Donna D. Jones is a CEQA and land use partner in the San Diego office's Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice Group.
Donna Jones has specialized in CEQA (entitlements and litigation) as well as all aspects of land use and real estate permitting for more than 20 years. From the land use aspects of due diligence through processing permits, analyzing the adequacy of the CEQA review, lobbying and advocating for the project with the decision-makers and, finally, litigating project challenges under CEQA, Donna has experience in the full breadth and depth of the land use practice.
She has obtained approvals for construction or expansions of everything from commercial buildings to resort hotels to shopping centers to landfills and, of course, residential - including master planned smart growth communities such as Del Sur.
Donna regularly appears before governmental agencies and commissions, including the City and the County of San Diego, the Port of San Diego, the Airport Authority, and California Coastal Commission.
Donna works closely with consultants, clients and lead agencies to ensure the adequacy of their EIRs, negative declarations, addendums, exemptions, and more, as well as defending the resulting CEQA document against challenge by project opponents.
Land Use Entitlements
Obtaining entitlements for land owners and developers has become increasing complex over the years, and requires relationships with decision-makers and staff as well as in-depth knowledge of federal, state and local laws and the ability to work cooperatively with a wide range of interests to ultimately lead to a successful development. Ms. Jones has permitted commercial buildings, residential units, hotels, shopping centers, and infrastructure projects in the City as well as the County of San Diego among other jurisdictions.
Ms. Jones has successfully represented clients in obtaining federal and state permits from, among other agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG), the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). She also works closely with consultants, clients and lead agencies to ensure adequacy of the project EIRs, negative declarations, addendums, exemptions, and more, and defends the resulting CEQA document against challenge by project opponents.
Professional Qualifications and Activities
Ms. Jones is immediate past Chair of Civic San Diego (formerly CCDC). She has served for two years as Chair of Public Policy for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Chamber's Management Council and Board of Directors. She previously chaired the Downtown San Diego Partnership (DSDP) and continues to serve on the DSDP's Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
Ms. Jones recently was honored by the San Diego Business Journal as one of 2013's Women Who Mean Business, and has also been named one of the Best Lawyers in America (2011-2013) and San Diego Super Lawyer (2011-2013). Donna was a member of the Mayor's Civic Leadership Team, and served on the Downtown Implementing Committee established to monitor implementation of the Downtown Community Plan. She chaired the Financial Reform Subcommittee of the Mayor's Charter Review Commission, helping to develop the financial and other charter reforms that were ultimately approved by the voters of San Diego in June 2008. Ms. Jones also has served on the City of San Diego's Historic Resources Board and its Wetland Advisory Board, and co-chaired the San Diego County Bar Association's Land Use and Environmental Law section.
Ms. Jones is a registered lobbyist with the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego, and the San Diego Regional Airport Authority.
•Immediate past Chair of Civic San Diego
•Chair of Public Policy for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
•Real Estate and Construction, Legal 500 (2015)
•San Diego Business Journal Women Who Mean Business (2013)
•San Diego Magazine's 50 Women Who Move the City (2011)
•Top San Diego Lawyers (multiple years)
•Best Lawyers (multiple years)
•Super Lawyer (multiple years)
•Grand Chancellor and Order of the Coif, University of Texas School of Law
Host Hotels & Resorts/Marriott Marquis & Marina. Serves as Project Manager and legal counsel for the Project, which includes a Port Master Plan Amendment (PMPA), Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Addendum, Coastal Development Permit (CDP) and Concept Approval. The Project will demolish the existing meeting space and construct a new and expanded Marriott Hall with ballroom and exhibit hall space, an outdoor event area that will be open to the public when not in use by the hotel, and a public access corridor from Harbor Drive to the Bay. Ms. Jones successfully obtained approval of the PMPA at the Port and at the California Coastal Commission and received unanimous approval of the CDP and Concept Approval from the Port of San Diego. She also successfully defended the EIR against a CEQA challenge brought by UNITE-HERE Local 30.
Black Mountain Ranch, LLC/Del Sur Community. This mixed-use, master plan communities along the SR-56 corridor is in the City of San Diego yet adjacent to the County of San Diego, which entailed numerous jurisdictional issues as well as a host of agreements required to bring infrastructure to what was raw land in a Future Urbanizing Area. Ms. Jones' work on this matter included working on entitlements for the commercial, retail, and residential aspects of the development, including negotiating Park Agreements and Joint Use Agreements between the City of San Diego and the Poway Unified School District, and working on school agreements for three new facilities. The Del Sur community involves entitlements for more than 3, 000 homes, 20 percent of which are affordable; commercial uses; golf courses; elementary, middle and high schools; and more. This representation involved negotiating development agreements, facility financing documents, review of EIRs and addendum to preparation of candidate findings and defense of CEQA litigation. In addition, this work included advice regarding traffic mitigation, processing of all planned development permits, tentative maps and other entitlements; a successful ballot measure to increase density; formation of two community facilities districts (CFDs) and several maintenance assessment districts (MADs); transportation-related, multi-party agreements; park, fire station and other infrastructure agreements, and more.
Hotel Del Coronado. Successfully obtained approval of a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission for the Hotel Del Coronado Amended Master Plan, designed to add a new conference center and new guestrooms to this historic hotel.
