Steve Herum is involved in all aspects of real estate development from the purchase and sale of real property, through the land use regulatory labyrinth and finally representing property owners in trial and appellate courts against the inevitable challenge to the land use approvals that seems endemic in California. The dean of California land use lawyers the late Daniel J. Curtin said, “I would rank him up high among the land-use lawyers in the state. He is well-versed in the law and nonconfrontational when dealing with planners, engineers and public officials.” The Stockton Record November 9, 1992. Former State Senator Patrick Johnston explained, “When I can’t get a good fix on some problem I turn to him. I trust his judgment and his good will as well. He will always keep my confidence and give me good advice on an issue, not just what I want to hear.”
In 2005 the California Lawyer (the State Bar Association’s magazine) named Steve Land Use/Environmental Lawyer of the Year. Through his involvement in the proposed development of two major Bakersfield area shopping centers anchored by supercenters, Steve obtained a published opinion of national significance concerning the duty of cities to consider the potential new retail development to cause urban decay. The decision has been characterized as “an atomic bomb.” Steve has also been annually named a “Super Lawyer” since 2006.
Among Steve’s accomplishments are securing and defending the land use approvals for two of the largest master plan communities in the Central Valley (Mountain House and Califia/Gold Rush City) and winning the first appellate case to declare that vesting tentative maps afford subdividers the absolute vested right to build out their projects. Steve also secured land use approvals for major industrial parks and regional shopping centers and large residential projects in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties. In twenty plus years he has made over 1,000 presentations to local and regional planning agencies.
For example, in one matter Steve lead the development effort to gain approval of a major regional retail shopping center. Before becoming involved the LAFCO had denied the annexation. Steve convinced LAFCO to change their mind and approve the annexation, coordinated the land use approvals and compliance with CEQA. After a citizens group qualified a referendum to overturn the approvals, Steve convinced a trial court to declare that the referendum petition was illegal and to enjoin the election.
In another example, he represented the Stockton Chamber, the City of Stockton and San Joaquin County in litigation to force a federal court appointed receiver over the state prison system to mitigate the impacts of a major prison hospital facility. Facing over eight law firms retained by the receiver and state prison system Steve negotiated precedent setting concessions to mitigate the adverse impacts to the community from the prison project. His efforts were chronicled in an article entitled, “With Prison Hospital, Stockton Learns How to Bargain” (The Record, June 9, 2010) that is located in our “In the News” feature.
Steve has also made hundreds of appearances on behalf of property owners in the courts, including over twenty-five appearances at various appellate courts. He has represented landowners in the Central Valley from Sacramento to Visalia, and has appeared in all state courts and the federal district and appellate courts.
Steve has litigated such diverse land use matters through the appellate court as: whether the reserved power of initiative is subordinate to a state regulation concerning the annexation of territory to cities; whether a city’s exercise of the police power for health and safety is preempted by a subdivider’s vested right to build out a subdivision; whether a golf course may be constructed on land subject to the Williamson Act; whether a board of supervisors may decline to place an initiative on the ballot because that board believes the initiative is illegal; whether relief may be obtained against a state agency issuing a joint water permit to private parties and the United States when the United States asserts sovereign immunity; whether a competing utility company has standing to challenge formation of a special district that will compete in the delivery of energy; and whether a statutory administrative remedy is mandatory for purposes of satisfying the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement.
He has also successfully resolved land use disputes between developers and neighbors outside of the formal administrative and legal process. For instance Steve represented a regional hospital starting up an emergency medical helicopter program. The hospital is surrounded by residential subdivisions. Steve successfully negotiated with the local neighborhood group so that neighborhood concerns could be address while allowing the hospital’s helicopter program to continue without interference.
Steve is involved with all aspects of the land development process, including developing strategies to ensure the legal adequacy of the planning documents and EIRs, participating in the administrative process, assisting in the development infrastructure plans and financing, and negotiating settlements of controversial planning, environmental and political disputes.
Steve graduated from Stanford with a B.A. with “Highest Distinction” and received his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law where he served on the Constitutional Law Quarterly. He conducted post-graduate work at Harvard Law School in 1995. Before attending law school Steve served as a special assistant to Governor Jerry Brown, as chief consultant to the California State Assembly Committee on California’s Food and Agricultural Economy and as acting chief of staff to Senator John Garamendi.
Steve is a former president and board member of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, a graduate of Leadership Stockton, attends of St. Andrews Lutheran Church, served on the Lutheran Social Services Northern California board of directors, is a member of the State Building Industry Association Litigation Task Force, and a member of various civic and social organizations. Steve was a commissioner on the Stockton Port Authority. The Commission determines the policy for and governs the operation of the Port. He served as the Commission’s chairman twice, chaired the San Joaquin County-City of Stockton-Port Commission liaison committee and represented the Port on the San Joaquin Council of Governments. In 2011, after serving as a Commissioner for over eleven years, Steve resigned and was appointed the Port’s General Counsel.
Steve has successfully defended numerous land use decisions and environmental reviews (negative declarations and environmental impact reports) on behalf of landowners and public agencies.
Representative articles concerning Steve’s representation of landowners may be reviewed by clicking on the various rulings.