RBGG has litigated numerous cases arising from disputes over zoning and other land-use controls.  We have deep knowledge of the complex state and local regulatory processes that govern real-estate development, as well as the rapidly growing body of state and federal law aimed at countering “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) opposition to “infill” housing development.  Affordable housing projects and other infill developments are particularly vulnerable to NIMBY opposition, and RBGG’s decades of experience practicing civil rights law makes us uniquely effective advocates for these projects. 

Representative Cases

  • California Housing Defense Fund v. City of La Cañada Flintridge:  RBGG represents the California Housing Defense Fund, a non-profit housing organization, in one of the first cases seeking to enforce the “builder’s remedy” provisions in California’s Housing Element Law and Housing Accountability Act.  The builder’s remedy effectively suspends a municipal government’s authority to enforce its zoning rules against qualifying affordable housing projects if the municipality has not reformed those rules to accommodate its fair share of new housing development.  In this case, the City of La Cañada Flintridge—a city whose median household income is nearly three times that of Los Angeles County as a whole—disapproved a qualifying affordable housing project despite the fact that state housing officials found its plans to be grossly inadequate multiple times, including because they unlawfully discriminated against prospective residents on the basis of both race and income. 
  • California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund (CaRLA), et al. v. County of Santa Clara, et al.: RBGG represents non-profit housing organization CaRLA and Stanford political scientist Kenneth Shotts in a suit alleging that Santa Clara County violated the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 when it downzoned an affluent residential area near Stanford University.  The Housing Crisis Act preempts new municipal zoning regulations that are more restrictive than the regulations in effect on January 1, 2018. 
  • California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund, et al. v. City of Huntington Beach:  In May 2022, RBGG’s client, California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund (CaRLA), a non-profit housing organization, achieved a landmark settlement with the City of Huntington Beach to resolve violations of California’s Housing Accountability Act (Gov’t Code § 65589.5, formerly known as the “Anti-NIMBY Law”).  The controversy arose when the City Council disapproved a proposed 48-unit mixed-income apartment building that complied with all applicable planning and zoning regulations, based on pretextual concerns about “health and safety” that the City Council manufactured after the fact in response to the threat of litigation.  RBGG was retained to represent CaRLA on three consolidated appeals in the California Court of Appeal arising from key trial court rulings in the matter.  RBGG’s team promptly defeated Huntington Beach’s supersedeas petition and request for immediate stay of the trial court’s orders in favor of CaRLA.  RBGG then briefed a motion to dismiss the consolidated appeals for lack of jurisdiction, which was pending when the parties reached the settlement. 
  • Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment v. City of Los Angeles:  RBGG, Public Counsel, and the Public Interest Law Project represented Plaintiff Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over illegal practices that gave individual City Council members the power to decide if, whether, and where supportive and affordable housing projects are built in the City.  For years, advocates complained that the City’s use of Letters of Acknowledgement and Support violated fair housing laws and impeded desperately needed housing.  As a direct result of this litigation, the City completely and permanently eliminated all such letter requirements. The City’s actions went well beyond the requirements of state Assembly Bill 829, which the Legislature enacted in the wake of the litigation and which prohibits state assistance for housing developments that are subject to such letter requirements. 
  • Sterling Park v. City of Palo Alto:  The California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision cementing our land developer client’s rights to proper notice and an opportunity to be heard when local governments impose special requirements on housing developments. See Sterling Park, L.P. v. City of Palo Alto, 57 Cal. 4th 1193 (2013). We later represented the same client in a writ petition to the Court of Appeal arising out of the trial court’s subsequent denial of summary judgment on a statute of limitations issue. The case then settled for a significant sum.
  • Lucas Valley Home Owners Association v. County of Marin:  RBGG succeeded in securing a reversal under constitutional and zoning law of an order invalidating a conditional use permit issued to our synagogue client, the real-party-in-interest Chabad of Marin. See Lucas Valley Home Owners Ass’n v. County of Marin, 233 Cal. App. 3d 130 (1991).
  • Marin City Council v. Marin County Redevelopment Agency:  We successfully defended in the Ninth Circuit an order rejecting a claim that HUD and our client, a developer, had provided insufficient federally assisted low-cost housing in a Marin County housing development.