Contact Information

Phone – (949) 769-2529

Email – [email protected]

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Practice Areas

Land Use
Real Estate Law

Geoffrey K. Willis

Geoffrey K. Willis concentrates his practice on matters involving the California Environmental Quality Act; the National Environmental Policy Act; water rights and quality; the Endangered Species Act; wetlands regulation; the Clean Air Act; CERCLA investigations, remediation and litigation; the California Subdivision Map Act; and local zoning and land use requirements environmental due diligence and audits.

Additionally, Geoffrey handles matters involving the use or reuse of real property- from the development of shopping centers, large conjunctive use projects, residential communities, logistics centers, golf courses, industrial parks and manufacturing complexes to regulatory compliance of ongoing businesses involving air, endangered species, water and wetlands permitting. He has also worked on a wide variety of major public infra-structure projects including airports, NFL and NBA stadiums, military base closure and re-use through the BRAC process, freeways and toll roads, power plants, major water delivery systems, major publicly owned treatment works, and other large municipal facilities. Geoffrey has represented his clients’ interests before all of the counties in Southern California, many of the cities in California, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the South coast Air Quality Management District, the Federal Aviation Administration, the High Desert Air Pollution Control District, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Coastal Commission, the California EPA,EPA Region IX, and a number of additional state and local governing bodies.

• Developed strategy for national retail chain and national residential developer for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
• Conducted environmental and land use review of proposed acquisition of two Five Star coastal hotels.
• Reviewed and analyzed a wide range of solar and wind energy generation facilities/ environmental and land use permit applications and advised client regarding permitting and compliance challenges.
• Assisted national retail developers in obtaining all permits and approvals necessary for new or continued development of regional retail shopping centers.
• Developed a compliance strategy for a major food manufacturer that allowed the client to avoid both plant shut-down and the payment of a substantial fine.
• Successfully entitled an award-winning golf course/residential housing project that faced significant opposition from environmental groups.
• Helped clients develop strategy and advised them regarding development of both large and small sports stadium development.
• Gained approval for a commercial office complex using a unique “condominium” approach, which allowed the sale of individual buildings that otherwise would have been required to remain in common ownership.
• Successfully negotiated a land swap that allowed the development of a community church that would otherwise have been built in the flight path of an airport. The land swap allowed continued use and expansion of the airport and allowed the church to develop beyond what would have been allowed on its original site.
• Represents various interests regarding airport use and compatibility throughout the United States.
• Represents a Fortune 50 retailer assisting them in obtaining all permits and approvals necessary for new store development, including assistance with compliance and permitting involving CEQA, the Subdivision Map Act, wetlands, Air quality and the endangered Species Act.
• Provided environmental review for mergers, acquisitions or financings involving one of the largest construction companies in the world, wineries, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fishing equipment, Indian casinos and hotels, energy companies, hospitals and sports complexes, among others.

Litigation Matters
• Developed successful strategy for Fortune 500 company to protect its international headquarters by challenging a series of local land use approvals. The proposed new uses were potentially incompatible with the continued use of the headquarters complex and would have threatened the continuing viability of the international headquarters complex.
• Successfully litigated and negotiated water rights disputes throughout California, in relation to the issues including conjunctive use, riparian rights, ground water basin adjudications and helped re-establish water rights priorities.
• Negotiated the dispute resolution between a major network broadcaster and environmental groups that sought to prevent the telecast of a sporting event because of perceived harm to endangered big horn sheep. The broadcaster made minor changes to the broadcast coverage, which satisfied the concerns of the environmental groups.
• Set precedent in Kola v. United States, 882 F.2d 381 (1989), an action that changed the procedure by which the United States processes special use permits.
• Lead litigator in an action brought on behalf of the City of Orange to compel the County of Orange to comply with the requirements of CEQA in its operation and planning of the Orange County jail system.
• Successfully represents land owners and public agencies in eminent domain matters throughout California involving the right to take, valuation, relocation expenses and related issues. In one matter, he brought a regulatory takins claim regarding the application of the Endangered Species Act, which resulted in a multimillion–dollar payment from the government for a temporary taking.
• Brought a successful NEPA challenge against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concerning the Commission’s failure to adequately study the impacts of the diversion of the city’s major source of drinking water.

• Moderator and Speaker, “University of California Irvine School of Law Annual Symposium on Environmental Law,” 2013, 2014, 2015
• Moderator and Speaker, “Emerging Issues with the California Quality Act,” 2011-2013
• Effective Urban Fringe Planning: A Case Study of the 2008 San Diego Wild Fires, San Diego Daily Transcript, August 22, 2008.
• Sheppard Mullin Expands its Land-Use Team, Los Angeles Daily Journal, February 4, 2008
• Real Estate, Land Use, & environmental Law Blog Articles- “Redevelopment Law Unconstitutional Because of Impairment of Contract?” March 12, 2012
• Panelist, “Overcoming Inertia- Advancing Corporate Leadership in Adaptation, “Global Adaptation Institute (July 2012)
• “Drought Management in California- Much to Do with Nothing,” CLE International (November 20,2008)
• “Disaster Management and Preparedness,” ABA Conference on Environmental Law, Keystone, CO (March 2008)
• “Real Estate From Beginning to End in California,” Lorman Education Services, San Diego, Calif. (December 2007)
• “Updates, Trends & Analyses,” First Annual central California Land use and Planning Law Conference, Lex and the City Avila Beach, CA (March 2007)
• Speaker and moderator, “California Subdivision Law,” Lorman Education Services (2006-2007)
• Speaker, “California Environmental Quality Act,” CLE International (1998-2003)
• Chair and moderator, “endangered Species Act Symposium,” University of California Extension (1995-1998)
• Instructor, “Air Quality Law,” university of California Riverside Extension (1990-1998)
• Instructor, “Survey of Water Law,” University of California Riverside Extension (1990-1992)

• University of California, Hastings – J.D., 1986
• Pomona College – B.A., 1983

Professional Affliations
• Member, Environmental Section, State Bar California
• Member, Orange County Bar Association
• Member, American Bar Association
• Former president, Riverside County Barristers