chip

Howard F. Wilkins III (“Chip”)

Partner

Mr. Wilkins joined the firm in 2005 and became a partner in 2010.  His practice focuses on land use and environmental law.  Mr. Wilkins handles all phases of the land use entitlement and permitting processes, including administrative approvals and litigation.  Mr. Wilkins’s practice covers the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the State Planning and Zoning Law, the Subdivision Map Act, the Williamson Act, the California Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal Endangered Species Act, the federal Clean Water Act, waste management, water law, administrative law, as well as initiative and referendum law.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Wilkins worked as an attorney for the Arnold Law Firm representing clients in mediations, settlement conferences, court hearings and all aspects of the litigation process.  From 1999 to 2004, he was an associate attorney in the complex litigation and litigation groups at Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, where he represented public and private clients in state and federal court proceedings involving a broad range of matters, including inverse condemnation, eminent domain, contracts, products liability, unfair competition, and class actions.  While working at Kronick, Mr. Wilkins volunteered for a month at the Yolo County District Attorney’s office, handling hearings, bench trials and a jury trial.  Before entering law school, he served in various positions in the political arena, including research director for a state political party, political consultant and campaign manager.

Mr. Wilkins has taught several land use and environmental law classes and seminars including the September 2010 State Bar Conference “Introduction to CEQA” seminar, as well as at the State Bar of California Environmental Law Section, “Land Use Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Your Voice, Your Future” Conference in Arcata, CA in May 2008.

Representative matters include:

  • Represented County in defense of challenge to its adoption of General Plan and inverse condemnation claims.  Successfully settled the matter after filing a Motion for Summary Adjudication and a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on behalf of County.   The case was settled on favorable terms for the County, and the General Plan remained valid.
  • Represented County in defense of two challenges to its CUPA Hazardous Waste Generator program fees and refund claims.  Successfully settled the matter after filing demurrer on behalf of County.   The case was settled on favorable terms for the County, and the fees remained valid.
  • Represented large retailer in successfully navigating CEQA and local land use entitlement processes to obtain a conditional use permit for home improvement store from Placer County.  Despite vocal opposition during the permitting process, the project did not draw any litigation.  The entitlements sought included a tentative parcel map, design review, demolition permit, grading permit, building permits, encroachment permit from Caltrans, Asbestos Dust Mitigation Plan, approval for a piped canal, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, and Nationwide 404 Permit.
  • Represented California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in defense of petition for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief claims relating to whether it was exempt from annual water-related assessments.  The case was settled on favorable terms for DFG as DFG was not required to pay any past or future assessments and incurred no financial obligations to the plaintiffs.
  • Representing water agency in defense of federal Endangered Species Act claims.  The case involves a challenge to several Biological Opinions regarding Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon (“spring Chinook”), Central Valley steelhead (“steelhead”), and southern Distinct Population Segment of North American green sturgeon (“green sturgeon”) on the Yuba River.  The plaintiffs alleged separate Section 9 “take” violations against the Agency.
  • Represented clients in administrative hearings, including the California Energy Commission and State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Representing clients in navigating CEQA, the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, and land use entitlement processes to obtain permits from Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA).
  • Representing start-up companies in connection with proposals to site and obtain entitlements for proposed anaerobic digester facilities that transform organic waste into biogas fuel (hydrogen, methane), as well as biofuel, solar, and other clean energy projects.  Assisting clients in consultations with stakeholders and advising on environmental review process.  Assisted clients in successfully obtaining millions in grant funding.

Published Decisions:

  • Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco (Cal. Ct. App., July 7, 2014) 14 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7668. [only slip copy available]
  • Sierra Club v. Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency,
    • 2014 WL 1366253 (E.D. Cal., Apr. 7, 2014) and
    • 2013 WL 3070632 (E.D. Cal. June 17, 2013). [Case No. 2:13–cv–00267 JAM EFB – only slip copies available]
  • Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment v. County of Placer (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 25.
  • Sierra Club v. Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency (E.D. Cal. 2013) 916 F.Supp.2d 1098. [Case No. CIV. 2:12–0044 WBS CKD]
  • Citizens for Open Government/ Lodi First v. City of Lodi (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 296.
  • S. Yuba River Citizens League v. Nat’l Marine Fisheries Serv.,
    • 851 F. Supp. 2d 1246 (E.D. Cal. 2012);
    • 629 F. Supp. 2d 1123 (E.D. Cal. 2009); and
    • 257 F.R.D. 607 (E.D. Cal. 2009).