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Robert M. Smith

Fax +1.206.623.7022

Robert Smith is a partner in the firm’s Seattle office. He is a member of the environment, land and natural resources practice group. His practice focuses on land use, governmental and regulatory permitting, real estate and shoreline development, aquaculture and fisheries law, and tribal law.

His experience includes counseling clients through all required local, state and federal regulatory proceedings, including environmental and regulatory due diligence, representation of clients at administrative and regulatory hearings, negotiation of permit terms and conditions, state and federal environmental review, processing subdivision maps, negotiation of public-private partnerships and development agreements, development of specific plans, coordination of public relations and outreach efforts, negotiation of purchase and sale agreements and lease agreements, and litigation arising from regulatory approvals or denials.

Mr. Smith assists clients with complex regulatory, permitting, and enforcement matters under a range of environmental statutes, including the California Coastal Act, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), Subdivision Map Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and Washington State Shoreline Management Act (“SMA”), as well as Tribal treaties. This experience includes working on a variety of projects, including mixed use commercial and residential projects, sports and entertainment facilities, marinas, and water-based and land-based aquaculture and fisheries facilities.

His work includes:

  • Advising California ports as special counsel in the development of aquaculture facilities;
  • Representing dozens of shellfish companies in federal litigation concerning potential impacts to Tribal treaty rights;
  • Representing clients in obtaining local, state, and federal permits associated with development of new marina, pier, and shoreline construction;
  • Representing private landowners and shellfish companies in negotiations with Tribes to resolve Tribal objections to federal permits;
  • Negotiating development agreements and permitting conditions associated with proposed commercial real estate developments in Southern California;
  • Representing clients in successful resolution of enforcement actions brought by the California Coastal Commission; and
  • Representing clients in obtaining NPDES permits and other state and federal approvals under the Clean Water Act.

Professional Background

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Smith served as a partner at a natural resource law firm in Seattle where he advised clients involved in the aquaculture, marina, fishery, and cannabis industries in administrative proceedings, regulatory and governmental permitting, and any associated state or federal litigation. He also previously worked at a firm in Southern California representing public clients, including municipalities, counties, and special districts, where he advised public clients concerning land use matters, environmental review, and development agreements and other real estate transactions. He also previously worked as a senior associate in the environmental and land use group at the Los Angeles office of an international law firm where he advised and represented clients on a variety of large scale mixed use development projects.

  • Drafted and processed complex entitlement applications for the L.A. LIVE development, including a specific plan amendment, development agreement amendment, disposition and development agreement, tentative tract map, project permit compliance reviews, alcohol and signage entitlements, and associated environmental review. Primary associate on all L.A. LIVE transactional matters. Engaged in community outreach and negotiation with community groups, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department.
  • Sole associate involved in representation of Majestic Realty on all land use matters related to its NFL stadium project, including drafting and processing of all required entitlements, coordination and revision of the environmental impact report, drafting and negotiation of settlement agreements with two neighboring cities, preparation for public hearings and public outreach campaigns, appearances before community groups and neighboring cities’ City Councils, drafting and negotiation of state legislation to exempt the project from the California Environmental Quality Act, drafting of mediation briefs and supporting documents, and assistance in preparing motions for summary judgment and reply motions in remaining litigation.
  • Represented the City of Monterey Park in drafting and negotiating a purchase and sale agreement, development agreement, lease-back agreement, and other entitlements and agreements associated with the development and construction of the Towne Center project, a mixed-use condominium and commercial development, consisting of approximately 100 condominium units and 100,000 square feet of retail commercial uses.
  • Negotiated site development and lease agreement for development of a shellfish hatchery in Humboldt Bay, California, and obtained all required state and federal permits from the California Coastal Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Humboldt Bay Harbor District, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Humboldt County.
  • Negotiated settlement of over 50 lawsuits involving the City of Los Angeles, historical preservationist groups and former tenants regarding Lincoln Place, a large affordable housing residential development in West Los Angeles. Drafted and revised the settlement agreements, prepared mediation briefs and supporting documents for mediation with the City of Los Angeles, drafted presentations for City Council hearings, and drafted applications for funding, including an application for HUD funds.
  • Lead counsel representing approximately 70 shellfish companies seeking an exemption from Tribal treaty fishing rights in U.S. v. Washington litigation, which involves the adjudication of over 900 claims submitted by shellfish companies seeking coverage under a settlement agreement whereby Native American Tribes would be prevented from exercising shellfish rights on certain privately-owned tidelands. The litigation has included extensive briefing and several months of oral argument before a Western District of Washington magistrate judge and several months of settlement negotiations with the Tribes and the State of Washington. The case is currently pending in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court.
  • Drafted and negotiated a new aquaculture lease template used for all aquaculture leases in waters owned by the State of Washington, on behalf of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Key points of negotiation included lease rate structures, indemnification and liability issues, construction and improvement rights on leased properties, and the extent of regulatory oversight and management.
  • Prepared and represented the City of Palos Verdes Estates in first-ever comprehensive review and update to its zoning code, including preparation of all necessary environmental review and ordinances.
  • Represented the City of Monterey Park regarding a proposed 600,000 square foot shopping center development, including negotiations regarding a development agreement, proposed entitlements, and associated environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act.