Lisabeth D. Rothman


Liz ( focuses on environmental and land use law with a special emphasis on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Liz has represented public agencies and private entities including residential, commercial, and industrial developers, energy companies, and business organizations in entitlement, administrative, litigation, and appellate proceedings in state and federal courts.

With more than 30 years of administrative, litigation and appellate experience, Liz has expertise in complex and cutting-edge issues under CEQA including compliance, mitigation, litigation and settlement, in climate change/greenhouse gas issues, water supply and water quality, planning and zoning, and the Subdivision Map Act. Her land use experience also includes conditional use permits, development agreements, rezoning, general plan amendments, specific plans, Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiatives, referenda challenging land use approvals, Local Agency Formation Commission issues, Coastal Act issues, exactions and regulatory takings, and other development conditions. Her practice also focuses on CEQA’s treatment of water issues, and she has represented clients on issues involving water rights, the Clean Water Act, and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. She also possesses a familiarity with the National Environmental Policy Act, the California Fish and Game Code, and the Endangered Species Act.

Liz has advised and represented public agencies on CEQA issues for major public infrastructure water projects, water issues, contract issues, and LAFCO matters.

As an experienced litigator, Liz represents private clients and public agencies in judicial proceedings in state and federal trial and appellate courts. Her trial court representation focuses on writs of mandate and validation proceedings, and includes environmental matters in federal district court. Her appellate practice includes representation before California Courts of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and federal appellate courts, and also includes writing amicus briefs in numerous appellate cases involving CEQA and water issues.

Representative Cases

Trial and Appellate Cases

  • Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Const. Authority (2013) 57 Cal.4th 439.
  • Committee For Green Foothills v. Santa Clara County Bd. of Supervisors (2010) 48 Cal.4th 32.
  • Communities for a Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality Management Dist. (2010) 48 Cal.4th 310.
  • In re Bay-Delta Programmatic Environmental Impact Report Coordinated Proceedings (2008) 43 Cal.4th 1143.
  • Delaware Tetra Technologies, Inc. v. County of San Bernardino (2016) 247 Cal. App. 4th 352.
  • Salmon Protection and Watershed Network v. County of Marin (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 195.
  • In re Quantification Settlement Agreement Cases (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 758.
  • Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary v. Golden State Water Co. (2011) 205 Cal.App.4th 534.
  • Health First v. March Joint Powers Authority (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 1135.
  • County of Imperial v. Superior Court (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 13.
  • Fiorentino v. City of Fresno (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 596.
  • Concerned McCloud Citizens v. McCloud Community Services Dist. (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 181.
  • Plastic Pipe and Fittings Ass’n v. California Building Standards Com’n (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 1390.
  • Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee v. Monterey County Water Resources Agency (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 961.
  • County of Orange v. Superior Court (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1.
  • California ex re. Imperial County Air Pollution Control Dist. v. United States Dept. of Interior (9th Cir. 2014) 767 F.3d 781.
  • Casitas Municipal Water District v. United States 543 F.3d 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (Amicus brief to United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit supporting position that diversion of water supply is a physical and compensable taking).
  • Building Industry Association of San Diego v. Regional Water Quality Control Board (Letter brief to Supreme Court in support of review on Clean Water Act issues).
  • Allegretti & Co. v. County of Imperial (Letter brief to Supreme Court in support of review of adverse decision regarding property owner’s groundwater rights).
  • Landwatch Monterey County v. County of Monterey (Request for publication of favorable decision regarding adequacy of CEQA compliance for groundwater supply for residential project).
  • Sierra Club v. West Side Irrigation District (Request for publication of favorable decision regarding adequacy of CEQA analysis for water project).
  • Back County Against Dumps v. San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Defense of CEQA challenge to solar project).
  • Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. Santa Margarita Water District (Successful defense of six trial court cases challenging private landowner’s public –private partnership for groundwater extraction, sale, and storage project).
  • In re QSA Cases (Multiple trials in coordinated proceeding defending Colorado River settlement agreement).
  • California Building Industry Association v. State Water Resources Control Bd. (Successful trial court challenge to statewide NPDES construction stormwater permit).
  • Health First v. March Joint Powers Authority (Defense of CEQA challenge to 800,000 sf grocery store distribution center).
  • Vedanta Society v. County of Orange (Multiple cases defending CEQA and land use challenges to high end 283 residential unit development).
  • Central Delta Water Agency v. Department of Water Resources (Lead counsel for Central Coast Water Authority in three superior court cases and one appeal involving validation and CEQA challenges to 1990’s amendments to State Water Project contracts, and revised amendments that resulted from settlement of previous litigation challenges, and CEQA compliance for both).
  • Western Municipal Water District v. Atallah (Successful CEQA challenge to mitigated negative declaration for gas station project located near agency’s water supply).

