Joel Kuperberg is a partner in the Costa Mesa, California law firm of Rutan & Tucker LLP, where he has practiced since joining the firm in 1979. Mr. Kuperberg's practice focuses on sophisticated land use development, resource and public policy issues, and representing local governmental entities and private clients in their relations with federal, state and local governments.
Mr. Kuperberg received his BA degree, cum laude, from Pomona College (1976), and his JD degree from UCLA School of Law (1979). He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, the courts of the State of California, and Federal District courts in California. Mr. Kuperberg currently holds public office as the City Attorney for the City of La Palma, and as General Counsel for the Orange County Water District, Serrano Water District and Vista Irrigation District. Mr. Kuperberg served as City Attorney for the City of Irvine for almost 14 years. In addition, he has previously served as general counsel for a number of other local governmental entities in Southern California, including the Carpenter Irrigation District, the Tri-Cities Municipal Water District, the Capistrano Valley Wastewater Authority, and the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority.
Mr. Kuperberg represents developers, landowners and other parties throughout California in entitlement and administrative proceedings; transactions and litigation relating to land use regulation, planning and zoning; development agreement, subdivision, annexation, housing, exaction and fee issues; as well as environmental (including CEQA, NEPA, and Endangered Species Act), water supply and quality, water rights and other resource matters. He also represents cities, water districts and other local agencies as special counsel on a wide variety of other public policy matters, including election, initiative and referendum issues, and inverse condemnation, governmental organization, open meeting, conflict of interest and First Amendment matters. As part of his practice, he regularly appears before governmental bodies and in Federal and State courts.
From 1993 to 2005, Mr. Kuperberg represented the City of Irvine in a successful, multi-faceted effort to effect a non-aviation reuse of the former United States Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. This effort included the prosecution and defense of over a dozen lawsuits, and the drafting or review of multiple local land use initiatives and state and federal legislation. Following a successful initiative campaign to designate the 4700-acre property for non-aviation uses, Mr. Kuperberg was part of a three-member team that successfully negotiated with the United States Department of the Navy for a unique reuse and disposition plan for the former base. The incentive-based zoning entitlement program developed by Mr. Kuperberg resulted in the purchaser of the base dedicating over 1,200 acres of land, contributing $200 million and committing to the financing of another $200 million, for the development of the public park facilities and infrastructure, as well as a committment to the long-term maintenance of these public facilities - all at no cost to the city.
In addition, Mr. Kuperberg has served as legal counsel to governmental agencies processing and approving other significant land use entitlement projects. Within the past several years, he assisted in the processing and approval of general plan amendments, zone changes, subdivisions, and development agreements for the development of 16,000 residential dwelling units, and 9.4 million square feet of commercial, industrial and research uses, and some 9,100 acres of undeveloped land. Mr. Kuperberg also assisted in processing a number of recent infill development projects, including the redevelopment of a former aerospace facility into a 1,380-unit condominium project.
Within the past several years, Mr. Kuperberg successfully challenged the imposition of approximately $15 million in development impact fees on behalf of a major residential developer in Southern California, and assisted a landowner in successfully obtaining land use entitlements and environmental clearance for a controversial 750-unit infill redevelopment project. He represented a large governmental landowner in a major groundwater adjudication in the Central Coast of California. Mr. Kuperberg assisted a water agency in the development of a $500 million wastewater reuse and groundwater replenishment project, and more recently assisted in a $150 million expansion of that project.
Mr. Kuperberg served as pro bono counsel to two non-profit entities in the successful acquisition of land for, and the development of, a 250,000 square foot combined school and community center campus on almost 25 acres, with a completed development value of approximately $60 million. As legal counsel for a city, he also assisted in implementing the acquisition or phased dedication of over 2,000 acres of conservation, preservation and recreational open space. Within the past several years, he also assisted a water agency in the multi-million dollar transfer of approximately 800 acres of sensitive habitat in central Orange County for open space purposes.
A significant portion of Mr. Kuperberg’s practice involves representing private parties and local public agencies in public policy litigation, on issues as varied as land use, CEQA, water rights, housing, inverse condemnation, elections, annexations, First Amendment and campaign finance. Among the lawsuits involving significant public policy issues that Mr. Kuperberg has handled or played a major role in are the following:
Affordable Housing Coalition v. City of San Diego, San Diego County Superior Court Action No. 37-2007-0007629 (2009): Successful defense of the city’s housing element against CEQA, substantive general plan adequacy and procedural challenges.
City of Encinitas v. City of Carlsbad, San Diego County Superior Court Action No. 37-2008-00088071 (2008): Successful resolution of City of Encinitas’ claims of extraterritorial traffic impacts from neighboring city’s project approval, resulting in Encinitas receiving an additional $1.6 million for traffic mitigation.
Orange County Water District v. Yorba Linda Water District, Orange County Action No. 04CC09152 (2006): Successful prosecution of both a $750,000 water assessment claim, and dispositive motions resulting in the dismissal of a $24 million cross-complaint for inverse condemnation and misrepresentation.
Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc. v. Irvine, 125 Cal.App.4th 1110 (2004): Successful defense of a mitigated negative declaration for the development of approximately 140 infill housing units on a site with subterranean hazardous waste issues.
City of Irvine v. Rodermund, Orange County Superior Court Action No. 04CC10166 (2004): Successful prosecution of proceeding to correct an erroneous ballot designation discovered just 30 days prior to the election date.
