Municipal and Public Agency Law
Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger
has decades of experience advising and litigating on behalf of public agency clients on a broad range of issues. The firm provides city attorney and general counsel services as well as special counsel services related to land use planning and zoning, CEQA, housing, parks and open space, real estate transactions, ballot measures, eminent domain, regulatory takings, and major transportation/infrastructure projects.
City Attorney & General Counsel Services
SMW attorneys are pragmatic problem solvers. As city attorney, general counsel, and outside counsel to numerous public agencies, SMW regularly provides advice on the complex laws applicable to local governments. We advise and provide training on compliance with open meeting requirements; help agencies navigate conflict of interest issues; advise on public records disclosure and privileges; advise on municipal finance; and resolve public contracting issues, including competitive bidding and prevailing wage. We take pride in our ability to efficiently solve problems on the wide array of issues public agencies face on a daily basis.
Land Use Planning & Zoning
SMW knows that land use planning makes our communities thrive. Our attorneys and planners help local governments draft effective and defensible general plans, specific plans, zoning ordinances, local coastal programs, and state legislation concerning land use planning. The firm also helps our agency clients navigate complex land use applications, including density bonus requests, applications for streamlined housing approvals, historic preservation, and LAFCO proceedings. Since our first case in Agins v. City of Tiburon, in which our client prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court, the firm has successfully defended numerous legal challenges to general plan adoptions and amendments, zoning changes, and other land use approvals. The firm’s in-house urban planners work alongside attorneys to provide expert planning support in all of these matters.
SMW understands that appropriately placed housing enhances livability and creates an antidote to suburban sprawl. The firm assists agencies in devising innovative programs to create, preserve, and defend infill and affordable housing in urban areas and for seniors. SMW regularly advises on Housing Elements and compliance with other state housing laws, inclusionary housing, rent control, and accessory dwelling units.
Parks & Recreation
SMW knows that parks and recreation are essential to promoting public health and building strong communities. The firm assists park districts and local governments that plan for, acquire, manage, and protect rural and urban parkland and open space. Our team has extensive experience with recreation programs and in working with clients to resolve conflicts among stakeholders.
Real Estate Transactions & Eminent Domain
SMW attorneys achieve good value for the public in land transactions. SMW has widely recognized expertise in counseling public agencies on all phases of real property acquisition, sale, and leasing, and administration of relocation laws. SMW attorneys have also represented public agencies in a wide variety of eminent domain actions to conserve natural areas, create parks, and acquire rights-of-way for public transit and public utilities. SMW also advises clients on the process of acquiring and developing brownfield properties, including former military bases and industrial sites.
SMW is California’s premier firm in defending public entities in regulatory takings litigation. The firm has successfully defended dozens of cases in which property owners have alleged that agency regulation or action effected an unconstitutional “taking” of their property or violated their equal protection and due process rights. SMW also advises public entities on how to minimize takings exposure in regulatory and permitting decisions and assists public entities with nexus studies to support proposed regulations and exactions.
SMW assists agencies in developing creative funding to deliver much needed public projects and services. SMW advises public agencies on mechanisms for bridging the public funding gap resulting from the loss of redevelopment; Propositions 26, 13, and 218; and the sharp decline in federal and state financial assistance to local agencies. The firm has advised on numerous ballot measures for bonds and taxes, as well as on the formation of assessment and other financing districts.
SMW advises public agencies on all aspects of professional services and public works contracting, including compliance with the Public Contract Code and Labor Code. The firm helps its clients develop template contracts and bid documents, negotiate contracts, comply with competitive bidding and prevailing wage requirements, manage bid protests, and enforce contracts and indemnity provisions.
Transportation & Infrastructure Projects
SMW knows that transportation infrastructure is essential, but also complex. We have a keen understanding of the legal and technical issues posed by such projects. The firm has extensive experience working with public agencies on major transit, urban infrastructure, and flood control projects. Our attorneys assist project proponents with design, environmental review, land acquisition (including eminent domain), construction, funding, and operation. We also advise public agencies dealing with adverse impacts from poorly planned infrastructure including airports, power plants, rail yards, and freeways.
Planning & Project Management Services
SMW’s urban planners work alongside firm attorneys to provide expert planning support on a wide array of land use and environmental issues. The firm’s planners help public agencies navigate large-scale, complex land use projects. They prepare environmental documents, manage teams of technical consultants in diverse disciplines, negotiate with a broad range of stakeholders and regulatory agencies, and engage in collaborative planning.