John D. Bakker
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.
- Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin (2013) 214 Cal. App. 4th 1301
- Served as lead architect of a successful bid leading the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation commission to approve the Mountain House Community Services District proposed incorporation of the new city of Mount House allowing voters to decide whether they wish Mount House to be California’s 483rd city.
- Represented the League of California Cities in litigation against the State of California asserting that the state budget’s allocation of vehicle license fee revenues violates provisions of the California Constitution added by Proposition 22 and Proposition 1A.
- Represented Alameda and San Mateo County jurisdictions in the prosecution of a test claim at the State Mandates Commission alleging that obligations contained in stormwater permit issued by Regional Water Quality Control Board are unfunded state mandates.
- Advised two fire districts opposing consolidation proposals in Contra Costa County.
- Assisted two separate cities considering taking over the provision of fire service from special districts.
- Advised the County of San Luis Obispo in a proceeding to establish sewer rates for a new sewer system in the community of Los Osos.
- Advised the firm’s clients on the impacts of Proposition 26 on their ability to adopt new and increase existing fees and assessments.
- Advised a California Water District on the various mechanisms available to take over the provision of water service from a failing non-profit mutual water company. Although the transaction was envisioned as a friendly “merger,” the options analyzed included exercising the power of eminent domain, allowing the water company to be dissolved or put into receivership, and structuring an agreement allowing the district to contract with the water company to provide water service to its customers.
- Advised clients that have been faced with initiative petitions to reduce sewer and water rates pursuant to authorization in Proposition 218.
- Advised clients in a dispute over the imposition of property tax administration charges on property tax revenues derived from the legislature’s “triple flip” and swap.
- Advised utility clients on compliance Proposition 218 after the California Supreme Court’s City of Salinas, Shasta Community Services District, and Bighorn decisions dealing with property-related fees under Proposition 218.
- Advised the City of Salinas on its options for funding its stormwater program following the California Supreme Court’s decision in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City of Salinas.
- Advised a large Central Valley city on a comprehensive update to its development impact fee program.
- Advised the City of Dublin in conjunction with several annexation applications to LAFCO, including an annexation of over 1,000 acres.
- Advised the City of Rancho Cordova on the legality of its revenue-neutrality obligations imposed by LAFCO. The City and County eventually settled in a manner that significantly reduced the City’s LAFCO-imposed obligations.
- Advised the City of Greenfield in a LAFCO proceeding to amend the City’s sphere of influence to include an additional 1,139 acres.
- Advised the City of Dublin on a proposal to apply condominium conversion ordinance provisions to previously mapped apartment projects.
- Assisted various cities and counties with the AT&T Project Lightspeed rollout and implementation of the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006.
- Drafted a condominium conversion ordinance applicable to a previously mapped apartment project on behalf of a large Southern California.
- Negotiated a municipal Wi-Fi agreement with AT&T on behalf of the City of Napa.
- Provided advice to citizens’ groups seeking to incorporate in Castro Valley and in the Carmel Valley.
- Represented the City of Tracy in a California Energy Commission (CEC) proceeding opposing the development of an electricity-generating peaker plant within the City’s sphere of influence.
- For Del Norte LAFCO, served as conflicts counsel in a proceeding to dissolve a water district.
- For a City in San Diego County, worked with a fee consultant to develop a mechanism to fund the completion of an incomplete sidewalk system, based in part on contributions from new development and residential additions.
- Prepared a comprehensive water conservation ordinance for a large Southern California.
