Land Use Planning, Zoning and Development


Smith Slusky has deep experience in land use planning and development, including zoning, subdivisions, tax incentives such as tax increment financing, historic tax credits and low income tax credits.  Since some of our partners have also owned and developed commercial real estate, we have seen the process from all sides.  We also have the relationships in the community that make the process work in the real world.




We have the public policy skills and contacts to represent private and public landholders and developers before city councils, county boards and other local, state and federal administrative bodies.  We help them obtain permits and other entitlements, and are effective at helping build broad public support.  Smith Slusky lawyers are equally skilled at challenging adverse administrative actions, and will vigorously defend approved projects if they hit political or regulatory snags.


The full range of compliance approvals that we facilitate encompasses:


  • Zoning and planning

  • Project permits and entitlements

  • Variances and conditional use permits

  • Development incentives

  • Takings, eminent domain and inverse condemnation

  • Historic preservation

  • Redevelopment and adaptive reuse approvals



Land use disputes can involve straightforward issues of municipal annexation, subdivision regulation, redevelopment law, development agreements and impact fees. In such instances, clients rely on our experience with local administration of land use regulations, including advice on the interpretation and enforcement of zoning regulations. We have particular strength in the challenging task of zoning appeals, and regularly go before zoning boards and political authorities to demonstrate the change of use prerequisites necessary for rezoning.


For more complex controversies, JMBM has extensive trial and appellate experience in land use litigation. A decade ago, our lawyers argued the high-profile permitting and takings case, Landgate, Inc. v. California Coastal Commission, before the California Supreme Court, and we have litigated many other land use disputes involving:


  • Condemnation and inverse condemnation

  • Compensation for regulatory takings and state land acquisitions

  • Restrictions on development of environmentally sensitive lands

  • Validity of exactions and development fees

  • Zoning for controversial uses, such as quarries

  • Hearings and protests over the adequacy of zoning procedures