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Latham was the only firm named “Law Firm of the Year” in the Land Use and Zoning category. Based on client evaluations and peer reviews, US News recognized Latham “for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.”
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California Project Siting & Approvals

Latham & Watkins helps land owners and developers, project sponsors, institutions, and utilities in California navigate all local, regional, state, and federal government agencies that may be required to permit and approve projects. Latham then defends those project approvals in any administrative appeals or litigation.

Los Angeles - California - Downtown
Building and Implementing Strategies

From the initial project proposal to the financing and completion of construction, Latham’s California Land Use Practice lawyers develop and execute a complete strategy to help clients secure approvals and then defend those approvals.

Latham regularly advises clients developing landmark projects in California in the following sectors:

  • Entertainment and sports facilities
  • Fossil fuel, hydroelectric, nuclear, waste to energy, and renewable power generation
  • Linear facilities, including long-line telecommunications, transmission, and pipelines
  • Major refining, chemical, electronics, and other manufacturing facilities
  • Hospital, medical, and scientific research buildings and campuses
  • Real estate development
  • Retail, office, hotel, residential, and mixed-use facilities
  • Transportation facilities and corridors, including highways, high speed rail, and innovative technologies
  • University and secondary campus facilities
  • Water supply and delivery infrastructure, including desalination facilities and conveyance pipelines

The practice has developed a successful track record of helping clients obtain all necessary environmental, land use, and regulatory approvals from federal, state, regional, and local agencies. The group has extensive experience with the specific statutes and the myriad regulations that affect a broad range of projects, including:

  • California Air Resources Board and regional Air Quality Management District permits, including compliance with toxic air contaminant exposure regulations, preconstruction, and operating air permits
  • California Coastal Commission development permits, consistency determinations, and enforcement actions
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance
  • Carbon credits, climate change, and greenhouse gas regulatory requirements
  • Cultural resource evaluation and compliance
  • Development agreement and vested rights requirements
  • Elections law issues related to planning and zoning referenda and initiatives
  • Environmental Justice Counseling and Compliance
  • Federal and California Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits and approvals
  • Franchises, right-of-way agreements, and leases/use permits for public land and facilities
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance
  • Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requirements
  • Subdivision Map Act compliance
  • Traffic impact and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) analyses
  • US Army Corps of Engineers dredging, filling, and structure permits
  • Water quality regulations, certifications, industrial wastewater, and storm water discharge permits
  • Water supply and water rights permits and assessments
  • Zoning and planning requirements

The practice also defends permits and approvals against litigation challenges brought under these statues and regulations.

Providing a Comprehensive View

Latham California Land Use lawyers and environmental practitioners in the broader Environment, Land & Resources Practice collaborate with Latham’s market-leading finance, project finance, real estate, and litigation practices to provide clients with a comprehensive view of the legal and business issues related to clients’ developments or projects.

Latham lawyers closely follow a project through its full lifecycle to ensure clients’ success. This includes up-front strategic advice and detailed regulatory analysis on planning, feasibility studies of potential sites and environmental issues that may arise. Latham then sees projects through by negotiating agreements and obtaining government permits and approvals, supporting financing, and defending entitlements.

Representative recent work includes:
  • Advised a major developer on an extensive master-planned community that had faced two decades of delay over permitting and environmental litigation issues, including an important ruling from the California Supreme Court. Latham helped develop a winning litigation and negotiation strategy that included: a first-in-kind offsite greenhouse gas reduction program; extensive outreach and engagement with state agencies and environmental organizations; negotiating a successful resolution of disagreements with a Native American tribe and a Native American organization; and working with experts to develop updated environmental analyses to comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws. The project has secured approvals from state and city agencies.
  • Representing a water company in Northern California in a multi-year effort to secure a series of state and federal regulatory approvals for a water supply project that includes building a seawater desalination plant. Helped the client obtain unanimous approvals from the Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission for a test well and successfully defended multiple legal challenges to the permits in trial court and the Court of Appeal.
  • Represented a major shopping center developer on several significant industry-defining projects, including new construction and expansions, on projects as large as one million square feet. Obtained city entitlements as well as permitting for tens of millions of dollars in transportation and infrastructure improvements, and extensive pedestrian, bicycle, and streetscape improvements. Latham also advised on obtaining approvals for changes of use and community benefit agreements with some 20 neighboring stakeholders, thus avoiding appeals.
  • Representing multiple sports teams on the development of major league sports stadiums in several jurisdictions throughout Southern California. As part of broader teams handling financing and corporate transactions, work has included site selection, securing all necessary approvals for site development, along with representation concerning signage approvals, naming rights, stadium financing and associated issues with stadium development.
  • Represented multiple educational and medical institutions on master plans, each valued at US$500 million to a billion dollars for developing more than one million square feet each. Work included successfully obtaining environmental clearance and entitlements.
  • Represented a major California public utility developing a 120-mile power transmission line. Successfully defended the client before the Interior Board of Land Appeals and in federal court litigation challenging the federal regulatory agencies’ approvals. Plaintiffs brought claims under NEPA, ESA, the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA), the National Forest Management Act (NMFA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Latham also successfully represented the client in litigation over approvals before the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court.


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