1270, a bill proposing to overhaul various sections of SMARA. SB 1270 proposes fundamental changes to SMARA. Click here for a copy of SB 1270.

If these changes go through, mine owners and operators will be subject to a new regulatory system under which the State will assume a far greater and centralized role in various aspects of SMARA, including mine inspections, enforcement, and establishment of financial assurance mechanisms. The mining industry also faces the likely prospect of increased carrying costs, arising from such proposals as changes to the annual reporting fee structure (proposed at a minimum of $1,000/year on a per-acre basis, and with no maximum cap), to increased ability to appeal decisions relating to the State’s “3098” list.
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JMBM Best Law Firm 2014LOS ANGELES – Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce its land use practice has been selected for inclusion in the U.S. News & World Report / Best Lawyers® list of Best Law Firms. JMBM achieved a number of First-Tier Rankings, including a Metropolitan First-Tier Ranking (Los Angeles) in the area of Land Use and Zoning Law.

“Our clients count on us to successfully guide their development projects through the maze of politics, community concerns, and the law. It’s rewarding to deliver hard-won results, and a pleasure to be recognized for it,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department. “My colleagues at JMBM and I are particularly pleased to be recognized as a Best Law Firm in this area, as it is an honor bestowed by our clients and peers.”
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To review the statistical results of the survey, click here.

JMBM’s Real Estate Group recently polled nearly 200 California real estate professionals, gathering their views about the California real estate market and their expectations for 2013.

According to these industry insiders, there is a lot of good news to report. California real estate appears to be in the midst of a sustainable recovery. Survey respondents indicated that capital is more widely available than in recent years, and, for the first time since the housing bubble burst, developers are eager to commence project entitlements.

In terms of the real estate market in general, here is what we learned:

  • 2% of our respondents described themselves as “bullish.”
  • 55% described themselves as “cautious.”
  • 28% believe the market has already recovered; 43% believe the real estate market will achieve sustained recovery by the end of this year; 29% feel it will take at least 2 years to recover.
  • 90% feel that acquiring debt will be easier or the same in 2013, while a similar percentage (89%) believe acquiring equity will be easier or the same.

Over 93% indicated being active in the distressed market. However, nearly 61% noted a material decrease in note sale activity, signaling that loan defaults are down and that large numbers of expiring conduit loans appear not yet to have created a second wave of defaulted note sales.

Movement from distressed properties to stabilized real estate. JMBM represents clients in all facets of real estate, from entitlement through completion, from acquisition to disposition and, according to JMBM Real Estate Partner Seth Weissman, the survey results are consistent with what JMBM’s real estate lawyers are seeing. Weissman’s clients have been particularly active in the distressed market. “However, those transactions are giving way to more traditional ‘market’ deals as more conservative investors, looking to stabilized real estate as a traditional component of their portfolios, are re-entering the market,” said Weissman. “As the overall economy improves and interest rates remain low, we are seeing increased activity in office, multifamily, and industrial projects as well as the upscale single-family market.”

Multifamily. While cautiously optimistic about most sectors, our respondents indicated that multifamily is the most attractive market segment for investment. “Nearly two-thirds of our survey respondents are involved in some way in multifamily housing,” said Benjamin Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Group. “Demand for quality rentals remains very strong, and developers and lenders are eager to meet that demand.”

Hospitality and retail. A full third of our respondents are involved in the hospitality sector. “These hotel investors and developers see that the stage is set for continuing improvement in hotel industry fundamentals and hotel valuations for at least the next 5 years,” said Jim Butler, Chairman of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. “The market is also experiencing a renaissance of ‘hotel-retail mixed-use’ development, as retail and hotel developers both seek the increased revenue that is generated when the right hotel is added to a shopping center.”

What’s coming online. Niche areas of development and acquisition that our respondents are actively involved in include transit oriented development (18% ), creative office (16%), medical office buildings (13%), senior housing (10%) and student housing (9%). “These unique infill opportunities have gained momentum for developers able to identify strategic development sites and seize upon demographic, transit or employment opportunities in local markets,” said JMBM Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Partner David Waite.

