March 27, 2018
A team led by partners George Mihlsten and Jim Arnone in Latham’s Environment, Land & Resources (ELR) Department has been recognized for innovative work in advancing one of the largest master-planned communities ever proposed in California, the Newhall Ranch project in Los Angeles County. The Daily Journal has bestowed a California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) award for the legal work on the project, which it called “a major component in solving the state’s enduring housing crisis.”
The published award profile highlighted Net Zero Newhall, an unprecedented sustainability commitment to reduce or mitigate to zero all of the project's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and to address issues related to climate change and important Native American resource protection provisions. The Newhall Ranch community will include 22,000 homes, 11.5 million square feet of commercial space, and 10,000 acres of open space. The project had been in process for almost 20 years when Latham was brought into the long-running dispute two years ago. At that time, Five Point/Newhall Ranch was awaiting a decision from the California Supreme Court on the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Court’s decision, issued days after Latham joined the team, found that the EIR failed to adequately analyze the project's greenhouse gas emissions – a major ruling that was closely watched in the legal community.
Representing the Five Point/Newhall Ranch developers, Mihlsten and Arnone led a Latham team, including partners Marc Campopiano, Jean-Phillipe Brisson, Tommy Beaudreau and Janice Schneider, counsel Joshua Bledsoe, and associate David Amerikaner – and working with co-counsels Gatzke, Dillon & Balance and Sheppard Mullin – in taking the initiative to gain regulatory approvals based on innovative concepts and to forge a settlement of the litigation. The Los Angeles Times called the September 2017 settlement “a historic truce" that “comes amid a severe housing crunch across California."
According to the Daily Journal, the key to the success of the legal work was how deeply collaborative it was from start to finish. “It’s important to understand: this was a team approach,” Mihlsten stated.