Honors and Awards
- Northern California Super Lawyers list: State, Local & Municipal Law, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2022
- The Best Lawyers in America, Land Use and Zoning Law/Municipal Law, 2020-2024
Presentations and Publications
- Moderator, “SB 9 and the End of Single Family Zoning in California: What You Need To Know,” Meyers Nave webinar, September 27, 2021
- Author, “Legislature Poised to Adopt Bill Legalizing Housing on Commercial Property,” Meyers Nave Client Alert, July 2, 2020 (also published on CEB’s Current Awareness Research Platform)
- Presenter, “Housing Crisis: An Update on the Opportunities and Obligations Created by a Package of 20+ New Laws,” County Counsels’ Association of California, Spring Land Use Conference, 2020 (cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic)
- Presenter, “Affordable Housing Law Update 2020,” CEB/Continuing Education of the Bar, 2020
- Author, “Housing Law Update: Summary of California’s New Housing Laws,” Public Law Journal, California Lawyers Association, Fall 2019
- Presenter, “Affordable Housing Law Update,” County Counsels’ Association of California, Fall Land Use Conference, 2019
- Author, “Housing Law Update: A Summary of California’s New Housing Laws,” Meyers Nave Client Alert, October. 23, 2019
- Presenter, Brown Act Training, Urban Habitat Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, 2019
- Presenter, “How can Counties Comply with the FCC’s New Rule on Small Cell Wireless Deployment?”, County Counsels’ Association Land Use Conference, 2019
- Presenter, “What Public Agency Attorneys Should Know About New and Amended Rules of Professional Conduct,” County Counsels’ Association Land Use Conference, 2019
- Quoted, “What Happens if Cities Don’t Abide by New legislation to Speed Up Development Projects?”San Francisco Business Times, March 9, 2018
- Presenter, “Conducting Effective General Manager Evaluations,” California Special Districts Association Leadership Academy, 2018
- Presenter, “LAFCOs and Special Districts: Pitfalls and Opportunities,” California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 2017
- Contributing Author, Implementation Guide for Propositions 26 and 218, League of California Cities, 2017
- Presenter, “Everything You Didn’t Know What to Ask About Drones,” New Mexico Municipal League, 2016
- Presenter, “Ethics Training for Public Officials,” California Association of Sanitation Agencies Annual Conference, 2016
- Presenter, “San Juan Capistrano Decision,” California Urban Water Conservation Council webinar, 2015
- Presenter, CLE Education Workshop, Association of California Water Agencies, 2015
- Author, “What Can Municipalities Do About Drones?” The Municipal Lawyer Magazine, Nov/Dec 2015 Vol. 56, No. 5: 6-9
- Presenter, “Drones – Legal and Regulatory Challenges over Use, Privacy and Public Safety,” Tri-Counties Local Government Attorneys Association, 2015
- Presenter, “Using Drones for Governmental Purposes: Regulating the use of Drones in your Community,” International Municipal Lawyers Association, 80th Annual Conference, 2015
- Author, “Drones – Legal and Regulatory Challenges over Use, Privacy and Public Safety Take Flight,” International Municipal Lawyers Association, 80th Annual Conference, 2015
- Presenter, “Pursuing Careers in Public Law and Public Service,” State Bar of California Public Law Section, UC Hastings College of the Law, 2015
- Presenter, “San Juan Capistrano Decision,” California Urban Water Conservation Council webinar, 2015
- Reviewer, CEB, The California Municipal Law Handbook, Chapter 5
- Presenter, “Board Member Compensation,” California Special Districts Association, 2014
- Presenter, “AB 1234 Training,” California Association of Sanitation Agencies, 2014
- Presenter, “AB 1234 Ethics Training,” California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 2013
- Presenter, “Local Agency Formation Commissions 101: A primer for Special Districts on the powers and responsibilities of LAFCOs,” California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 2013
- Moderator and Presenter, “Shared Services and Service Efficiencies,” CALAFCO University, 2012
- Presenter, 84th Annual Meeting of the State Bar of California, “Proposition 26-Impact on State and Local Governments,” 2011
- Author, Proposition 26 Implementation Guide, League of California Cities, 2011
- Author, Proposition 218 Implementation Guide, League of California Cities, 2007
- Author, amicus curiae letter to the California Supreme Court seeking review of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City of Salinas (S108349)
- Presenter, “Current Issues in Proposition 218 Law,” League of California Cities, City Attorneys Spring Conference, 2007
- Presenter, “Proposition 218 Update: Dealing with the Bighorn Case,” California Association of Sanitation Agencies Managers Meeting, 2007
- Prepared a letter to the Attorney General on an opinion request regarding whether cities and counties may impose conditions on permits that would require developers to indemnify the city or county in the event that the permit is challenged
- Presenter, “Proposition 218’s Rules for Property-Related Fees,” California Association of Sanitation Agencies, Attorneys Committee, 2006
- Presenter, “Condominium Conversions,” League of California Cities, 2006 Planner’s Institute, 2006
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, League of California Cities, City Attorneys Department
- Member, League of California Cities, Municipal Finance Committee
- Co-Chair, Attorney’s Committee, California Association of Sanitation Agencies
- Member, State of California and Nevada Chapter, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
- Member, League of California Cities, Ad Hoc Prop. 26 Committee
- Member, League of California Cities, City Attorneys Department Ad Hoc Committee on Prop 218, 2007
- University of California, Hastings College of the LawJD, 1998
- University of California at BerkeleyBA, History, 1995