Law Practice

J. Cleve Livingston is one of California’s leading experts with respect to land economics, vested development rights, master planning, environmental quality, green energy, smart growth, and affordable housing. In over 35 years of work as a land use and environmental law attorney; as a project manager of complex master planned developments; and as a real estate developer, Mr. Livingston has built a reputation for fashioning innovative design solutions to growth issues.  He is widely recognized for his effectiveness in composing value-added development strategies that emphasize both economic and environmental sustainability.  Over the last 25 years, the principal focus of Mr. Livingston’s work has been the development of large, mixed-use, residential communities and R&D/office campuses.  Mr. Livingston’s projects are notable for the creative use of educational facilities to anchor the residential neighborhoods of which they are a part and for the extent to which principles of environmental stewardship are defining features of project design.

Prior Experience

Partner in Robbins & Livingston (1989-1996), Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (1996-2001), and Boyden, Cooluris, Livingston & Saxe (2001-2012), Mr. Livingston has also worked in the public sector (as General Counsel to the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the California Indian Assistance Program) and in the non-profit sector (as senior litigation counsel with the Conservation Law Foundation).

Real Estate Development.  In the course of his work on these cutting edge real estate development projects, Mr. Livingston has pioneered the use of development agreements as a master planning and risk management tool. He is also able to bring to his role as project advocate an unusually broad range of development-related experience and expertise involving land use and community planning as well as entitlement processing.  The reach of the coverage he is able to provide includes advice and counsel with respect to general plan amendments; specific plans; zoning; subdivision/parcel maps; use permits; variances; design review; lot line adjustments; easements; annexations; environmental impact review and reporting (including CEQA and NEPA compliance); resource management and conservation; school impact analysis and mitigation; wetlands and special status species permitting; traffic impact analysis and mitigation; transportation demand management; water supply assessment and verification (SB 610/SB 221); infrastructure design and construction; development phasing; fiscal and economic impact analysis; public and private financing, including the use of tax exempt bonds to fund public improvements; Mello Roos and assessment district formation; affordable housing planning; risk assessment and management; market analysis; project labor agreements; CC&Rs; and public/private partnerships.

Climate Change, Smart Growth, and Sustainable Transportation Planning.  With the adoption of AB 32 (climate change) and SB 375 (sustainable communities), California has charted a course that links land use and transportation planning with greenhouse gas reduction through strategies that are designed to foster more sustainable and livable communities.  Mr. Livingston has long been an advocate of smart growth planning strategies that seek to reduce the need to drive by locating housing closer to jobs and transportation choices and by creating more compact, walkable communities that offer ease of access to a broad range of neighborhood amenities.  Mr. Livingston is also a leading proponent of sustainable transportation initiatives that mitigate project-related traffic impacts by substituting cost-effective transportation demand management and trip/VMT reduction strategies for the construction of new roadway capacity.  Such strategies can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as in enhancing the political and economic viability of the projects he represents.

CEQA/NEPA Compliance.  As a result of his experience as senior litigation counsel to the Conservation Law Foundation (“CLF”), a non-profit environmental advocacy group, Mr. Livingston is well versed in addressing compliance issues arising under CEQA, NEPA, and other state and federal environmental statutes.  The legal counsel he provides in this regard includes assistance in structuring cost-effective, efficient, and time-sensitive environmental review processes; in scoping potential environmental impacts and mitigation strategies; in reviewing baseline studies, supporting documentation, and background reports; in commenting on draft documents; in preparing findings, statements of overriding considerations, and mitigation monitoring and reporting plans; and in defending or challenging the legal adequacy of environmental reports, permits, and approvals.

Repositioning Projects to Restore Development Feasibility.  The collapse of the housing and credit markets in 2007-2008 left many development projects with residual land values that are untenable and diseconomic.  Mr. Livingston’s success in repositioning, reprogramming, and re-entitling such troubled projects to add value, generate cash flow, and reduce costs while, at the same time, preserving the essential character and integrity of the project design, is highly regarded in the public and private sectors alike.

