Gordon Hart is an environmental and land use lawyer whose practice focuses on assisting clients develop complex projects on properties with environmental challenges, and on defending those approvals against litigation challenging them.
Helping Navigate Environmental Regulatory Requirements
While serving on the staff of the California State Legislature in several senior capacities and as a legislative advocate for many years, Gordon led the drafting and negotiation of numerous laws that are still on the books governing the regulation of solid and hazardous waste, toxic materials, contaminated property cleanups, and other environmental matters. Subsequently, Gordon has built on this experience to assist clients in understanding their obligations under these complex regulatory schemes and to secure agency approvals.
Helping Develop Complex Projects on Contaminated Property
Gordon specializes in helping clients develop contaminated property at large sites such as closed military bases, former shipyards, closed landfills, former power plants, and closed manufacturing and aerospace facilities. This work involves not only helping obtain the necessary local, state, and federal land use and regulatory approvals and permits, but also drafting and negotiating the numerous transactional documents necessary to allocate responsibility and risk, including environmental insurance.
Defending Against Litigation Challenging Project Approvals
Gordon has led successful defenses against numerous litigation challenges under CEQA, the Planning and Zoning and Law, NEPA and the Endangered Species Act. In addition to cases involving contaminated property, he has secured victories in several important cases involving utility-scale solar projects.
Obtained multiple City land use approvals, and regional water board post-closure landfill regulatory approvals, for the development of a 9-million square-foot, mixed-use project on a 210-acre former municipal landfill, which was the first-ever approval of a residential development on a closed landfill by a regional water board. Successfully defended CEQA litigation in San Mateo County Superior Court brought by a neighboring City challenging the EIR and project approvals, and negotiated a complex, but favorable settlement package to avoid appeal.
Serve as lead environmental counsel for a family fund developing a 5-million square-foot, mixed-use development for all stages of the acquisition, permitting and development of a former power plant on the San Francisco waterfront -- from the due diligence and transactional negotiation stage to the entitlement and environmental review stage, to the environmental cleanup stage, to the commencement of grading and the ongoing vertical development. Secured certification from the Governor as an Environmental Leadership Development Project.
Represent real estate developer in all aspects of the initial negotiation and the ongoing twenty-plus-year implementation of the first early transfer with privatized remediation to a developer of a closed military base, including a series of renegotiations and subsequent transactions over the years with the City, Navy, environmental insurer, remediation contractor, State Lands Commission, US EPA, DTSC, regional water board, and multiple investors, tenants and purchasers.
Represented developer of a closed Naval shipyard planned as one of the largest development projects in the history of San Francisco, in a successful defense against litigation in San Francisco County Superior Court challenging the analysis in the environmental impact report of hazardous materials and remediation impacts. Part of an ongoing representation for more than twenty-years on multiple aspects of the planning and remediation of the site.
In conjunction with representing a real estate developer client acquire the site of a closed power plant, negotiated a complex agreement with a previous owner of the power plant to remove a private land use covenant prohibiting residential use of the property in exchange for the developer agreeing to perform all remediation necessary to allow residential use and provide certain indemnities. Subsequently negotiated a RCRA Corrective Action Consent Agreement with DTSC, and currently representing the client in the implementation of that agreement and in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report for a waterfront project with 1,999 residential units, a hotel and retail.
Successfully represented an aerospace company in unusually lengthy and complex CEQA and APA litigation challenging the role of DTSC and the California Department of Public Health in reviewing the company’s plans to demolish decommissioned buildings formerly licensed for the handling of radioactive materials at a site where DTSC oversees the cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater. The Sacramento County Superior Court rejected all of the petitioners’ causes of action and the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed on all issues.
Represented owner of a microchip manufacturing facility in a dispute with the developer contracted to purchase surplus portions of the facility over the adequacy of the remediation and successfully defended against CEQA litigation in San Francisco Cunty Superior Court brought by the developer challenging DTSC’s approval of the remediation.
Secured US EPA’s concurrence that nearly 3,000 acres of a 3500-acre closed military base were not on the National Priorities List (“NPL”, known as the “Superfund List”) through obtaining a combination of clarification letters and the formal publication in the National Register of a Partial NPL Deletion – all to facilitate a 6.5 million square-foot mixed-use development with 3600 homes and a 1500-acre park.
Obtained all necessary approvals from the Bureau of Land Management and the County of San Bernadino for a 250 MW photovoltaic solar facility, and then successfully defended against a potentially project-killing motion in the United States District Court, Central District of California, for a preliminary injunction under the Endangered Species Act and NEPA against that facility and a sister facility with a total capacity of 550 MW. After defeating the injunction, negotiated a favorable settlement before trial.
Represented the project developer of a 550 MW photovoltaic solar facility (which at the time was the largest in the world) in CEQA litigation filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. Negotiated a complex, but favorable settlement before trial.
Successfully defended against multiple lawsuits, including one brought by a labor union, in Imperial County Superior Court challenging the EIR and project approvals for the 147 MW Campo Verde Solar Facility. Defeated a motion for preliminary injunction and prevailed on all causes of action in Superior Court. Negotiated a favorable settlement with the non-union plaintiffs to avoid an appeal, and the union did not appeal.
Represented a coalition of solar companies in filing litigation against Riverside County challenging its “solar tax.” After defeating a motion to dismiss, negotiated a favorable settlement before trial.
Successfully defended against multiple lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging land use approvals from the City of Los Angeles under CEQA, the Planning and Zoning Law and various other legal theories for a multi-family housing and retail project on the Sunset Strip designed by Frank Gehry and certified as an Environmental Leadership Development Project. After a mixed decision in the Superior Court, the Second District Court of Appeal rejected all the petitioners’ claims, except a minor procedural issue that was easily cured and did not delay the development.
Successfully defended against litigation in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging land use approvals for a multi-family project from the City of West Hollywood under the Planning and Zoning Law and the Density Bonus Law. The Superior Court rejected all of petitioner’s claims, and after a mediation, petitioner agreed to a favorable settlement to avoid an appeal.
Represented a seafood company in CEQA litigation in Humboldt County Superior Court challenging the approval of an expansion of an oyster farm. Obtained a favorable settlement before trial.
Represented an organization pro bono in NEPA litigation in the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit challenging a timber harvest plan that could adversely affect the Pacific fisher, a state and federal species of concern.
- Press Release, Best Lawyers, 8.17.23
- Press Release, Chambers USA 2023 Guide, 6.1.23
- Press Release, 4.4.23
Awards & Affiliations
Honors & Recognitions
The Legal 500 USA Rankings 2022: named as one of the 15 leading Land Use/Zoning lawyers in the USA
Chambers USA Legal Guide: Ranked as one of the top environmental lawyers in California every year from 2004 to 2023. Most recently ranked in Band 2 (Top 15).
Northern California Super Lawyers 2009, 2010, 2013-2019
Member, Lambda Alpha International Land Economics Honor Society
Member, California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Section
Member, SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Research Association)
Bar & Court Admissions
- State Bar of California
J.D., University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 1994, graduated first in class, Order of the Coif and Order of the Barristers
B.A., Reed College, 1984