Naughton, et al v. Board of Supervisors of County of Orange, Orange County Superior Court Action No. 02CC04400 (2003): Successful defense of a county-wide airport reuse initiative against challenges of exclusive delegation, preemption and general plan consistency.
Schroeder v. City Council, 97 Cal.App.4th 174 (2002): Successful anti-SLAPP defense of municipal voter registration activities undertaken during an initiative campaign.
Citizens Committee for the Conservation of Local Agriculture v. City of Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Action No. 020085 (2002): Successful defense of a city’s refusal to place a referendum on the ballot due to the proponents’ failure to comply with the full text requirement.
Serrano Water District v. Orange Unified School District, Orange County Superior Court Action No. 801244 (2000): Successful prosecution of partition action by one public agency against another, resulting in the client receiving $3.1 million for the sale of its interest in environmentally constrained property (representing a value approximately 30% above the appraised value for the interest).
Campanula Properties, et al. v. City of Anaheim, Orange County Superior Court Action No. 614664 (1990): Successful defense and resolution of numerous lawsuits challenging Anaheim's approval of a $115 million sports arena now known as the "Honda Center."
Hernandez v. City of Encinitas, 28 Cal.App.4th 1048 (1994): Successful defense of a city in general plan adequacy and consistency, housing element sufficiency, and “least cost” zoning claims.
City of Irvine v. Irvine Citizens Against Overdevelopment, 25 Cal.App.4th 686 (1994): Successful pre-election invalidation of a referendum based on general plan/zoning consistency challenges.
Davis v. City of Newport Beach, Orange County Superior Court Action No. 329585 (1988): Successful defense of a city in a highly publicized case involving exclusionary zoning, race and wealth discrimination and housing element adequacy claims, following an 11-month long court trial.
Mr. Kuperberg frequently lectures and publishes papers on land use, water, environmental, military base reuse, and initiative and referendum issues, including:
- “Requiem for RDAs: Picking up the Pieces of Redevelopment” (ULI Orange County/Inland Empire Advisory Board Presentation, February 2012)
- Panelist, “Retrofitting TOD in Suburbia: Solutions for Orange County and Inland Empire (Urban Land Institute Third Annual Transit Oriented Development Marketplace Conference, 2012)”
- The Effect of Proposition 218 on Groundwater Charges: The Judicial Trend (Orange County Groundwater Producers, 2011)
- Land Use Initiatives and Refereranda: Recent Developments and Strategies (Rutan & Tucker Land Use and Natural Resources Practice Group Program, 2011)
- The Scope of Liability and Immunities Under the Government Claims Act (Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Series, Costa Mesa, 2011)
- Can the God Squad Resurrect the State Water Project? A Possible Solution to California’s Environmental and Water Wars (Orange County Water Summit, 2009)
- Constitutional Conservation? Water Pricing Disincentives and Proposition 218 (The Public Law Journal, 2008)
- Legal Requirements for Council Meeting Management and Conduct (California Mayor and Council Members Executive Forum Advanced Leadership Workshop, 2008)
- Survey of Current Issues and Case Law Regarding CEQA (Planning Officials Forum, 2007)
- Going to the Ballot (League of California Cities Financial Management Seminar, 2006)
- City Council Meeting Rules of Conduct and Their Enforcement (League of California Cities Annual Conference, 2006)
- Implementing the Vision: A Case Study of El Toro Reuse (National Association of Installation Developers Annual Conference, 2005)
- Advanced Seminar on Land Use: Planning by Initiative, Transfer of Development Rights, Inclusionary Housing, and Two-Tiered Contract Zoning (Lorman Educational Services, 2004)
- Preparing the Administrative Record (League of California Cities Annual Conference, 2003)
- Does Campaign Finance Regulation Have a Future? (League of California Cities City Attorney's Conference, 2003)
- Wet Growth: Should Water Law Control Land Use? (Chapman University School of Law, 2003)
- California Land Use: Current Uses in Subdivision, Annexation and Zoning Law (National Business Institute, 2002)
- Trends in Land Use Initiatives (Lorman Educational Services, 2001)
- Legal Issues Arising From Closing Military Bases (American Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting, 2001)
- Brown Act, Findings and CEQA—Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (American Planning Association, 2001)
- The City as an Advocate: Initiatives, Elections and the Expenditure of Public Funds (Orange County City Attorney's Association, 2001)
- The Fundamentals of Land Use Regulation (American Planning Association, 2000)
- General Municipal Law Update (League of California Cities Annual Conference, 1997)
- Determining Fees Subject to Prop. 218 and The Effect of Prop. 218 on Inter-Fund Transfers (League of California Cities Continuing Education Workshop on Proposition 218, 1997)
- Recent Developments in Housing Element Law (American Planning Association, 1996)
- Housing Element Litigation After Hernandez v. Encinitas (Orange County City Attorney's Association, 1995)
Areas of Expertise
- Municipal Law
- Water Law
- Environmental and Resource Law
- Elections, Initiatives and Referenda
- Constitutional and Public Policy Litigation
- Land Use and Entitlements
Joel Kuperberg is also a co-author of Handbook of Appellate Advocacy (West Publishing Co., 1980). He lives with his wife in North Tustin, California, and they have three grown children.