Land Use and Development


Amy R. Forbes Los Angeles
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Mary G. Murphy San Francisco
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Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's sophisticated land use lawyers have experience and routinely advise clients in connection with virtually every type of land use and real property development issue. 

Particular areas in which the Land Use and Development Practice Group has deep proficiency include:

  • Entitlements and permitting
  • Ground leases
  • Development agreements and other transactional documents
  • Eminent domain
  • Public/private partnerships
  • Waterfront development and the public trust doctrine
  • Historic preservation and rehabilitation
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Ballot and referendum matters
  • Other U.S. federal, state and local government laws

We have represented all sides of development deals, including cities and government entities, developers, owners, project proponents and project opponents, proving that our lawyers have the insight and judgment necessary to make the critical decisions facing our clients.  In addition to numerous large and nontraditional projects, we have been major players in development projects that include:

  • Office buildings
  • Business and industrial parks
  • Corporate campuses
  • Housing projects, including all types and price levels
  • Shopping centers, from regional malls to neighborhood and strip centers
  • Golf courses and other resort properties

The team is among the most experienced in the state of California in negotiating and drafting development agreements and long-term ground leases.

Regardless of a client's size or stage of development, we take the collective knowledge of our lawyers, across offices, who have handled the most complex transactions for some of the world's preeminent companies, and make that expertise available in every representation.

Our extensive CEQA litigation work involves representing both real parties in interest and plaintiff/petitioners in cases involving challenges to negative declarations and environmental impact reports (EIRs).

Experience and Recent Representations

  • The Golden State Warriors in the negotiation, entitlement and CEQA review of a new arena and entertainment complex in San Francisco.
  • The developers in the negotiation and entitlement of the former U.S. Naval Base at Treasure Island with the City of San Francisco and the Department of the Navy.  The development plans will create a new sustainable San Francisco neighborhood on Treasure Island, centered around a new ferry terminal, to provide convenient access to downtown San Francisco, with 8,000 residential units, 300 acres of open space and recreation, and 250,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Fifteen Group, LLC, as its lead counsel, in its redevelopment of Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in Los Angeles, one of the largest privately owned housing complexes west of Chicago.  The existing housing complex consists of 1,187 multi-family units on 68 acres.  As part of a community-based planning process, the entire site is being replanned and zoned.  Future development plans are anticipated to involve a $2 billion redevelopment of the site, with 4,400 units of housing and 300,000 square feet of mixed commercial/retail uses, and over 37 acres of open space and parks.
  • The California Science Center Foundation, as its pro bono counsel, on all aspects of the acquisition and transportation of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center to its final destination at the Science Center's location in Exposition Park.  It was the largest object ever transported on city streets.  Successfully obtained CEQA clearance and permits for the removal of 400 trees along the shuttle's route in two jurisdictions.  Also drafted and negotiated agreements with NASA, the City of Los Angeles, United Airlines and the City of Inglewood.  The tasks included securing the shuttle's title transfer, arranging the flight from the Kennedy Space Center — including a spectacular Los Angeles flyover — to LAX on the back of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, and arranging temporary storage in a United Airlines hangar followed by a 12-mile parade, with the shuttle on top of a specialized vehicle, through Los Angeles and Inglewood to the Science Center's Samuel Oschin display pavilion.
  • The developer, as its lead counsel, in its proposed redevelopment of San Francisco's Parkmerced, the largest residential project in San Francisco.  The project involves a $1.2 billion plan to transform the sprawling Parkmerced area from a car-centric neighborhood to a state-of-the-art sustainable neighborhood by replacing 1,500 rent-controlled town homes with 7,200 new energy-efficient units over the next 20 to 30 years.
  • MidAmerican Energy Holdings (a holding company controlled by Berkshire Hathaway), as its lead real estate and land use counsel, in the acquisition of the $2 billion Topaz Solar Farm project from First Solar.  The transaction involves more than 20,000 acres and resource permits and conservation issues involving local, state and federal agencies.
  • Bay Meadows Land Company, since 1995, as the developer of the Bay Meadows Racetrack, valued in excess of $1.4 billion.  The first phase, with more than two million square feet of new development, included a 900,000-square-foot office campus for Franklin Resources; 760 single-family and multifamily housing units; and a mixed-use complex including a market and health club, and retail, live/work and office components.  The second phase of development received final approval for more than two million square feet of additional mixed-use, transit-oriented development, including a possible office/campus component. 
  • Related/MPG in its negotiations with the City of Santa Clara to redevelop approximately 250 acres to create a new mixed-use, multiyear development.
  • Forest City in the negotiation and entitlement of a 28-acre site on Pier 70 with the Port of San Francisco.
  • Hollywood Park Land Company, as its lead counsel, in the successful master planning/redevelopment of Hollywood Park racetrack.  The proposed project consists of the redevelopment of the 238-acre site and the construction of approximately 2,995 dwelling units, 620,000 square feet of retail, 75,000 square feet of office/commercial space, a four-acre civic site and a 300-room hotel with approximately 25 acres of publicly accessible parks and open space.
  • Representing General Growth Properties in the defense of an eminent domain action filed by the Santa Clara Valley Condemnation Authority involving the Eastridge Shopping Center in San Jose.  The condemnation would take a substantial number of parking spaces and create the potential for significant severance damages. 
  • Representing Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC in the defense of a threatened eminent domain action filed by the Los Angeles MTA involving off-airport maintenance facilities and overflow parking lots operated in conjunction with Avis's on-airport facilities.  The condemnation creates the potential for significant severance damages and loss of business goodwill. 
  • Represented owners of the Warner Hollywood Studios (a.k.a. "the lot") in challenge of an EIR for the La Brea Gateway redevelopment project.  Related litigation involved enforcement of an existing development agreement with the City of West Hollywood and defense of an eminent domain proceeding with reference to the portion of the development property slated for future parking.  The litigation resulted in a favorable settlement for the client that enabled the redevelopment project to proceed while honoring the preexisting development agreement and securing alternative parking for the new development. 
  • Successfully represented the California Farm Bureau in this matter in Colusa County, California, regarding the State's acquisition of prime agricultural land for conversion to habitat without any environmental review under CEQA or any compliance with the Williamson Act, a California statute designed to promote the preservation of agricultural land.  The California Third District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling finding the State of California in violation of CEQA by exempting a proposed wetlands project from environmental review.  The appellate court also affirmed an attorneys' fees award of $240,000 and ordered the decision to be published. 
  • Successfully defended a mitigated negative declaration prepared for Warland's 500,000-square-foot carpet warehouse in the City of Cypress.
  • Represented Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in successful challenge of the EIR for the expansion of the Puente Hills Landfill.
  • Representing the owner of Golden Gate Fields Racetrack in Albany, California in development of a card club facility.  Defended CEQA and constitutional legal challenges to project entitlements.
  • Represented the petitioner, along with co-counsel Jan Chatten-Brown, in a challenge to the County of Riverside's certification of an EIR and approval of a Conditional Use Permit for the Eagle Mountain landfill proposed by Mine Reclamation Corp., a Kaiser entity.  The litigation resulted in a judgment overturning the County's approvals and recovery of attorneys' fees. 
  • Represented an international stereo speaker and television manufacturer in challenge of the City of Pomona's approval of a mitigated negative declaration and related land use approvals for a 1,000-ton-per-day trash transfer facility.  The litigation resulted in the City's withdrawal of all approvals.
  • Represented Real Party in Interest United Parcel Service in successful defense of a mitigated negative declaration prepared for UPS' major new truck distribution hub on Los Angeles' North Main Street.​