Joel 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.
Joel 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. He 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.
Joel 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.
Joel represents public and private clients in water rights issues, including overlying, appropriative, riparian, contractual and adjudicated rights. He has assisted clients in State Water Resources Control Board appropriation proceedings, the purchase and sale of adjudicated groundwater rights, and establishing non-regulated water rights. He has also negotiated with the regional, wholesale and retail water agencies regarding water supply, storage, and transmission issues. Joel has participated in a wide variety of adversarial proceedings relating to water rights, including the representation of a party in water rights litigation involving over 1,000 parties relating to the Santa Maria groundwater basin in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, and another in the regional water supply litigation known as the “QSA Litigation.” He has represented a local water agency in contract negotiations, documentation, environmental compliance and litigation issues in connection with the construction of a $490 million indirect potable reuse wastewater treatment and groundwater replenishment project, with a yield of 70 million gallons per day, and a $150 million expansion of that international award winning project to produce an additional 30 million gallons per day of project water.
Joel represented a large governmental landowner in a major groundwater adjudication in the Central Coast of California. He assisted a Southern California water agency in the development of a $500 million wastewater reuse and groundwater replenishment project and a $150 million expansion of that project. He is currently assisting water agencies in evaluating a public-private partnership for the acquisition of 50 million gallons per day of desalinated ocean water, and the significant expansion of an indirect potable reuse. wastewater reclamation project
From 1993 to 2005, Joel 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, Joel was part of a three-member team that successfully negotiated with the United States Department of the Navy, resulting in the City receiving over 1,200 acres of land, contributing $200 million for public park facilities and infrastructure.
In addition, he 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. Joel 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. He 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.
Joel 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.
Joel is also a co-author of Handbook of Appellate Advocacy (West Publishing Co., 1980).
Areas of Expertise
- Municipal Law
- Water Law
- Environmental and Resource Law
- Elections, Initiatives and Referenda
- Constitutional and Public Policy Litigation
- Land Use and Entitlements
Among the lawsuits involving significant public policy issues that Mr. Kuperberg has handled or played a major role in are the following:
- In re Quantification Settlement Agreement Cases, 201 Cal.App.4th 758 (2011) and 237 Cal.App.4th 72 (2015): Successful defense of Vista Irrigation District in challenges to one of the State’s largest water transfer programs, ensuring the supply of 16,000 acre-feet per year of water to the client.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
News & Insights
Mr. Kuperberg frequently lectures and publishes papers on land use, water, environmental, military base reuse, and initiative and referendum issues, including:
- Ensuring Integrity in 21st Century California: Water & Public Works in Our Arid State (Municipal Law Institute Symposium, February 2016)
- Pricing Water in a Time of Drought (Association of California Water Agencies Fall Conference, December 2015)
- Conservation Rate Structures and the Proposition 218 Conundrum (Orange County City Attorneys Association, November 2015)
- The Court Speaks to Rate Setting (Urban Water Institute’s Spring Water Conference, February 2014)
- Overcoming Legal and Institutional Obstacles to Indirect Potable Recharge: the Orange County Water District (OCWD) Experience: San Diego Council of Water Utilities, January 15, 2013 (co-presenter)
- “Requiem for RDAs: Picking up the Pieces of Redevelopment” (ULI Orange County/Inland Empire Advisory Board Presentation, February 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)
- 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)
- The City as an Advocate: Initiatives, Elections and the Expenditure of Public Funds (Orange County City Attorney’s Association, 2001)
Awards & Affiliations
Awards & Honors
- Southern California “Super Lawyers” 2006-2011, 2014-2018
- AV® Preemininent™ rating with LexisNexis/Martindale Hubbell
- California League of Cities, Editorial Board California Municipal Law Handbook (2003-2005) and Legal Advocacy Committees (2005-2006)
- Association of California Water Agencies Legal Affairs Committee (2008 to present)
- President Orange County City Attorney’s Association (2006)
- Orange County Water Association
- Among his civic and charitable activities, Joel served for nine years as the President of Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, and almost 20 years on the Board of Directors of the School. Joel recently completed serving as the President of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin.
Memberships & Associations
Courts of the State of California, and Federal trial courts in California
Federal Bar Association