EIRs and Entitlements. As projects get back underway, respondents are keenly interested in entitlements, but challenged by the process.

  • While nearly 90% of respondents feel 2013 will be a good year to entitle or re-entitle properties, and almost half (49%) reason that zoning authorities will be more lenient due to lingering economic difficulties, we learn more as we delve into specific responses. As one respondent noted, this year will be “a good year because of cycle considerations, not an easy year.” Another noted, “Getting entitlements is hard, and getting harder. Waiting just makes it worse.”
  • The picture on entitlements appears to dovetail with the general market sentiment. As one person said, “Entitlement now is necessary for successful delivery into a robust market.” Another noted that, “Market demand for entitlement projects are high, and barriers to entry are difficult.” A third agreed: “Entitlement is still very hard, so new entitlement will add great value.”
  • A majority also suggest that applicants will be more aggressive with their applications, and 36% think projects will be approved more quickly because the pool of applications has remained small.
  • 50% of participants said they would face the challenge of preparing and circulating a new or updated environmental impact report (EIR) this year. “While the prospects for CEQA reform appeared promising at the end of 2012, expectations for meaningful reform should be muted as a variety of environmental stakeholders and special interests jealously guard their cherished seat at the CEQA table,” said Waite.

Developers continue to be challenged by the entitlement process and realize that success may be buoyed by other factors, including the skills of qualified professionals. As one person wrote, “Applicants who engage high quality land use attorneys and consultants have a much higher chance of getting projects approved.”

Waite agrees. “There are so many good projects in the pipeline that languish simply because they lack knowledgeable advisors willing to thoughtfully and aggressively engage with regulators to achieve positive outcomes,” he said. “As development activity increases, having the right team of professionals in place will be more important than ever.”

We are pleased to share this feedback from our survey participants, and thank our clients and friends for their participation in the survey.

We look forward to assisting you in any way possible and invite you to contact us.

For a list of all JMBM real estate lawyers, click here.

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by Matthew Hinks
Litigating property rights cases in California requires navigating a confusing mélange of sometimes unfamiliar and often times conflicting groups of laws, rules and regulatory agencies.

On October 17, 2012, at the Marriott Los Angeles Downtown Hotel, I will be co-chairing an advanced one-day seminar entitled Litigating Property Rights and leading a distinguished panel of speakers who will help us understand this procedural and substantive thicket.
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Best Law Firms BadgeJeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce its land use practice has been selected for inclusion in the U.S. News & World Report / Best Lawyers® list of Best Law Firms. JMBM achieved a National First-Tier Ranking and a Metropolitan First-Tier Ranking (Los Angeles) in the area of Land Use and Zoning Law.

“Land use is where the law, politics and community all intersect and navigating a client’s project through this intersection can be quite treacherous,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, Chair of JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy Department. “My colleagues and I are honored to have our work recognized by inclusion in the list of Best Law Firms,” he said.

The Best Law Firms designation is based on client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and a formal submission process. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”
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On July 11, 2011, the Global Hospitality Group® at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP announced the formation of the Chinese Investment Group™, a dedicated team of hotel and real estate lawyers that provides a gateway for Chinese investment in the United States.

Using experience gained from more than $60 billion in hotel transactions, involving more than 1,300 properties worldwide, together with substantial experience in general real estate transactions, the Group provides Chinese investors with legal and business advice to make prudent and economically successful hotel and real estate investments in the United States.

The Group and its network of reliable professional resources help Chinese investors identify, analyze, evaluate, validate, acquire, finance and manage hotel and real estate opportunities. The Group does not receive any finder’s fees, incentive fees, commissions or payments from any promoters, and provides independent advice to Chinese investors regarding all hotel and real estate opportunities. The Group also represents selected hotel, restaurant and other real property owners and developers in structuring investments for foreign investors — particularly Chinese investors — using the EB 5 immigrant investor visa program.
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