is a "dirt
"Dirt lawyer" is a slang term used in the real estate business for
lawyer who obtains governmental approvals. Officially, we're called "land
use lawyers," a subspecialty in real estate law. Dirt,
by itself, is not worth much. The value is created when you take dirt and add
You are a development lawyer and an environmentalist?
Absolutely. We have to have healthy, sustainable communities. We have to have
both smart development and smart environmental preservation -- the reality
is that they complement each other. For example, developers have to preserve
our open spaces and environmental resources, but the flip side of that
is environmentalists and neighborhood groups have to embrace increasing
densities. We can expect skirmishes on that.
What is dirtlawyer.com?
It's a tool for people involved in real estate and the local political process.
We have collected in one place links to websites that are important in
real estate and the local political process. The portal has links to
127 cities, the local papers in all those cities, 58 counties, all the
State and Federal agencies involved in real estate and the environment, and
Why is this portal important?
A single development proposal may be reviewed by 10 - 20 governmental agencies
that claim some form of authority. The process is complex and there
is a mass of information. This portal steers people to the right websites
and allows them to get to that information quickly.
Who can benefit from it?
It's not a website for lawyers - it is for everybody interested in real
estate. People who use it include landowners, developers, environmentalists,
planning staffs, other public employees, City Council members, Supervisors,
Planning commissioners, reporters and any citizen who wants to know
what is going on.
How did dirtlawyer.com come about?
It created itself -- my "bookmarks" for real estate websites
got jammed with web addresses for cities, agencies, environmental groups,
consultants, and the like. Now, folks interested in the real estate biz
can dump their bookmarks and just go to dirtlawyer.com
How does this website benefit Hoge Fenton?
There is no direct benefit, we do it as a public service to the entire real
estate community. As you can see, this is not a commercial site -- there
is a link to the Hoge Fenton website, but there is absolutely no advertising.
How often do development applications end up in litigation?
That's difficult to say. The Real Estate Group at Hoge Fenton has made
its name by keeping our developers and landowners out of court.The
average percentage of projects that end up in litigation isn't very informative,
because so much depends on the type of project and the local political
climate. In general, smart growth projects are challenged less frequently
than other projects.
Regulatory processes are incredibly
onerous in California. Any prospect for change?
Yes, reform efforts are constant and often are joint efforts of developers
and environmentalists. For example, the Silicon Valley Manufacturing
Group and others are working to working to expand the EIR exemptions
for infill projects to encourage smart growth. Another example is
that several groups are seeking legislation that will allow higher-density
developments to be insurable and, therefore, buildable.