• What To Do With All Those Schedules: Form 706 and Form 709 Tips And Tricks

    Join Coblentz partner Jennifer Scharre on July 9, 2024 for the California Lawyers Association MCLE webinar “What To Do With All Those Schedules: Form 706 and Form 709 Tips And Tricks.” Jennifer will cover all schedules on a Form 706 and 709, pitfalls in reporting that often occur in trust administrations, and planning opportunities that present themselves through the administration process. For more details and to register, please click here.

    Categories: Events
  • What We’re Reading, Watching, and Listening To: June 2024

    A roundup of news and multimedia from the Unfamiliar Terrain team:

    San Francisco

    Ultra Wealthy Are Putting Money Behind Bets on San Francisco’s Comeback (Bloomberg): Big investments in City businesses and real estate assets continue.

    New data reveals what’s really fueling downtown San Francisco’s recovery (Business Times): New data suggests nightlife and after-hours activity may be a bigger driver of the recovery than what’s happening during the workday.

    S.F. nonprofits secure $100 million gift for affordable artist housing on Market Street (SF Chronicle): Artists Hub on Market and Mercy Housing of California are collaborating to redevelop the Market Street site with approximately 100 affordable housing units.

    Rethinking Revenue: Business Tax Reform in San Francisco in the Era of Remote Work (SPUR): The Office of the Controller and the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector have proposed final tax reform recommendations aiming to increase the City’s economic resilience, create more transparency for taxpayers, and help struggling small businesses.

    California and Beyond

    Bay Area could add 41,000 affordable homes. This map shows where they’d be located (SF Chronicle): A $20 billion housing bond likely headed to Bay Area ballots in November could “unlock” a pipeline of nearly 41,000 units across the nine-county region.

    California will force Malibu and other towns to add housing. Here’s why that’s not nearly enough (LA Times): Exploring why the state government must expand the scope and speed of land-use reforms, with all cities, including wealthy and recalcitrant enclaves, doing their part.

    Newsom promised 1,200 tiny homes for homeless Californians. A year later, none have opened (CalMatters): The Governor said he’d send tiny homes to San Jose, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego County. Why haven’t any materialized yet?

    Why a California Plan to Build More Homes Is Failing (Wall Street Journal): Only a few dozen people have built housing under a law allowing them to construct duplexes alongside single-family houses.

    One of every five new homes built in California last year was an ADU (Mercury News): In recent years, California has seen an explosion in ADU construction.

    New battlegrounds emerge in California’s endless housing conflict (CalMatters): Exploring housing clashes emerging in recent weeks, including one in Portola Valley and the other a coalition of cities governed by their own charters, rather than state law.

    7 Creative Solutions to Affordable Housing in California (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative): Ideas about how to solve California’s housing crisis, and proof that it can happen.

    How an American Dream of Housing Became a Reality in Sweden (NY Times): Sweden picked up on the idea of modular construction and put it into practice.

    Categories: Blogs
  • California Supreme Court Upholds UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan and People’s Park Housing Project Approvals

    The California Supreme Court recently upheld the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the Long Range Development Plan (“LRDP”) for the University of California Berkeley (“UC Berkeley”) and a controversial housing project at a site known as People’s Park. In so doing, it applied the principle that “no matter how important its original purpose, [CEQA] remains a legislative act, subject to legislative limitation and legislative amendment.”

    The Court’s ruling in Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of the University of California involved a challenge brought by project opponents against UC Berkeley’s EIR for its LRDP and a specific housing project at People’s Park. The LRDP is a broad plan for UC Berkeley’s long-term physical development, including land use designations, the location of buildings, and infrastructure systems. It plans for the addition of 11,730 new student beds to accommodate long-term enrollment projections. The People’s Park housing project would develop 1,113 student beds, 1.7 acres of open landscape, and 125 affordable and supportive housing beds for lower income or formerly homeless individuals not affiliated with UC Berkeley.

    Project opponents argued that the EIR failed to consider environmental impacts from “social noise” (i.e., vocal noise generated by students at parties or walking late at night), and that the EIR failed to adequately consider alternative locations other than People’s Park for the housing project. Although the trial court ruled in favor of UC Berkeley, the Court of Appeal agreed with project opponents on those two issues.

