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John D. Bakker

Headshot of John Bakker
John D. BakkerPrincipal510.808.2000Bio PDF


John Bakker serves as City Attorney for municipalities of all sizes and General Counsel for Special Districts of all types throughout California. John is an experienced and knowledgeable advisor on the full range of public law issues. His areas of focus include government finance (Propositions 13, 62, and 218), Political Reform Act compliance (lobbying, conflicts, campaign finance), elections (initiative and referendum), Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act (annexations, incorporations, and reorganizations), California Public Records Act, telecommunications, land use, energy and public utilities. Since joining the firm in 2001, John has advised municipal clients on these and other public law issues and advised clients on the procedures for incorporating new cities.

John currently serves as City Attorney for the City of Dublin and the City of Cotati, as well as General Counsel for numerous special districts, including the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, Housing Authority of Monterey County, Kensington Fire Protection District, Mountain House Community Services District, Napa Sanitation District, and Tamalpais Community Services District. He also serves as Assistant General Counsel for the Bayshore Sanitary District.

Many of the firm’s clients rely on John’s knowledge of funding issues related to utility and other public infrastructure projects. He has advised clients on development impact fees; the adoption and increase of water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste service charges; and water and sewer connection and capacity charges. In advising cities on comprehensive updates to their development impact fee programs, John reviews supporting documentation, ensures compliance with the Mitigation Fee Act and constitutional requirements, and prepares necessary legislation. He has also advised several cities in disputes with developers over the application of impact fees to their projects. John has also served as an expert on Proposition 218 proceedings in a patent infringement lawsuit.

In connection with these and related utility and infrastructure matters, John frequently advises clients on compliance with Proposition 13, Proposition 218 and the Mitigation Fee Act. He is a recognized authority on Proposition 218’s provisions regarding property-related fees, having presented on the topic to the League of California Cities City Attorneys Committee and having served on the League’s Ad Hoc Committee on Proposition 218. John currently serves on the League of California Cities Ad Hoc Prop. 26 Committee, a measure which imposes new procedural and substantive requirements on some local fees. John was a contributing editor to the League of California Cities’ “Implementation Guide for Propositions 26 and 218” published in 2017.

John has particular knowledge of all aspects of Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) proceedings. John worked on a matter that resulted in a published appellate decision involving LAFCO laws: Embarcadero Municipal Improvement District v. County of Santa Barbara(2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 781. In the course of this work, he became intimately familiar with all aspects of the LAFCO law. Subsequently, he has represented LAFCOs, citizens groups, special districts and cities in all manner of LAFCO proceedings. This representation of citizens groups has focused on citizens working their way through the complicated LAFCO process leading to the incorporation of a new city. Notably, John:

  • Advised the newly incorporated City of Rancho Cordova in a dispute with LAFCO and the County on the legality of the City’s revenue neutrality obligations imposed during the incorporation proceeding;
  • Advised special district clients wishing to oppose incorporations and other proposals that negatively impacted the districts;
  • Advised a special district client on competing proposals to either incorporate the Goleta Valley or annex it to the City of Santa Barbara;
  • Assisted city clients with a number of large-scale annexations and sphere of influence proceedings; and
  • Served as conflicts counsel to the Del Norte LAFCO in a proceeding initiated by the County to dissolve a water district.

In connection with his LAFCO and finance work, John has developed an expertise in other arcane areas of local-government finance. In particular, John has advised many clients in disputes relating to the allocation of property tax revenues to cities, counties, and special districts. For example, John was retained by the League of California Cities to pursue litigation against the State of California challenging a provision of the 2011-2012 State Budget that reallocates vehicle license fee revenue in a manner that the League asserts violates state law. The challenge involved various provisions of the State Constitution (Propositions 22 and 1A) that prohibit state raids on local revenues.

John is Chair of the firm’s Energy, Public Power and Telecommunications Practice Group, advising clients on a range of telecommunications and cable television matters. During law school, he interned at the California Public Utilities Commission and worked on various telecommunications matters there, including the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He has advised clients on the Act’s provisions which preempt local land use authority over wireless and wireline facilities and ham radio antennas. He has also advised clients on the impact of state law provisions granting telephone corporations a right to use public rights of way for telecommunications facilities. John is advising numerous clients on compliance with the FCC’s 2018 declaratory ruling and order regarding small cell wireless facilities deployment, including issues relating to review and recommendation of applications for the placement of wireless facilities, fees and non-fee requirements, and shot clocks.


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