California – Land Use and Zoning

With a wealth of experience that allows them to assess projects through multiple lenses, Venable's cohesive California land use and zoning team works with clients to bring some of the most complex and challenging real estate developments to fruition.

Venable's land use attorneys represent property owners; housing, retail, and industrial property developers; self-storage companies; and Fortune 500 companies throughout California. Our extensive practice covers all aspects of land use and zoning, including due diligence research to assess the development potential of a property (along with title research, permits, and zoning and planning history), pre-development feasibility analysis, real estate project entitlements and zoning services, easements and other property disputes, historical designations, code compliance and enforcement, LEED certification and green building compliance, development agreements, compliance with state and local regulations, and community outreach. Our entitlement work is focused primarily in California, but our team conducts due diligence on a variety of property types throughout the United States.

We frequently provide counsel on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Ellis Act (which allows property owners to get out of the rental market), the Coastal Act (which regulates developments in the coastal zone), and various housing laws and incentive programs, including the State of California Density Bonus Law and the City of Los Angeles Transit Oriented Communities program. We have particular experience in the entitlement and development of large-scale multi-family and mixed-use properties; self-storage and other industrial warehouse projects; subdivisions; and the development and entitlement of cemeteries and funeral homes.

To ensure a streamlined approach to the entitlement and permitting process, our team often acts in a project management role, coordinating with the various agencies. Similarly, to avert any legal challenges to a project, we build a robust administrative record, while engaging with community groups and other stakeholders to address any concerns. For every project, our primary objective is to ensure our clients reach their development goals without delay and within budget.

Land Use Litigation

With seasoned land use litigators on our team, we advocate on behalf of real estate developers and owners for the right to entitle and develop their properties. While building a meticulous administrative record that enables us to withstand any legal challenges, we have handled numerous cases involving California Code CCP 1085 and CCP Section 1094.5. We also handle easement, subdivision, and other property disputes; a wide variety of writ of mandamus cases involving multiple cities and counties throughout California; and compliance cases against various government agencies. 


  • Obtained approval for a Special Use Permit and Design Review from Inglewood Planning Commission to allow the construction of a brand-new six-story, approximately 335,000 square foot self-storage facility on Century Boulevard
  • Awarded ruling against the City of Los Angeles for a writ of mandate case that involved a deemed-to-be-approved private street in the Hollywood Hills
  • Led an entitlement team on a large project involving the redesign and reuse of a large motel property into a mixed-use commercial and multi-unit residential project in Mesa, Arizona. Project included multiple hearings with key agencies and departments to change the use and reconfigure the site to comply with current code requirements
  • Obtained entitlement approvals for the redevelopment of the site of a former carwash into a mixed use with multiple ground-floor retail spaces and 69 multi-residential units above in the Valley Village community. The project was a controversial five-story Density Bonus project with a commercial condominium tract map
  • Led a project team on a major renovation of an acclaimed historic hotel in Ogden, Utah, which involved resolving numerous citations from multiple agencies and coordinating conflicting regulations based on the historic significance of the building versus current code requirements and compliance rules
  • Obtained a court-ordered injunction against a neighbor in a commercial litigation dispute involving a proscriptive easement
  • Handled dozens of large-scale land use due diligence projects for real estate portfolio purchases throughout the country, including sites in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Utah, Indiana, and North Carolina
  • Helped secure entitlements for a new, 200-unit luxury apartment complex (replacing an outdated 236-unit motel) in Costa Mesa, which includes the provision of nine units of affordable housing and relocation assistance for long-term occupants. Defended against lawsuits by the tenant advocacy organization and adjacent property owner and negotiated settlement agreements with both parties
  • Defended against three lawsuits by a community organization against the developer of a 28-unit artist work/live project (including nine designated affordable units) in Laguna Beach, which resulted in upholding approvals by the California Coastal Commission and the City of Laguna Beach. Prepared a strategy for consideration of opponents’ appeal and secured unanimous project approval by the Commission
  • Successfully appealed a decision to the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission and secured a reasonable accommodation for a client with three disabled adult children to construct a single-family residence in an unincorporated area of the Santa Monica Mountains
  • Conducted comprehensive due diligence in connection with the approximately $2B sale of an historic Los Angeles area studio complex, including analysis of preexisting easements, permitting history dating back decades, parking counts, and other existing entitlements that would frame future uses of the complex with over 1 million square feet of space, including 22 stages, a production office and support buildings, third-party tenant offices, a purpose-built broadcast center, and filmable backlot locations
  • Assisted some of California’s largest vertically integrated commercial cannabis businesses in establishing cultivation, manufacturing, delivery, distribution, and retail storefront locations throughout California and in other markets where recreational legalization has occurred, taking projects through initial diligence, local permitting and entitlement, state licensing, and ground-up construction build-outs for these highly regulated facilities, and providing ongoing regulatory compliance advice
  • Advised on the large-scale development of thousands of acres of property in Riverside County, including residential, mixed-use, resort, and commercial developments. Our team negotiated purchase and sale agreements, joint ventures, and leaseback agreements, and interfaced with both public agencies and private stakeholders to accomplish adoption of new General Plans and Specific Plans and rezoning of parcels to permit innovative new uses on former agricultural property
  • Obtained entitlements for numerous residential and mixed-use projects in Southern California, pursuant to the State Density Bonus Law and the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program in Los Angeles, totaling over 1,000 units, including over 100 affordable units.
  • Obtained approval of a Condition Use Permit to expand the use of a prominent luxury hotel in Beverly Hills
  • Obtained relief from Code Enforcement actions by the Housing and Building Departments in the City of Los Angeles for several residential and hospitality-related property owners
  • Advised and obtained CEQA compliance from the City of Desert Hot Springs for a 160-acre cannabis business park, including cultivation, manufacturing, and retail components