    After the California Supreme Court granted review, but before oral arguments in the case, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 1307, which amended CEQA by adding two sections to the Public Resources Code: (1) section 21085, which provides that noise generated by project occupants and their guests is not a significant effect on the environment under CEQA for “residential projects”; and (2) section 21085.2, which provides that institutes of public higher education, in an EIR for a residential or mixed-use housing project, are not required to consider alternatives to the location of a proposed project if certain requirements are met.[1]

    Project opponents conceded that under AB 1307, the EIR was not required to analyze social noise from or potential alternative locations to development at People’s Park. The Court confirmed that in mandamus proceedings (such as CEQA actions), “a reviewing court applies the law that is current at the time of judgment in the reviewing court.” The project opponents, however, argued that their LRDP social noise claim remained viable because AB 1307 exempted only “residential projects,” and the LRDP is not a “residential project” within the statute’s meaning. The project opponents also asked the Court to consider their alternative locations argument with respect to potential future LRDP projects.

    The Court rejected both of these arguments. The Court interpreted the undefined term “residential project” broadly in holding that the EIR was not required to analyze social noise impacts of either the People’s Park housing project or the broader LRDP. The Court considered the statute’s purpose, legislative history, and public policy to discern its meaning and concluded that it was “clear” that section 21085 “should be interpreted broadly enough” to apply to the aspects of the LRDP at issue.

    The Court also declined to consider the project opponents’ alternative locations argument with respect to potential future housing projects that were not before the Court.

    The California Supreme Court’s decision gives UC Berkeley the green light to finally move forward with the student housing project at People’s Park, and also reaffirms principles of statutory construction and that courts should apply the law in effect at the time of their ruling. In addition, its broad interpretation of “residential project” means that not only specific projects, but also residential components of long-term planning efforts, should not be required to analyze social noise as an environmental effect under CEQA.


    [1] These requirements are that the project must: (1) be located on a site that is no more than five acres and be substantially surrounded by qualified urban uses; and (2) have already been evaluated in the EIR for the most recent LRDP for the applicable campus.

    Categories: Blogs
  • Supreme Court Impact Fee Decision Creates Opportunities for Developers and Property Owners

    On April 12, 2024, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that may significantly affect how development impact fees are assessed in California. In Sheetz v. County of El Dorado,[1] the Court unanimously held that legislatively imposed permit conditions are subject to the same constitutional test – informally referred to as the “Nollan/Dolan” test – as administratively adopted permit conditions. Under this test, permit conditions must have “an essential nexus” to the government’s land use interest and a “rough proportionality” to the development’s impact on the land use interest.

    Prior to Sheetz, when a local government imposed an exaction through legislative action (such as development impact fees adopted and imposed under the Mitigation Fee Act), it did not need to satisfy the tests established under Nollan v. California Coastal Commission[2] and Dolan v. City of Tigard.[3] As a practical matter, this meant that legislatively adopted fees received very little scrutiny when applicants challenged them in court. Although the Sheetz opinion is narrowly crafted, it provides new opportunities to challenge and to negotiate over impact fees and other legislatively adopted exactions.

    Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Bay Area Council in support of the petitioner’s claims, explaining that the lack of a judicial check on impact fees has resulted in some excessively high fees and extreme variation in fees by jurisdiction, particularly in the Bay Area.

    Case Background

    The County of El Dorado’s Board of Supervisors enacted a traffic impact fee on new construction to finance new roads and the widening of existing roads. Under this program, the traffic impact fee was based on a rate schedule that took into account a project site’s location within the County and construction type. The fee was imposed regardless of a project’s actual impact on roads.

    George Sheetz applied for a building permit from the County to construct a modest manufactured house on his property. The County issued a permit for the house on the condition that Mr. Sheetz pay the traffic impact fee in the amount of $23,420. Mr. Sheetz paid the fee under protest.

    In 2017, Mr. Sheetz filed an action against the County, seeking a fee refund on the grounds that the traffic impact fee was an unconstitutional condition under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Nollan/Dolan precedent.

    In rejecting Mr. Sheetz’s claims, the Court of Appeal held that, “[u]nder California law, only certain development fees are subject to the heightened scrutiny of the Nollan/Dolan test,” including “development fees imposed as a condition of permit approval where such fees are imposed . . . neither generally nor ministerially, but on an individual and discretionary basis.”[4] The Court reasoned that the requirements of Nollan/Dolan do not extend to development fees that broadly apply to property owners through legislative action, as opposed to fees imposed ad hoc on individual permit applications.

    The California Supreme Court denied review, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer the narrow question of whether legislatively adopted exactions are subject to the Nollan/Dolan test.

