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 frequently overlap and clients depend on his strategic insight at the intersection of all three areas. 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 considerations 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.
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 Law360 called the “biggest CEQA case” and the Daily Journal described 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 (S201116), 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 EIR 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;
- Representing 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; and
- 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.
In 2014, Amrit was named to the Daily Journal’s “Top 50 Development, Land Use and Municipal Infrastructure Lawyers” list. The Daily Journal has also recognized Amrit as one of the top 25 “Land-Use Leaders” in California and a “Top 20 Under 40” lawyer. Amrit was named a "Super Lawyer” in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Recorder named Amrit’s Land Use and Environmental Law team to its top 10 “Leading Environmental Practices” list for 2012.
- Save Westwood Village v. Meyer Luskin, (2014) 233 Cal.App.4th 135
- Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1437
- Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 549
- Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 1301
- Berkeley Hillside Preservation et al. v. City of Berkeley et al. (2015) 60 Cal.4th 1086
- 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
Presentations and Publications
- Co-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
- CEQA Exemption for Houses Reinforced, Daily Journal, March 3, 2015
- Speaker, “How Far Does CEQA Go? Port-Related Impacts do not Extend to the Inland Empire,” Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Lunch Program, 2011
- Moderator, “Climate Change and the San Francisco Bay Area,” San Francisco Bay Area Development and Conservation Commission (BCDC), 2011
Professional and Community Affiliations
- 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 College, JD, 1998
- University of California at Santa Cruz, BA, Environmental Studies and Policy & Planning, 1994