Robert is a leading real estate redevelopment attorney who provides strategy and counsel to a wide variety of clients dealing with contaminated site remediation and brownfield redevelopment, including environmental due diligence and related litigation. His projects have included hundreds of contaminated sites including industrial plants, landfills, rail yards, bulk terminals, closed military facilities, timber mills, dry cleaners, commercial nurseries, schools, and service stations.

Banking Background Benefits Transactional Clients

Property owners, developers, financial institutions, government agencies, and manufacturers rely on Robert during transactions for his ability to guide them through due diligence review, acquisition/disposition negotiations, regulatory and entitlement approvals, and insurance and financial underwriting. Robert's commercial banking background provides a real-world business perspective on these matters.

Effective Solutions In Complex California Litigation

On the litigation side of his practice, Robert has successfully litigated more than $100 million of environmental cost recovery claims in federal and state courts, including bench and jury trials as well as appeals. He has also successfully litigated environmental tort claims, Clean Water Act citizen suits, contract claims, eminent domain matters, and disputes arising under the phase out of California's Community Redevelopment Law.


  • Obtained settlements in excess of $13 million from a multi-national chemical manufacturer, a multi-national paint manufacturer, and several other parties in a combined environmental cleanup/eminent domain action. The litigation, on behalf of a municipal redevelopment agency, involved multiple simultaneous state trial court proceedings, including a five-week jury trial in one action, as well as federal district court litigation in which our client obtained a summary judgment leading to the final settlement. A state appellate ruling validated the client's position on the appropriate interaction of eminent domain and environmental cost recovery proceedings.

  • Represented a Northern California municipality and redevelopment agency in cost recovery litigation against several different former operators of city-owned port site contaminated with hydrocarbon and PCE contaminants. Marshaled resources to assist city with extensive review of city records and historical data to locate and pursue former operators from decades earlier. Handled related insurance litigation as part of assisting city in its defense of contribution claims.

  • Defended a gasoline distributor in contamination claim for strict liability, negligence, trespass, and nuisance brought by operator of water system for alleged actual and threatened MTBE contamination of the drinking water system arising from releases of gasoline.

  • Represented a company in products liability and toxic torts litigation involving MTBE contamination of groundwater.

  • Obtained a settlement in excess of $15 million from a major oil company on behalf of a municipal redevelopment agency client in a multi-party, multi-jurisdiction case arising out of an environmental cleanup necessary for the second phase of a multi-phase urban redevelopment project. This litigation involved the concurrent handling of common law claims, a statutory environmental cost recovery claim, eminent domain claims, federal appellate litigation over the extent to which a prior federal action partially resolved this state court action, and an extensive administrative process before a state agency.

  • Obtained summary judgment for a municipality on claims that its historic management of waterfront areas within the city, its development of road and sewer infrastructure, and its land reclamation activities had contributed to environmental contamination at a site near the historic shoreline of San Francisco Bay.

  • Represented an agency and municipality in Polanco Act and nuisance action for cost recover related to remediation of brownfield.

  • Obtained settlements, on behalf of a land developer client, in excess of $10 million from two governmental entities in connection with a 300 acre project site where the governmental entities historic burn dump operations, and their subsequent mismanagement of the cleanup process, damaged the client's development opportunities.

  • Defended a chemical-producing subsidiary of a major wood and paper products manufacturer against claims for a multi-million dollar penalty in an enforcement/penalty proceeding under California's Hazardous Waste Control Law.

  • Defended a municipality against claims based on alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

  • Obtained a settlement in a CEQA action, on behalf of a citizen opposed to a port authority's expansion project, that provided for various project revisions and payment of attorney's fees.

  • Represents a global REIT as a defendant in ongoing Superfund litigation over a $100 million groundwater remediation program in Southern California.

  • Represents the plaintiffs in a cost recovery action over a $50 million soil and groundwater remediation program in Northern California.

  • Trial counsel for the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency in a 7-year process of acquiring, cleaning up, and preparing a highly contaminated 4-acre parcel for redevelopment. Obtained $23 million and fee title through settlements, and a $3 million trial court judgment following an 8-week bench trial.

