Press Release

Morrison & Foerster Adds Top Talent To Its California Land Use and Real Estate Practices


Morrison & Foerster has announced that Michael H. Zischke, Steven L. Vettel and Thomas B. Ruby will join its 25-attorney Land Use and Environmental Group and Suheil J. Totah will join the firm's 35-attorney Real Estate Group.  Mr. Zischke and Mr. Totah, formerly with Landels, Ripley & Diamond, join the firm as partners and will be joined by two former Landels associates, Beverly Russell and David C. Levy.  Mr. Zischke will join Morrison in San Francisco and Mr. Totah will join the firm's Sacramento office.  Mr. Vettel comes to the firm from Gladstone & Vettel and will join the firm's San Francisco office.  Mr. Ruby, who has handled land use projects for the San Jose City Attorney's office for the past 10 years, will join the firm's Palo Alto office.

"Mike, Suheil, Steve and Tom bring invaluable expertise to Morrison & Foerster's already highly regarded land use and real estate practices," said Pamela J. Reed, Managing Partner of Operations.  "These new additions in Northern California combined with our strong Southern California practice broaden our statewide presence and enhance the firm's reputation as a national leader in land use, environmental and real estate law."

David A. Gold, Co-chair of the firm's Land Use and Environmental Group, added, "Within each of the fastest growing markets in California, our clients can count on us to bring together a talented team of lawyers in the land use, environmental and real estate community.  These individuals each bring a wealth of experience to our already strong practice.  Mike is one of California's foremost experts in land use and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation and compliance.  Suheil's real estate and land use experience for institutional clients in the growing Sacramento and Central Valley will bolster our competitive strength in these markets.  Steve, widely recognized as one of the top land use attorneys in San Francisco, will play a critical role in the expansion of our major development work in that market.  Tom is one of the leading land use and municipal attorneys in the booming South Bay, and will help build our already strong presence in the Silicon Valley and South Bay generally."

Mr. Zischke specializes in land use law and California Environmental Quality Act.  He is an experienced land use litigator, whose practice covers the broad range of land use issues, including CEQA litigation, preparing and defending environmental impact reports, obtaining land use entitlements, and processing and litigation land use ballot measures.  His work on environmental impact requirements covers both state reviews under CEQA and federal reviews under NEPA.  Mr. Zischke advises, counsels, and litigates on behalf of industry, public agencies, developers, and lenders and investors.  He is co-author of the leading California treatise for attorneys on CEQA litigation, Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act, first published in 1993 and now updated annually.  Mr. Zischke received his law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1982.           

Mr. Totah specializes in real estate transactions and land use matters.  His experience includes representing developers in management, acquisition, sale, leasing and finance matters as well as zoning approvals and project permitting for office, hotel, retail, commercial or residential developments.  He also represents some of the nation's largest lenders on real estate secured loan transactions and corporations on corporate real estate matters.  Mr. Totah received his law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1988, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Golden Gate University Law Review.

Mr. Vettel specializes in land use law, focusing on obtaining governmental entitlements for major development projects.  He regularly appears before planning commissions, zoning officials, appeals boards and legislative bodies representing real estate developers, property owners and community organizations.  Mr. Vettel comes to the firm from Gladstone & Vettel LLP where he was one of the two founding partners.  Prior to forming Gladstone & Vettel, he was with Morrison & Foerster from 1988 to 1991.  Mr. Vettel serves in leading positions for a variety of professional organizations, including as a director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.  Mr. Vettel received his law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1984.

Mr. Ruby comes to the firm from the City Attorney's Office of San Jose where he was a Senior Deputy City Attorney serving as the Land Use Attorney for the City of San Jose.  In this position, he provided advice and counsel to the City Council, Planning Commission, Historic Landmarks Commission, City Manager and Planning Department on all aspects of the development process, transportation planning and the California Environmental Quality Act.  Mr. Ruby has provided legal counsel on a variety of complex projects, including the industrial development in North San Jose consisting of more than 8 million square feet of new office space. Prior to joining the City Attorney's office in 1990, Mr. Ruby was an associate with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro.  He received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Hastings College of the Law in 1986. 

Also joining are associates Beverly Russell and David C. Levy.  Ms. Russell, who joins the Real Estate Group, received her law degree from Hastings College of the Law, with Honors, in 1989.  Mr. Levy joins the Land Use and Environmental Group.  He received his law degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1999.  Before attending law school, Mr. Levy worked for 7 years for the San Francisco Planning Department in long-range planning and environmental impact review.  Both will be resident in the firm's San Francisco office. 




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