SAN FRANCISCO (April 21, 2008) - The California Association of Environmental Professionals recently named the Environmental Impact Report for the San Ramon City Center as 2008 “Outstanding Environmental Analysis Document.” Morrison & Foerster LLP provided the critical land use and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) counsel for the award-winning report, working alongside a leading environmental consulting firm, Irvine, Calif.-based Michael Brandman Associates. Morrison & Foerster’s Land Use and Environmental Law (LUEL) Group oversaw review and certification of the Report to ensure compliance with CEQA regulations.
The award is the latest success in connection with the City of San Ramon’s two-and-a-half-decade-long effort to develop a city center to serve as a central gathering place for its residents, who number about 50,000. The City Center project is a mixed-use civic/retail/residential/office development that will create a new “downtown” for San Ramon, which is located about 25 miles east of San Francisco. The approximately $800 million, two million gross-square-foot project is recognized as one of the largest public-private partnerships in Northern California. Morrison Foerster’s client, Sunset Development Co., is the owner of the 9-million-square-foot Bishop Ranch Business Park, and acts as partner with the city on the project.
“San Ramon is well on its way to meeting its goal of building the downtown that its residents have long sought,” said Morrison & Foerster partner David A. Gold, of the firm’s LUEL Group and Cleantech Practice Group. “This is a large and ambitious project that has weathered numerous political and legal challenges over the years.”
Mr. Gold, along with Morrison & Foerster LUEL attorneys Bruce Goodmiller (of Counsel) and associates Miles Imwalle and Michelle Moore, represented Sunset Development in obtaining the land use entitlements for the City Center. Although the project enjoyed widespread support by San Ramon residents, shortly after Morrison & Foerster obtained the entitlements in December 2007, a local organization filed a CEQA-based lawsuit challenging the development. LUEL Group members Ned Washburn and Shaye Diveley led the litigation efforts, and the parties arrived at a settlement earlier this year, which will allow a slightly modified and “greener” project to move forward without delay.
Morrison & Forrester, recognized in WIRED magazine in 2007 as one of just two law firms involved in the current Silicon Valley “Great Green Boom,” worked closely with the Brandman firm post-settlement in preparing the City Center’s award-winning Environmental Impact Report. “Our group collaborated beautifully with Brandman professionals to ensure that the EIR was CEQA-compliant,” said Mr. Gold. “We helped devise strategies for responding creatively to the problem of global warming and other urban planning concerns in Northern California.”
The Association’s 2008 Awards Jury praised the way in which the Impact Report “conveys complex impact analyses in a well structured, highly readable format.” The jury also acclaimed the “rigorous water supply analysis and an innovative urban decay analysis which can be transferred to other documents.” Mr. Imwalle focused on the legal aspects of these analyses, to ensure compliance with the California Water Code and CEQA.
The Awards Jury also noted that the Report includes “an innovative analysis of landscape-related air quality impacts, and provides mitigation measures specifying a low-ozone producing landscape which is also drought tolerant, simultaneously fulfilling multiple environmental objectives.” All City Center buildings will be “LEED – Silver” certified – a high-level “green building” standard that promotes sustainability and will reduce the project’s environmental footprint. According to the Brandman firm, city staff and planning commissioners also cited the air quality analysis for this “city within a city” as comprehensive and consistent with the city’s recent goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 11% by 2010.
In addition to the high-density, residential, retail, and commercial components, the city center will include a new city council chambers, library, hotel, transit center, and police headquarters. Groundbreaking for some of the center’s tenants is expected later this year.