    The Sheetz Decision and Key Takeaways

    On the question presented, the unanimous Court was clear: the Takings Clause does not distinguish between legislative and administrative land use permit conditions, meaning that legislatively adopted exactions are subject to the Nollan/Dolan test. The Court stated that nothing in constitutional text, history, or precedent supports exempting legislatures from ordinary takings rules.

    But the Court left open a number of issues and the three concurring opinions suggest that the Justices are not unanimous in their views of several ancillary, unanswered questions. For example, the Court explicitly did not address whether a permit condition imposed on a class of properties must be tailored with the same degree of specificity as a permit condition that targets a particular development. Justice Gorsuch’s concurring opinion took issue with the Court’s failure to reach this issue, stating that an “individualized determination” is required regardless of whether the fee impacts a class of properties or a particular development.[5] Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson, disagreed in a concurring opinion emphasizing that the Court did not address the common government practice of imposing impact fees and other permit conditions through “reasonable formulas or schedules that assess the impact of classes of development rather than the impact of specific parcels or property.”[6] In a third concurring opinion, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Jackson, stated that the trigger for Nolan/Dollan scrutiny is “whether the permit condition would be a compensable taking if imposed outside the permitting context.”[7] This may suggest that at least two Justices believe there might be an entirely different way to view impact fees, potentially outside of the takings jurisprudence.

    Immediate and Long-Term Implications of Sheetz

    Despite the open questions, Sheetz gives developers new options to challenge and negotiate over fees. Ever since the California Supreme Court in San Remo Hotel L.P. v. San Francisco[8] exempted legislatively adopted impact fees from the Nollan/Dolan test, local jurisdictions have had a powerful argument to rebuff fee challenges. With Sheetz, local jurisdictions have lost that tool. At the very least, we expect an uptick in impact fee litigation with greater success by developers. We also believe local jurisdictions will be more open to negotiation over impact fees as applied to individual projects.

    California courts will now address some of the questions that the Justices left unanswered, and we expect this area will remain dynamic as new cases are decided. In fact, Sheetz itself lives on as the Court of Appeal is now considering how to apply the Supreme Court’s decision. We will be watching carefully as the courts confront the remaining open issues.

    We do not expect that a large number of local jurisdictions will immediately revamp their existing fee programs. But as new fees are proposed or updated nexus studies are prepared, we anticipate that resulting fee programs will be tailored so that the fee imposed more closely matches the impact of the development. While Sheetz did not mark the end of impact fees (as some had predicted could happen with a more sweeping opinion), it likely will eventually result in fees that are more “proportional” to the impact.

    For projects already struggling to pencil due to stubbornly high construction costs and interest rates, impact fees – sometimes reaching into six figures per unit – can pose additional barriers. As developers try to find ways to make projects viable, the Sheetz decision creates a stronger basis for revisiting impact fees that may be disproportionate to a project’s actual impacts.


    [1] (2024) 601 U.S. 267.

    [2] (1987) 483 U.S. 825.

    [3] (1994) 512 U.S. 374.

    [4] Sheetz v. County of El Dorado (2022) 84 Cal.App.5th 394, 406 (internal citations omitted), vacated and remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    [5] Sheetz v. County of El Dorado, supra, 601 U.S. at p. 283 (conc. opn. of Gorsuch, J.).

    [6] Id. at p. 284 (conc. opn. of Kavanaugh, J.).

    [7] Id. at p. 280–281 (conc. opn. of Sotomayor, J.).

    [8] (2002) 27 Cal.4th 643.


    Categories: Blogs
  • Nine Coblentz Partners and Four Practices Ranked in Chambers USA 2024

    Three Partners and One Practice Area Newly Ranked

    Nine Coblentz partners and four practices are recognized by Chambers & Partners in the 2024 edition of Chambers USA, including newly ranked partners Danna Kozerski, Sean Coyle, and Hannah Jones, and our newly ranked Employment practice.

    Real estate and land use partners Harry O’Brien and Tay Via are listed as leading lawyers in the Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use – California category, real estate partners Alan Gennis and Danna Kozerski are listed as leading lawyers in the Real Estate – Northern California category, litigation partners Timothy Crudo, Rees Morgan, and Sean Coyle are listed in the Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations – California category, and Employment partners Fred Alvarez and Hannah Jones are listed in the Labor & Employment – California category.

    Independent and objective, Chambers USA is carefully researched and widely considered to be the most reputable law firm directory in the world. Ranking criteria include technical legal ability, client service, commercial vision and business understanding, diligence, depth of the team, value for money, and other qualities most valued by legal clients.