Administrative Matters

  • Land use and CEQA counsel for entitlement of project involving 1,100 single family residential/active adult homes and 100,000 square foot commercial and amenities development in central coast area, including drafting EIR and specific plan, negotiating development agreement, and obtaining LAFCO approval.
  • CEQA counsel for preparation of revised EIR for solar project.
  • CEQA counsel for project modification to major water supply project.
  • CEQA entitlement counsel for public-private partnership project for groundwater extraction, sale, and storage.
  • Represented stakeholders commenting on San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s draft MS4 permit.
  • Represented major residential development organization commenting on EPA nationwide stormwater construction permit.
  • Land use and CEQA counsel for expansion of 800,000 square foot warehouse/distribution center built with the largest solar roof in the Western US; advised client regarding green initiatives for building and operations in analysis and mitigation of greenhouse gas/carbon footprint impacts of project under CEQA.
  • Land use entitlement, CEQA compliance and environmental permitting, for complex 300 high-end single family residential unit project in Orange County canyon area.
  • Provided NEPA, CEQA and land use compliance advice for project development including construction of bottling facility and construction of pipelines in federal forest land.
  • Provided due diligence and transactional advice to commercial entity regarding permitting and CEQA compliance for stores ranging in size from 4,000 to 17,000 square feet in California.
  • Land use and CEQA counsel for a 5,000 single-family residential and mixed use project in Inland Empire.
  • CEQA and land use entitlement and litigation counsel for expansion of university located in the coastal zone.

Select Publications and Presentations

  • Bay Planning Coalition Expert Briefing – CEQA Update 2016: Supreme Court Decisions & Hot Topics Review, October 6, 2016.
  • The QSA Trial Court Decision – Significant CEQA and Water Issues, Seminar Presenter, ACWA conferences October and December, 2013.
  • “Battle for the Colorado River,” Co-Author, Perspective Article, Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 24, 2013.
  • “Drafting a Defensible Water Supply Analysis,” Presenter, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, February 22, 2012.
  • “CEQA and Land Use Development in California,” Seminar Presenter, American Council of Engineering Companies, June 21, 2012.
  • “Court of Appeal Reinstates Historic Quantification Settlement Agreements,” Brownstein Client Alert, December 14, 2011.
  • “California Construction Stormwater Permit Invalidated,” Brownstein Client Alert, December 8, 2011.
  • “Water Planning for Commercial, Residential and Industrial Development: Creating a Defensible Water Supply,” Co-Chair and Speaker, The Seminar Group, Santa Monica, CA, October 28, 2011.
  • “Client Update: CEQA’s New Mediation Procedure Goes Into Effect on July 1, 2011,” Brownstein Client Update, June 14, 2011.
  • “CEQA Turns 40: The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same,” Environmental Law News Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 2011.
  • “Client Alert: EPA Stays Numeric Turbidity Effluent Limitation,” Brownstein Client Alert, November 9, 2010.
  • “CEQA Turns 40,” Panelist, State Bar Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, October, 2010.
  • “California Appellate Case is First to Apply Save Tara Decision to Water Supply Agreements for Project Development,” Brownstein Case Alert, February 19, 2009.
  • “CEQA – Update 2007,” State Bar Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, October, 2007.
  • “Case Alert: County of Imperial v. Superior Court (June 14, 2007, C048984), ___ Cal.Rptr.3d ___, 2007 WL 1723558,” June, 2007.
  • “Case Alert: Appellate Decision Enables Public-Private Partnerships,” February 2007.
  • “Case Alert: Supreme Court Strikes Down New Development EIR Based on Uncertain Water Supply,” February 2007.
  • “Beyond Mt. Laurel: Grappling with Inclusionary Zoning in California,” co-author and presenter, LANDS Conference, 2006.
  • “Environmental Year in Review: The CEQA Update,” UCLA Extension 20th Annual Land Use Law and Planning Conference, 2006.
  • “Preparing A Defensible Administrative Record,” co-author and presenter, City Attorneys Spring Conference, California League of Cities, 2004.
  • “Select Conference on Industry Litigation,” semi-annual CEQA Update, 2004-present.
  • “Settling With Public Agencies,” Select Conference on Industry Litigation, October 2003.