Allied Waste Industries, Inc./Sycamore, Otay & Ramona Landfills. Represented municipal solid waste landfill in obtaining approval of its Master Plan Expansion and Planned Development Permit/Site Development Permit for both Sycamore Landfill (from the City of San Diego) and a Major Use Permit for the Otay Landfill (from the County of San Diego), as well as defending against CEQA litigation brought to challenge the approvals. This representation has involved review and advice regarding environmental impact reports (EIR) and mitigated negative declarations (MND), drafting permit and CEQA findings, advising on traffic impacts and mitigation requirements, addressing SDG&E transmission line relocation and easement-related issues, street vacations, and obtaining Section 404 permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Streambed Alteration permits from the California Department of Fish & Game, among other approvals, as well as defending the approvals against CEQA litigation.
Lane Field San Diego Developers, LLC. This representation before the California Coastal Commission resulted in entitlements for two boutique hotels with spa, pools, ballrooms, meeting rooms and retail located in the coastal zone on Port Tidelands. In addition to representing the client in obtaining its Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission, Ms. Jones was part of the team that successfully defended the Port's Master Environmental Impact Report from challenge by the UNITE-HERE labor union.
SDG&E. Ms. Jones provides CEQA and other land use advice to SDG&E to assist its in-house counsel on permitting for substations as well as transmission and distribution lines. She also advises the utility on Airport Authority issues.
The Kiernan Companies. Ms. Jones helped her client obtain a coastal development permit from the City of Carlsbad for the Lumiere Carlsbad Village Hotel, a mixed-use project with 39 hotel rooms, 10 market rate condominiums, 2 affordable housing units, and an ocean-front restaurant.
Rancho Guejito. Ms. Jones provides land use and CEQA advice on Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) Plan North, the General Plan Update and other County of San Diego designations; annexation issues and general real estate and land use for almost 23, 000-acre property, as well as associated real estate issues.
Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc./Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.Ms. Jones successfully obtained Coastal Development Permit/Site Development Permit and associated CEQA compliance for expansion of the hotel from the City of Dana Point for renovations and an expansion for the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Regency Centers/Costa Verde Shopping Center/California Crossings. This project involved a Community Plan amendment for retail center expansion and associated permits and environmental review for Costa Verde Shopping Center; CEQA compliance, permits and airport consistency determination for proposed retail center in County of San Diego.
Cardinal Health. Ms. Jones advised Cardinal Health on permit and CEQA-related issues related to new corporate headquarters in Torrey Hills area, and traffic and community plan-related issues.
Scripps Health. This representation entailed performing due diligence on zoning and permitting issues for a new medical facility in Rancho Bernardo/Carmel Mountain Ranch.
Shea Homes. Ms. Jones obtained approval of a Site Development Permit, negotiations on park fees and CEQA compliance for a multi-family development on former golf driving range in Carmel Mountain Ranch.
Graybill Ventures. Ms. Jones provided land use advice for a coastal development permit from CCDC and advised on general zoning issues, coordinated with the City of San Diego and the Department of Environmental Health, and coordinated with City of San Diego and Alpha Project on Winter Homeless Shelter.
JMI Realty. After working on the EIR for what became Petco Park, Ms. Jones also helped ensure CEQA compliance of the Subsequent EIR to the Master EIR for Centre City Redevelopment Project for the Ballpark and Ancillary Development Projects, including JMI's East Village Square Master Plan.
Sempra Energy. Ms. Jones represented Sempra Energy on obtaining California Coastal Commission approvals as well as advised on a variety of land use related issues including creation of a handbook on CEQA compliance with PUC Order 131-D.
Publications & News
•CEQA and Climate Change: Is Your EIR Defensible?
San Diego Daily Transcript, October 31, 2007
•New Transportation Fee Threatens to Cripple County's Commercial, Industrial Development
May 17, 2005
•Conversion and Collocation: Viable Tools for Increasing Housing Supply, San Diego Daily Transcript
March 22, 2005
Real Estate, Land Use & Environmental Law Blog Posts
• Court of Appeal Confirms Applicability of Brown Act to Settlements Entered Into by Local Governments in Closed Session, April 5, 2006
• Ripeness Doctrine and Futility Exception Both Require Submission and Denial of a 'Meaningful Application', November 16, 2005
• Court of Appeal Emphasizes Importance of Development Agreements, October 13, 2005
• New Transportation Fee Threatens to Cripple County's Commercial, Industrial Development, May 17, 2005
• Conversion and Collocation: Viable Tools for Increasing Housing Supply, March 17, 2005
•Sheppard Mullin Attorney Will Head Downtown San Diego Partnership
Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 22, 2008
•Cocktails With Your CEQA Lawyer
Updates on CEQA and the Post-Redevelopment World
October 30, 2013
•CEQA Breakfast Briefing Seminar Series - San Diego
Streamlining the CEQA Process
May 15, 2013
•2012 CEQA Breakfast Briefing - San Diego
Sheppard Mullin San Diego Office, October 10, 2012
•What Does The End of Redevelopment Mean For You?
Sheppard Mullin's Redevelopment Roundtable
January 12, 2012
•SD Redevelopment Roundtable Series
How to Navigate the Shark-Infested Waters of Redevelopment in California
Sheppard Mullin San Diego Office, July 21, 2011