Jerry Neuman's business card reads "attorney" but it might as well be "maestro."
Orchestrating designers, developers, and politicians like a seasoned conductor, Neuman has built Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory LLP into the city's go-to firm for mixed-use projects.
When Trizec Properties began developing the 1.2 million-square-foot Hollywood & Highland complex, one of the first urban sites in the nation to merge transit, retail, entertainment, and a major hotel chain, the site was a Rubik's Cube of private and public property owners.
Neuman convinced city officials to embrace vertical lot sub-division, an approach unproven in L.A. development circles. The method stacks lots into saleable air rights in a shorter time frame than traditional mapping and subdividing of lots.
When RAD Ventures LLC joined a partnership with three other groups to pay almost $40 million to transform 1100 Wilshire Blvd., a downtown office tower that had sat vacant since 1986, into L.A.'s tallest luxury condo building, Neuman got inventive with land entitlements.
"We chose to entitle the project for both adaptive reuse and as a major new project for the second tower," Neuman recounted. "This allowed the developers the flexibility and time to choose which entitlement best suited a changing downtown market."
For Sunset + Vine, a 625,000-square-foot mixed-use retail and apartment complex, Neuman changed entitlements three times with three configurations.
"The key to changing entitlements and not having to start all over again was an understanding of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) that's in tune with the public interest," he said. "Mixed-use should give the developer creativity during the process, while ensuring the community impact is consistent."
Managing partner Brian Leck said Neuman's land use practice, which includes Sonia Ransom, Mike Kiely and Patrick Perry, is a major reason for the firm's success.
"Ten to 20 years ago, the most critical ingredient for a real estate developer was a source of money today it is entitlements," Leck said. "No one is more creative with land entitling than Jerry Neuman and his team."
* Best Law Firm
Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory LLP
Jerold Neuman, partner
Tucson, Ariz., 1962
Accomplishments: Obtained approval for vertical lot subdivision at Hollywood & Highland and flexible entitlements for 1100 Wilshire Blvd. luxury condo conversion and the Sunset and Vine retail and apartment project
Quote: "Political term limits have undercut the city's ability to create long-term mixed-use projects. The public wants leadership and transparency from our officials, not an urban planning vision that is ceded entirely to the private sector."
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