  • Lead counsel for the successful appellees in [i]City of Emeryville v. Robinson[/i], 621 F. 3d 1251 (9th Cir. 2010), a seminal case clarifying the interplay of the federal Superfund statute and California's good faith settlement mechanism.

  • Represented a global REIT in writ litigation against the California Department of Finance over the validity of a $50 million claim secured by a pledge of tax increment revenue. The claim was ultimately acknowledged by the Department of Finance to be a valid obligation and secured by a pledge of tax increment.

  • Represented a major developer in litigation against municipal and county government entities arising out of environmental contamination and the associated impairment of the economic opportunity at a 3000 unit planned development in Chico, California. Obtained a settlement worth approximately $10 million.

  • Represented a municipal landowner working with a major developer to convert a 40-acre site heavily impacted by historic MGP operations to a mixed-use development. Client obtained commitment for a full cleanup, estimated at $25-$40 million, from a major utility.

  • Defended a municipality in a Clean Water Act citizen enforcement suit and resolved matter without payment of civil penalties.

  • Defended and settled a multi-million dollar penalty proceeding arising out of allegedly illegal disposal of hazardous waste by a Fortune 100 company.

  • Represented a clothing manufacturer/property owner in a multi-year, disputed administrative proceeding against three major oil companies and concerning contamination associated with historic bulk termination operations. Client obtained a settlement for full excavation of the residual fuel products and related contamination, which allowed client to close its sale of the site to a major REIT.

  • Co-chaired a 4-week jury trial and subsequent appeal in the acquisition, cleanup, and redevelopment of a 15-acre industrial site. Client recovered in excess of $13 million of cleanup costs and related expenses. Key decisions reported as [i]Emeryville v. Elementis Pigments, et al.[/i], 101 Cal. App. 4th 1083 (2002) and [i]Emeryville v. Elementis Pigments[/i], 2001 WL 964230 (N.D. Cal.).

  • Lead litigation and co-lead transactional counsel in municipal owner's cleanup and redevelopment of a bulk terminal/former defense facility. Client obtained over $3 million in proceeds from its own historic liability policies and a favorable development and disposition agreement including forward-looking pollution liability and cleanup cost cap coverage.

  • Defended a plumbing fixture manufacturer sued under RCRA and CERCLA for alleged contamination arising out of a post-World War II ship scrapping operation located on San Francisco Bay and obtained settlements in excess of $10 million from the United States and various industrial entities.

  • Obtained settlements in excess of $5 million from a multi-national chemical manufacturer, several major oil companies, and various insurance companies in a federal environmental cost covering action. This litigation involved extensive discovery and motion practice to defeat the defendants claims that the plaintiff redevelopment agency was the alter ego of the city that owned the site in question.

  • Represented a redevelopment agency in CERCLA and Polanco Act claims action.



Speaking Engagements


Awards & Affiliations

Honors & Recognitions

Best Lawyers, Environmental Law, 2013-2024

AV Preeminent Attorney, Martindale Hubbell, 2001-2017

Northern California Super Lawyers, 2010-2023

Who's Who in American Law, 18th Edition, 2014-2015

Top Attorneys In Northern California, San Francisco Magazine, 2015 

Leading Lawyer, Real Estate/Northern California, The Legal 500, 2008

Professional Affiliations

Urban Land Institute (ULI), Redevelopment and Reuse Council, Founding/Current Member

California Bar Association, Environmental Law Section Executive Committee

California Association for Local economic Development, Legislative Affairs and Brownfield and Land Revitalization Committees, 2014-Present

California Redevelopment Association, Brownfields, Legal Issues, and Sustainability Committees, 1997-2012

Center for Creative Land Recycling Training Program, Faculty Member, 2000-2008

Editor in Chief, Ecology Law Quarterly, 1989-1990

Bar & Court Admissions

  • State Bar of California


J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law, 1990

B.B.A., University of Texas McCombs School of Business, 1983, highest honors

at Cox Castle

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