Amrit S. Kulkarni
Amrit Kulkarni leads Meyers Nave’s statewide Land Use, Environmental Law, and Transportation & Infrastructure Practice Groups, reflecting the reality that these Practices are highly integrated, the respective laws and regulations often overlap and clients depend on his strategic insight at the intersection of the three areas. Amrit’s group has received two Tier 1 rankings in the “Best Law Firms” list developed by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® for the categories of Litigation-Environmental (Metropolitan Los Angeles, 2016) and Natural Resources Law (Metropolitan Oakland, 2015-2017).
Amrit’s specialty is providing transaction and litigation counsel to public and private clients on high-profile, complex and often controversial civil infrastructure and commercial and urban development projects throughout California. He also has experience advising on the unique issues that are involved in public-private partnerships.
Amrit’s project experience includes serving local, state and national clients that are involved in airports, passenger transit systems, freight rail networks, ports, harbors, highways, water resources, office buildings, mixed-use residential developments, university campus expansions, and a wide range of commercial and industrial facilities. He advises on an extensive scope of laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Planning and Zoning Law, Coastal Act, Tidelands Trust, Subdivision Map Act, Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act, Mitigation Fee Act and Clean Water Act, among others.Read More
Amrit provides transactional counsel during a project’s planning, development and implementation phases, particularly relating to the entitlement process, as well as litigation expertise when clients need to defend or challenge a project. His team is well recognized for its outstanding record of litigation victories, from trial through appeal, involving complex factual and legal issues that arise under CEQA, NEPA and the myriad of environmental laws that apply to projects in California.
His work includes some of the most prominent clients and projects throughout California, such as:
- Represented Lotus founder Mitch Kapor and his wife, Freada Kapor-Klein, before the California Supreme Court on a case that was described in a Law360 article as the “biggest CEQA case” and was a feature article in the Daily Journal which profiled the case as affecting “how public agencies handle common exemptions from California’s bedrock environmental law.” On March 2, 2015, the Court issued its highly anticipated decision in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (60 Cal.4th 1086 (2015)), resolving years of uncertainty by holding that there must be “unusual circumstances” in order for an otherwise categorically exempt project to be subject to CEQA. The Court also resolved a divide among Courts of Appeal, holding that an agency’s findings as to unusual circumstances are subject to the substantial evidence standard.
- Represented the City of Sacramento in defeating all challenges that two groups brought under CEQA to the Environmental Impact Report for a downtown arena that will serve as the new home for the Sacramento Kings NBA team. The matters included two published appellate court decisions, including the first appellate decision concerning the constitutionality of project-specific CEQA streamlining statutes, setting a valuable precedent for other projects.
- Representing the Port of Los Angeles on land use entitlement matters, CEQA challenges, NEPA compliance and EIS/EIR preparation relating to various oil and container terminal projects, including tank farms, pipelines and other infrastructure.
- Represented Los Angeles World Airports on multiple CEQA, NEPA and California Coastal Act challenges to the approval of a $13 billion expansion program at Los Angeles International Airport.
- Representing Burlington Northern Santa Fe in seven consolidated lawsuits brought by 20+ petitioners raising CEQA and civil rights challenges to its $500 million rail yard project planned near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
- Representing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority on numerous challenges to the extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from Fremont to Santa Clara, including CEQA compliance, adequacy of environmental review and improper pre-commitment.
- Representing Lowe’s Home Improvement Store in land use entitlement applications and CEQA review for new stores and regional shopping centers in numerous California cities, including successfully defending challenges to land use approvals.
- Representing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on multiple CEQA issues, EIR mitigation measures, and water rights and water transfer matters.
- Representing the University of California on a broad range of regulatory, economic and environmental challenges to multiple campus expansion projects, including UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and UC Davis.
- Berkeley Hillside Preservation et al. v. City of Berkeley et al. (2015) 60 Cal.4th 1086
- Berkeley Hillside Preservation et al. v. City of Berkeley et al. (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 943
- Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 549
- Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1437
- Save Westwood Village v. Meyer Luskin (2014) 233 Cal.App.4th 135
- Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 1301
- Community Water Coalition v. Santa Cruz County Local Agency Formation
- Commission (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 1317
- Las Lomas Land Company, LLC v. City of Los Angeles (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 837
- Ailanto v. City of Half Moon Bay (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 572
- City of Goleta v. Superior Court (2006) 40 Cal.4th 270
- Northern California River Watch v. City of Healdsburg (2006) 457 F.3d 1023
- City of Half Moon Bay v. Superior Court (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 795
- Berkeley Keep Jets Over the Bay Committee v. Board of Port Commissioners (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 1344
Honors and Awards
“Southern California Super Lawyer,” Super Lawyers Magazine, 2017
- "Northern California Super Lawyer," Super Lawyers Magazine, 2012 - 2016
- “Best Law Firms” in Litigation-Environmental, Tier 1 Metropolitan Los Angeles, U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, 2016
- “Best Law Firms” in Natural Resources Law, Tier 1 Metropolitan Oakland, U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, 2015 - 2017
- "Top 50 Development Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2014
- “Leading Environmental Practices,” The Recorder, 2012
- "Top 20 Under 40 Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2011
- "Top Land Use Leaders,” Daily Journal, 2011
Presentations and Publications
- Author, “Build the Arena and Lawsuits Will Come,” Daily Journal, August 20, 2015
- Author, “CEQA: New Player in Sports Stadium Wars,” Daily Journal, March 5, 2015
- Feature Profile, “CEQA Exemption for Houses Reinforced,” Daily Journal, March 3, 2015
- Presenter, “How Far Does CEQA Go? Port-Related Impacts do not Extend to the Inland Empire,” Los Angeles County Bar Association, 2011
- Moderator, “Climate Change and the San Francisco Bay Area,” San Francisco Bay Area Development and Conservation Commission, 2011
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, The State Bar of California, Environmental Law Section
- Member, Airports Council International
- Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark CollegeJD, 1998
- University of California at Santa CruzBA, Environmental Studies and Policy & Planning, 1994