Due Diligence; Development Feasibility Analysis; Site Search and Acquisition.  Among the services Mr. Livingston is increasingly asked to provide are assistance with due diligence and development feasibility analysis.  These services are often part of a site search engagement in which he is retained to find and/or evaluate land acquisition opportunities and to help structure the consequent transactions.

 Purchase and Sale Agreements.  Mr. Livingston’s understanding of development economics and his facility with value creation provide him with an unusually broad-based platform from which to negotiate and close complex purchase and sale transactions, particularly transactions involving brownfield sites where toxic contamination is a concern or transactions involving undeveloped or underdeveloped real estate assets.

Educational Facilities Development.  Over the course of the last decade, Mr. Livingston has also played a leading role in the advent of “developer built” schools.  He is a founding principal of Campus Development Partners (“CDP”) — a privatized, turnkey design/permit/finance/build delivery system for K-12 school facilities.  In this capacity, he has been closely involved in the creation of a private sector alternative to the traditional school district delivery model that is designed to:

  • create schools that serve as multi-purpose community centers;
  • improve design quality in both form and function;
  • reduce both front-end construction costs and longer term life cycle costs;
  • provide 100% advance funding for construction and tax exempt take-out financing; and
  • guarantee on-time/on-budget school delivery in advance of need.

Affordable Housing Development.  In his tenure as General Counsel to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”), Mr. Livingston was the principal author of the State’s Housing Element Guidelines and Regional Housing Needs Fair Share Allocation Model.  This regulatory framework was subsequently adopted into statute and forms the basis of California’s housing planning law.  As a result, Mr. Livingston has an intimate understanding of federal, state, regional, and local affordable housing policy and programs and his practice involves representation of clients who need assistance either in preparing creative strategies to address these requirements or in securing the approvals necessary to develop affordable housing projects.

Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation.  Mr. Livingston is also well versed in the law of eminent domain and inverse condemnation, including the legal constructs of public use, just compensation, fair market value, date of valuation, severance damages, goodwill, and findings of necessity as well as the procedural and substantive requirements of the condemnation process.

 Energy Efficiency and Renewable Generation Initiatives.  Mr. Livingston has been an advocate of green energy and sustainable design for over thirty years.  In this capacity, he provides advice with respect to the design, financing and delivery of demand reduction strategies which reduce both energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by improving the efficiency with which energy is used.  On the supply side, Mr. Livingston also represents clients seeking to develop both utility scale and distributed renewable energy projects.  In his environmental advocacy work with CLF, Mr. Livingston was one of the principal architects of a ground breaking initiative among New England utility companies to invest in energy efficiency as a clean, cost-effective alternative to the construction of new power plants.  Widely copied, this CLF/utility collaboration played an important role in the creation of a national market for energy efficiency.  In addition, Mr. Livingston assembled and led a team of energy efficiency experts from across the country in preparing an energy conservation plan for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (“SMUD”) designed to offset, through energy savings, the electric capacity that was lost when the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant was permanently shuttered.  SMUD has since become a national leader in energy efficiency and renewable generation.

Publications and Lectures.  Mr. Livingston is the author or co-author of numerous publications addressing topics ranging from local growth controls to affordable housing and from the regulation of underground petroleum storage tanks to energy efficient solutions to utility planning.  Mr. Livingston is also a frequent lecturer on a wide range of development-related subjects including, in particular, master planning, vested development rights, project advocacy, the use of development agreements as a master planning tool, affordable housing, and the role of development feasibility analysis in due diligence.

Pro Bono Work.  Mr. Livingston’s pro bono work includes representation of affordable housing projects in jurisdictions throughout California.  In addition, he has served on the boards of numerous non-profit and community-based organizations including long standing service as chair of the Sacramento Region Sports Education Foundation (the local organizing committee for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Team Track and Field Trials as well as a host of other national and international sporting events) and as a member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Rowing Committee (Mr. Livingston captained the Harvard crew, competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, and is an Olympic silver medalist as well as a member of the National Rowing Hall of Fame and the Harvard Athletic Hall of Fame).


