• Survey of Significant 2018 Real Estate Cases

    On January 30, 2019, Coblentz partner Cliff Yin will speak at the Bar Association of San Francisco’s program “Survey of Significant 2018 Real Estate Cases.” The program will cover significant 2018 real estate cases and laws affecting real property owners, sellers, buyers, brokers, borrowers, lenders, contractors and others. For more details, please click here.

    Categories: Events
  • 2019 Legal Professional Educational Workshop

    Francie Skaggs and Fred Crombie will be presenting at the 2019 Legal Professional Educational Workshop scheduled on February 2, 9 and 16 at San Francisco State’s Downtown Campus. Francie Skaggs, Education Chair of the San Francisco Legal Professionals Association, is coordinating the three-day event with San Francisco State University and will oversee the event all three days. On February 9, Francie will co-present with trial attorney Scott Herndon for the presentation “50 Days Before Trial: How to Get Ahead of the Curve,” and on February 16, she will co-present with Bethany Vasquez, General Counsel of Lyft, for the presentation “Motions for Summary Judgment.”  On February 16, Fred Crombie will join a panel of court reporters and a retired judge, and he will provide a one-hour presentation on the “Deposition Process From an Attorney’s Point of View.”

    Registration is required. Click here for full event information and registration.

    Categories: Events
  • Prominent Employment Lawyer Fred W. Alvarez Joins Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass

    San Francisco-based law firm Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP welcomes Fred W. Alvarez to the firm’s partnership. Fred joins Coblentz from Jones Day.

    One of the preeminent employment lawyers in the United States, Fred Alvarez combines a distinct blend of employment law experience, public service, and legal profession leadership. He has an active individual and class action litigation practice devoted to defending employers in trial and on appeal in claims brought by private and governmental parties and by former senior executives. He has led the employment practice of two major American law firms. Fred represents clients in a range of industries, including energy, retail, communications, financial services, and technology.

    He currently focuses substantial attention on providing strategic and compliance advice, conducting sensitive internal investigations and serving as a jointly-appointed Monitor or Special Master of class action decrees. He has testified before Congress on several occasions.

    “Fred is a titan in the employment world and in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities,” said Clifford E. Yin, partner and chair of the litigation practice of Coblentz. “He is a fabulous addition to the firm, and we’re proud to have him as our partner.”

    Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, Fred served in two federal government sub-cabinet positions. As Assistant Secretary of Labor, he managed the Wage and Hour Division and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. He also served as a Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He began his career as a trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and was a law clerk to Chief Justice LaFel E. Oman of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

    Fred returns to San Francisco, where he served as President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, after practicing employment law in the Silicon Valley for 20 years and brings a unique perspective on Bay Area and national employment law issues to the growing employment practice at Coblentz.

    “When I decided to come back to San Francisco, I wanted to come to a first-rate, well-respected San Francisco law firm. Coblentz is quintessentially San Francisco and has demonstrated over the years that independent, high-end, high-integrity, national quality law practice is available right here,” said Fred Alvarez. “For the kinds of employment work I am doing now, those qualities are key.”


    About Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP

    Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP is a premier provider of innovative, results-oriented legal services, specializing in real estate, litigation, corporate, intellectual property, employment, tax, and family wealth. U.S. News & World Report recognizes Coblentz as one of the nation’s top law firms in the Best Law Firm list, with national and local rankings in 16 practice areas and six prestigious “Tier 1” rankings in the highly competitive San Francisco law firm category. Law360 named Coblentz a California Powerhouse firm. The National Law Journal named Coblentz to its prestigious, nationwide Midsize Hot List four times.  For more information: www.coblentzlaw.com.

    Categories: News
  • Senator Wiener Introduces Recrafted Legislation Providing Height and Density Bonuses, Other Incentives for “Transit-Rich” and “Jobs-Rich” Projects

    Last spring, we reported on Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827, which proposed major increases in height and density for qualifying housing developments.  Battle lines quickly emerged, with supporters claiming that the legislation was a bold, necessary solution to the housing affordability and climate change crises, and opponents asserting that it was a threat to neighborhood stability and an invitation to gentrification.  The bill was ultimately killed in Committee.  On December 3, Senator Wiener introduced SB 50.  Like SB 827, SB 50 would constrain local agencies’ ability to impose height and density limits and minimum parking requirements on residential developments (projects with at least two-thirds of the square footage designated for residential use) that meet the legislation’s “transit rich” and/or “jobs rich” criteria.  SB 50 introduces the term “equitable communities incentives” to describe the bill’s various waivers, concessions and incentives.

    Senator Wiener added new features, and modified others, to address criticisms of the prior bill.  Highlights include:

    • Expanding density incentives beyond “transit-rich” projects to “jobs-rich” projects (based on criteria such as proximity to jobs, area median income and quality of public schools) to capture more affluent areas outside major transit corridors.
    • Delaying implementation for designated “sensitive communities” (generally, those with a high risk of gentrification or displacement based on indicators such as percentage of tenant population living at or below the poverty line) to allow time for planning efforts directed at affordable multifamily housing.
    • Designating properties as ineligible if they have housed tenants in the past 7 years, or if the owner has evicted tenants under the Ellis Act in the past 15 years, prior to submittal of a development application; and
    • Providing that projects are generally subject to the more restrictive of SB 50’s affordable housing requirements, or local city inclusionary housing ordinances.

    The legislation has a number of co-authors and several early supporters, including Mayors Breed and Schaaf and the State Building Trades Council.  It is expected to be opposed by many of the same local communities that resisted SB 827 based on concerns such as loss of local control and gentrification.  The bill is currently awaiting Committee referral.


  • At Long Last: Central SoMa Plan Effective

    After over seven years of planning and public outreach, as of January 7, 2019, the Central SoMa Plan and its implementing legislation are finally effective.  The City’s analysis concludes that the Plan area has development capacity for over 8,000 new housing units (approximately 33 percent of which will be affordable) and over 30,000 new jobs, and will generate over two billion dollars of public benefits.

    The key takeaways are as follows:


    The Plan area is an approximately 230-acre site that runs roughly from 2nd Street to 6th Street, and from Market Street to Townsend Street, excluding certain areas north of Folsom Street that are part of the Downtown Plan. Very broadly, the Plan and its implementing legislation increase permitted height and density and streamline zoning controls for the majority of the Plan area.  With the exception of the Key Development Sites discussed below, height limits in large portions of the Plan area generally increased from 85 feet or less to 130 to 160 feet, subject to bulk controls to encourage building sculpting.  In exchange for this upzoning, the Plan requires increased public benefits, including payment of significant development impact fees.  See our prior blog post for a summary of other required exactions and public benefits, including privately owned public open space (POPOS) requirements.

    The predominant new base zoning district is Central SoMa Mixed Use Office (CMUO), which largely replaces relatively restrictive zoning districts with more flexible mixed-use zoning controls and eliminates Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limits for larger projects that participate in the Central SoMa Mello Roos Community Facilities District (CFD) Program described below. The CMUO zoning district is characterized as an Eastern Neighborhoods Mixed Use District and as such, Planning Code Section 329 Large Project Authorization from the Planning Commission is required for projects that are greater than 85 feet in height or propose the net addition or new construction of more than 50,000 gross square feet.  Large Project Authorization is required in addition to any other required entitlements, such as Conditional Use (CU) authorization for, e.g., new hotel uses in the Plan area.

    The Plan area is also part of a new Central SoMa Special Use District (SUD), which creates an additional layer of zoning controls.  Some of the major SUD controls are: designating the largest sites (over 40,000 square feet) South of Harrison Street as predominantly non-residential; imposing new PDR/Community Building Space requirements on projects with at least 50,000 gross square feet of office space; imposing active ground floor requirements, including requiring “micro-retail” units between 100 and 1,000 square feet for certain projects; imposing renewable electricity requirements; and generally prohibiting new formula retail bar, formula retail restaurant, and standard group housing uses.  See new Planning Code Section 249.78 for a complete list of requirements and restrictions in the SUD.  Up to 25 feet of additional building height is permitted for certain projects in the SUD that provide certain additional public benefits, including 100 percent affordable housing projects.  See new Planning Code Section 263.32.

    Again, there is generally no maximum FAR in the Plan area.  The purchase of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is generally required for larger non-residential projects (50,000 gross square feet or greater) on “Tier C” properties (as defined under Planning Code Section 423.2) for the portion of the project FAR between 3.0:1 and 4.25:1.  TDR must be obtained from a Preservation Lot (as defined under new Planning Code Section 128.1) also within the SUD or a lot containing a building with 100 percent affordable housing units.

    Key Development Sites

    The Plan identifies eight Key Development Sites, which are significantly upzoned, including increased height limits for towers 200 to 400 feet in height (depending on the site), in combination with more permissive Planning Code controls under the SUD and new Planning Code Section 329(e) exceptions, which vary to some extent by site.  Key Development Site projects must provide additional Qualified Amenities (as defined in new Planning Code Section 329(e)) and on-site childcare facilities (for office or hotel projects), in addition to the other required public benefits, including payment of substantial development impact fees.  There are also special height exceptions for qualifying projects on certain Key Development Sites under new Planning Code Sections 263.33 and 263.34.

    Central SoMa Mello Roos CFD

    The Central SoMa Mello Roos CFD Program participation requirement under new Planning Code Section 434 applies to projects in the Plan area that include new construction or the net addition of more than 25,000 gross square feet of non-residential development on “Tier B” or “Tier C” properties, or more than 25,000 gross square feet of new residential condo development on “Tier C” properties.  See the definitions under new Planning Code Section 423.2.  The CFD Program participation requirement is only triggered for projects that also exceed the applicable Prevailing Building Height and Density controls under Planning Code Section 249.78(d)(1)(B), meaning that many smaller projects are exempt.

    Legislation for the formation of the CFD was introduced by the Board of Supervisors on December 4, 2018 (BOS File No. 180622).

    Central SoMa Housing Sustainability District

    The Central SoMa Housing Sustainability District (HSD) encompasses the entire Plan area.  As explained in more detail in our prior blog post, residential projects 160 feet in height or less (unless 100 percent affordable) in the HSD meeting specified criteria, including minimum density and affordability requirements, qualify for a 120-day streamlined ministerial (i.e., no CEQA) review and approval process, including design review by the Planning Department.

    Qualifying projects first require an informational public hearing followed by Planning Department approval, which will be appealable to the Board of Appeals.