    Real Estate & Land Use

    Coblentz’s real estate and land use practice is again ranked in the top tier, Band 1, in the Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use category for California. Our land use practice has been continuously ranked by Chambers for 14 years and our real estate practice is ranked by the Chambers USA 2024 Guide in Band 3 in the Real Estate category for Northern California. Clients note, “Coblentz has significant bench depth and brings the latest market information and legal strategies to the table” and that our team “has the depth, skill set and bandwidth to handle extremely complex projects. The firm has always been extremely responsive, efficient and helpful in every respect.” Four real estate and land use partners received individual rankings.

    Harry O’Brien is again ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 3 in the Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use – California category. A client raved, “Harry is amazing, he is an expert in his area and we enjoy working with him.” Harry has been recognized by Chambers since 2003.

    Tay Via moved up in the rankings and is now ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 3 in the Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use – California. A client notes, “Tay Via is incredible and really responsive.” Tay has been recognized by Chambers since 2022.

    Alan Gennis is again ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 2 in the Real Estate – Northern California category. “Alan is a great real estate transactional attorney,” remarked a client. Alan has been recognized by Chambers since 2018.

    Danna Kozerski is newly ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 4 in the Real Estate – Northern California category. “Danna Kozerski is a strong attorney and a pleasure to work with,” noted a client.


    Coblentz’s white collar defense and investigations practice is ranked in Band 3 in the Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations category for California, moving up one band. A client notes, “They are my go-to recommendation. They’re hyper fast to engage and dive into a case,” while another adds, “Coblentz is filled with the most skilled, thoughtful and strategic attorneys. It’s a dream team for complex cases.” Three litigation partners received individual rankings in the category.

    Timothy Crudo is again ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 2 in the Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations category for California. Clients note Tim “is an incredibly experienced lawyer, who has gained the respect of both sides of the Bar,” and that he “is a consummate professional, who is great in court and experienced in getting fantastic results for his clients.” Tim has been recognized by Chambers since 2016.

    Rees Morgan moved up in the rankings and is now ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 3 in the Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations category for California. “Rees is one of the most personable, kind, smart and strategic lawyers you could have on your side. And most importantly, he’s brutally honest about each aspect of your case,” raves a client. Another remarks, “Rees has such a persuasive style in oral argument and can take complex facts and boil them down into simple arguments.” Rees has been recognized by Chambers since 2021.

    Sean Coyle is newly ranked as a Leading Lawyer in Band 5 in the Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations category for California. A client notes, “He’s very pragmatic – sometimes people can lose the forest for the trees, but he doesn’t. He’s solutions driven.”


    Coblentz’s employment practice is newly ranked in Band 3 in the California: Labor & Employment – Highly Regarded category. “The team at Coblentz is made up of excellent lawyers and trusted advisers,” notes a client. Another remarks, “They are very responsive and engaged. They really prioritize us as a client and are able to deliver candid advice and good judgment while seeing issues from all sides.”

    Employment partner Fred Alvarez is again recognized as a Senior Statesperson in California in the Labor & Employment category. “He is excellent – he is extremely knowledgeable about employment law and uses his knowledge to dissect issues,” raves one client. Another notes, “His demeanor is very calm, conveying experience, knowledge and a level approach. He is focused on reaching resolutions and seeing a path toward solving problems.” Fred has been recognized by Chambers for more than 20 years.

    Hannah Jones is newly ranked in the Up and Coming category. “She is very knowledgeable, practical and efficient. She is extremely responsive and helps us navigate some very complicated issues,” notes a client.

    To view the complete list of Coblentz rankings in the 2024 edition of Chambers USA, please visit the publication’s website linked here.

    Categories: News
  • Jennifer Scharre Appointed to the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Law Section of the California Lawyers Association

    Coblentz family wealth partner Jennifer Scharre has been appointed to the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section (TEXCOM) of the California Lawyers Association, an organization dedicated to the professional advancement of attorneys practicing in the state of California. TEXCOM members serve a five-year term and work to improve trusts and estates law and the standard of practice among California Lawyers Association members. The Executive Committee also delivers programs and publications to section members and handles strategic planning for the section.

    Jennifer is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. Her practice focuses on sophisticated wealth transfer strategies for high net worth clients, including founders, individuals at startups, and clients with large real estate portfolios.

    In addition to serving on TEXCOM, Jennifer serves on the Board of Trustees of the Silicon Valley Bar Association (SVBA), where she is also Treasurer. Jennifer is also a member of the Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Section of the State Bar of California. She is a prolific speaker and provides informative presentations regarding estate planning, charitable giving, and special needs issues to professional organizations and her local community.

    Categories: News