Land Use/Environmental

Land Use

The development of residential, commercial, retail, industrial, institutional, and infrastructure projects often requires complex discretionary permits and other entitlements from local, state, regional, and federal agencies. The lawyers in Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP's land use/environmental practice group specialize in assisting clients in identifying, preparing, and reviewing all land use permits and approvals that will be needed for various types of development projects. We work closely with clients in all stages of land development and agency-related land use matters, and assist them in successfully obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for various projects. Additionally, we have the capability and expertise to defend those project approvals from challenges by project opponents in every judicial forum.The firm's lawyers have extensive experience in all land use issues, including:
  • Legal advice in the preparation of exemptions, negative declarations, mitigated negative declarations, and environmental impact reports and statements under both CEQA and NEPA
  • Amending general plans, initiating zone changes, negotiating development rights, obtaining land use permits, securing dedication of lands, obtaining conditional use permits, and processing complex subdivision projects, including large-scale residential planned communities
  • Managing land located in environmentally sensitive areas, including land affected by the coastal zone, multiple species planning areas, and significant ecological overlays
  • Developing land containing designated historic structures and cultural or natural resources
  • Developing land within redevelopment plan areas
  • Assisting owners and operators of airports with airport land use compatibility plans
  • Assisting universities in master planning and development

Environmental Practice

Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP has developed a reputation for effectively handling complex environmental planning and litigation matters involving a vast array of development projects throughout California. We assist clients in connection with the preparation of environmental impact reports and statements, and other environmental and regulatory documents involving large-scale, complex, or controversial projects. A major area of the firm's practice includes pre-litigation counseling and assistance with proposed projects of substantial public controversy that present novel or difficult issues, or have a high potential for eventual litigation. This includes advising clients regarding compliance with environmental laws and processes, land use planning and regulation, and other plans and actions. The firm is often called upon to develop strategies to minimize exposure to litigation that could significantly delay a project, or cause other adverse consequences, when a client has determined that a project or planned action is of sufficient importance or requires such strategies.

A significant part of the firm's work in the environmental area involves both the preparation and review of environmental reports, statements, studies, and other technical or regulatory documents that are used in compliance with CEQA, NEPA, the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, the federal Clean Water Act, and other federal and state laws and regulations.

We have specific planning and litigation experience in environmental matters involving:

  • CEQA and NEPA
  • Planning and Zoning Law
  • Global climate change issues
  • Water supply issues
  • Endangered/threatened species
  • Sensitive natural/biological resources

Airport planning, land use, access, and noise matters

  • Wetlands issues
  • California Coastal Act
  • Subdivision Map Act
  • Inverse condemnation claims
  • Clean Air Act
  • Clean Water Act
  • National Historic Preservation Act
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

The firm’s expertise in defending large-scale, complex projects also allows it to assist clients who wish to challenge projects that are not environmentally compliant. The firm’s lawyers have prosecuted environmental challenges against residential developments, landfills, commercial facilities, and other projects that fail to satisfy federal, state, and local environmental/land use regulations.

Global Climate Change Practice

The firm's land use/environmental practice group remains proactive on the emerging issues of global climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. This global climate change practice was necessitated by the State of California's adoption of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32. As a result of AB 32, environmental documents prepared pursuant to CEQA and NEPA are now identifying project and cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, and strategies for reducing such emissions in compliance with AB 32. Analysis of global climate change issues in environmental documentation also has been prompted by the California Attorney General, which has used CEQA litigation, or the threat thereof, as a tool to secure greenhouse gas emission reductions from various entities (e.g., counties; oil refineries; airports, etc.).

Practically speaking, analysis of global climate change impacts often requires quantification of a project's carbon footprint (i.e., the total number of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to various sources within the project design). Accordingly, the firm's lawyers have been working closely with environmental consultants to develop state of the art environmental documents in order to ensure compliance under both CEQA and NEPA. The environmental documentation thoroughly evaluates the current and ever-evolving regulatory setting, identifies sources of greenhouse gas emissions within the project design, quantifies emissions from those sources, and evaluates the significance of those emissions. The documentation also develops "project design features" to reduce such emissions.

Public Lands Practice

The firm also has extensive experience with the unique legal issues that attend to public lands, such as those administered by the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Given the various stakeholders involved in public lands controversies, the firm’s lawyers have learned to blend their litigation expertise with negotiating and public relations skills. In the public lands arena, the firm routinely works with the following agencies: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), BLM, USFS, DPR, and the California Coastal Commission.

The statutes, which govern the firm’s public lands practice, include:

  • CEQA
  • California Endangered Species Act
  • California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Act
  • California Coastal Act
  • NEPA
  • Federal Endangered Species Act
  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act
  • Revised Statute 2477
  • National Forest Management Act

The firm has prosecuted actions against public entities when they have violated these statutes and, under different circumstances, has intervened to defend public entities whose decisions have been challenged by third parties.