Representative Cases

Green Technology Collaborative at Golden Gate Fields, Albany/Berkeley, California — A proposal to develop a second campus for U.C. Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on a 136 acre waterfront site on San Francisco Bay, consisting of a 4.5MSF live-work community and innovation hub, designed to integrate green tech R&D with platforms for business incubation, public policy analysis, and educational outreach, while preserving over 60% of the land for public open space uses, including a 75 acre waterfront park.

Central Lathrop Specific Plan (“Land Park”), Lathrop, California — A 1,500 acre master planned, “smart growth” community including 6,790 residential units; average single family residential densities of 7.25 units per acre; 5 million square feet of commercial land uses; a mixed-use town center featuring public uses to include a City Hall, regional high school and 40 acre joint use community park; and a $200,000,000 Mello-Roos Community Facilities District.

Juniper Networks Headquarters Campus, Sunnyvale, California — A 2,500,000 square foot transit-oriented, master-planned office campus with structured parking for 4,412 vehicles, 135,000 square feet of employee-serving retail and amenity space, a 350 room hotel/conference center, and an intramodal transportation station with light rail service.

North Central Roseville Specific Plan (“Highland Reserve”), Roseville, California — A 2,330 acre master-planned community including 4,400+ residential units, 270 acres of commercial land use (including a 1,100,000+ square foot regional mall anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears), 240 acres of office land use, 200 acres of light industrial/R&D land use, 330 acres of park/open space preserves, three elementary schools, two freeway interchanges, and a $90,125,000 Mello-Roos Community Facilities District.

Dixon Downs, Dixon, California — A 260 acre mixed use destination entertainment, retail, dining, hotel, conference center complex which includes as its centerpiece the first of a new generation of thoroughbred horse racing and training facilities which features stables for over 1,600 race horses, 275 extended stay residential units for jockeys, trainers, grooms and other racetrack personnel, and a 200,000 square foot Finish Line Pavilion and Grandstand which converts to a 2,000 seat theater-in-the-round when not in use for racing.

Applied Materials Arques Campus, Sunnyvale, California — A 1,000,000+ square foot state-of-the-art master-planned research and development campus with clean room demonstration facilities and structured parking for 2,600 vehicles.

Del Webb Sun City Lincoln Hills — Phase 2, Lincoln, California — A 3,000+ acre master-planned, high amenity, active adult community including 6,800 residential units and three 18-hole golf courses.

Highland Reserve North Specific Plan, Roseville, California — A 700 acre master-planned community featuring a 40-acre town square/common, 1,770 residential units, 165 acres of regional commercial/office land use, 32 acres of active parks, 35 acres of passive open space, an elementary school, a freeway interchange, and a $33,470,000 Mello-Roos Community Facilities District.

Continental Plaza, Sacramento, California — A 1,100,000+ square foot office campus with structured parking for approximately 3,000 vehicles, a child care facility and ground floor retail.

Applied Materials Scott Campus, Santa Clara, California — A 850,000 square foot master-planned research and development campus consisting of three office buildings, two research and development technical buildings, a central plant, a cafe/conference/exhibit center, and three parking structures with a capacity for 2,500 vehicles.

Discovery Center,Sacramento, California – a 1,000,000+ square foot office/hotel complex with structured parking for approximately 2,500 vehicles.

River Park, West Sacramento, California — A 500+ acre, 2,500 unit urban village with a cutting edge parks program that incorporates a riverfront marina, water features (including a 30 acre linear parkway and canal system), and a 45 acre regional tennis complex.

Stone Point, Roseville, California — A 130 acre infill mixed-use project which includes over 1 million square feet of office/retail, 35 acres of parks/open space, 575 residential units at an average density of almost 14 units per acre, and a $17,000,000 Mello-Roos Community Facilities District.

J. Cleve Livingston



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Practice Areas

Land Use & Natural ResourcesLand TitleEnvironmental LawLitigation


B.A., cum laude, HarvardCollegeJ.D.,  AntiochSchool of LawM.P.A.,  Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University


State Bar of California, Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts