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Arthur F. Coon img

Arthur F. Coon

Shareholder, Walnut Creek
Tel: 925.935.9400

Arthur F. Coon

Shareholder, Walnut Creek

Tel: 925.935.9400


As the Co-Chair of Miller Starr Regalia’s Land Use Practice Group and Chair of its Appellate Practice Group, Art Coon guides clients through a broad range of real property, land use and environmental matters.

Art has distinguished himself as a litigator at the trial and appellate levels of both federal and state courts, including an appearance as counsel of record before the U.S. Supreme Court. His areas of expertise include land use, environmental law, the law of public agencies, extraordinary writs, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Art also counsels and advocates for clients who have matters in front of administrative bodies.


J.D., University of California, Davis School of Law (1986)

  • Order of the Coif
  • Law Review Editor
  • Trial Practice Honors Board Member
  • American Jurisprudence Awards Recipient 

B.A., University of Southern California (1982) 


  • Bay Area Economic Forum's CEQA Work Group – Former Member
  • Bay Planning Coalition (BPC) – Legislative and Policy Committee Member
  • California Land Use Law and Policy Reporter, Argent Communications – Former Editor, Current Advisory Board Member 
  • LEED Accredited Professional
  • Sustainable Walnut Creek – Founding Member
  • U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Northern California Chapter, Diablo East Bay Branch – Founding Member, Former Vice Chair


  • Tresch, et al. v. County of Sonoma Agricultural Preservation, et al. (John Barella, et al., Real Parties  in Interest ), SCV-249021 (Sonoma Superior Ct., filed Jan. 26, 2011); (1st Dist. Ct. App., Case No. A133472).  Successful as lead counsel for real parties John Barella and his Trust at trial and on appeal.  The case involved a CEQA challenge by neighboring landowners and a citizens’ group to an Open Space District resolution interpreting conservation easements to allow a preserve for special status species that could potentially benefit Barella’s Quarry project on adjacent property. Successfully demurred on the grounds the resolution was neither a “project” nor discretionary action under CEQA, and that plaintiffs failed to name indispensable parties.  The trial court’s 26-page ruling accepted all real parties’ arguments, ordering the petition dismissed without leave; the Court of Appeal affirmed in an unpublished opinion.
  • Friends of Americano Creek v. County of Sonoma, et al. (Barella and North Bay Construction, Real Parties in Interest), SCV-248944 (Sonoma Superior Ct., filed Jan. 13, 2011).  Successfully represented real parties John Barella, North Bay Construction, et al., as lead counsel in the trial court in this CEQA action challenging land use approvals for Mr. Barella’s aggregate quarry project, obtaining a judgment in favor of the County respondents and Real Parties after the sustaining of a demurrer on standing/exhaustion grounds without leave to amend.  Following entry of judgment, took the lead and worked with the County’s attorneys to favorably settle the dispute and secure petitioners’ agreement not to appeal.
  • Citizen Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality v. County of Sonoma, et al. (John Barella, et al., Real Parties in Interest), SCV-248943 (Sonoma Superior Ct., filed Jan. 13, 2011); Appellate Case No. A136877.  Represented real parties John Barella and his family Trust as lead trial counsel in this administrative mandamus action. CARRQ’s mandate petition challenge on CEQA grounds the County’s land use approvals granted for Barella’s aggregate quarry project, which included a zone change, use permit and reclamation plan for a proposed 65-acre, 570,000-cubic-yards per year, 20-year aggregate rock quarry operation off of Roblar Road in rural Sonoma County. Successfully opposed a motion by petitioner to augment the record with irrelevant and post-hearing documents, and argued the case at a 3½-hour trial on the writ of mandate held June 22, 2012.  Appealed the trial court’s judgment invalidating the County’s EIR certification and approvals for the Project, and ultimately obtained a 3-0 unpublished opinion reversing that judgment and reinstating the Quarry Project approvals. 
  • Borden Ranch Partnership and Tsakopoulos v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., 261 F.3d 810 (9th Cir. 2001); U.S. Supreme Court, Case No. 01-1243. Represented plaintiffs/counterclaim defendants at four week court trial and on appeal to the Ninth Circuit in a major Eastern District federal court action involving application of the Federal Clean Water Act to agricultural activities consisting of “deep ripping” plowing for vineyards and orchards on the Borden Ranch in Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties.  The case involved complex issues of federal agency authority and jurisdiction over seasonal wetlands, including vernal pools and intermittent drainages, as well as “cutting edge” issues under the “Migratory Bird Rule” and the Endangered Species Act.  After 2-1 panel decision reversing adverse judgment on vernal pool issues and remanding for penalty recalculation, but affirming on remaining issues, obtained Writ of Certiorari from United States Supreme Court granting review.  Served as counsel of record in the Supreme Court, which heard argument in the case on December 10, 2002, but deadlocked on a 4-4 vote, with Justice Kennedy not participating.
  • Cummings & Tsakopoulos v. Aerojet General Corporation, et al. Successfully prosecuted and favorably settled a complex federal action in California’s Eastern District representing plaintiff landowners with RCRA, CERCLA and common law trespass, nuisance and negligence claims against Aerojet and others who had since the early 1960’s contaminated the former North White Rock Road Dump in Rancho Cordova with TCE and other toxic pollutants which had migrated in the groundwater underneath plaintiffs’ property.  The case involved approximately 50 depositions, intensive and complex law and motion practice, and mediation prior to favorable settlement.
  • San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1996) 13 Cal.4th 893. Briefed matter and appeared and argued on behalf of amicus curiae for real parties before California Supreme Court in landmark decision involving impacts of electromagnetic fields on real property and its value.
  • Napa Citizens for Honest Govt., et al. v. Napa County Board of Supervisors (First Dist., Div. 4, Aug 3, 2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 432. Represented the County of Napa and its Board of Supervisors in a State Superior Court challenge to its certification of an EIR for and enactment of its 1998 Airport Industrial Area Specific Plan Update, a Specific Plan covering approximately 3,000 acres of land in the County’s major industrial area. Successfully demurred to petitioners’ attempted direct challenge to the County’s General Plan, removing that issue entirely from the case.  Represented the County on cross-appeals in the State appellate court, briefing and arguing the appeals for the County, and obtaining a published decision modifying adverse judgment that infeasible mitigation measures could not be deleted under CEQA.  
  • Citizens for Environmental Protection v. Napa County Division of Environmental Health, Upper Valley Disposal Services, Real Party in Interest.  Successfully defended CEQA and California Integrated Waste Management Act legal challenges to Local Enforcement Agent's (LEA) notice and order regarding operation of a grape pumice composting facility.  The LEA issuing the order was the Napa County Division of Environmental Health.  The facility was kept open and operating for benefit of the County (the facility processed a majority of the County's major agricultural waste, grape pumice) during the entire litigation.
  • Tsakopoulos v. American Manufacturers Mutual Ins. Co. Prevailed on behalf of plaintiff insured on cross-motions for summary judgment in federal court action for declaratory relief and breach of contract in CGL insurance coverage dispute.  District court held CGL insurers had duty to defend, and to indemnify for restorative injunctive relief awarded U.S. Government, in underlying action under Federal Clean Water Act (the Borden Ranch case) against insured farmer based on alleged discharges of "pollutants" (i.e., native soil) by his plowing ranch land in areas of seasonal wetlands to plant vineyards.  Case involved complex insurance issues concerning the applicability of the "absolute pollution exclusion" and "as damages" limitation of CGL policies in context of Federal environmental laws.



  • “New GHG Order Creates Uncertainty for CRE”, Globe (May 14, 2015)
  • “As Climate Continues To Change, So Does CEQA”, Law360 (May 14, 2015) (Originally published as “Executive Order B-30-15 And CEQA GHG Analysis: Evolving Uncertainty At The Intersection Of Law, Policy And Science”, (May 5, 2015))
  • “Supreme Court Reins in CEQA”, The Registry (March 23, 2015).
  • "Chaos in California's Environmental Planning?", U-T San Diego (January 28, 2015).
  • “California Supreme Court Divided In Key CEQA Case”, Law360 (December 5, 2014).
  • "CEQA exemptions on trial at high court", Daily Journal (December 1, 2014).
  • "The Controversy of CEQA Continues: Recent cases are trimming back CEQA's reach.", Western Real Estate Business (October 2012).

Legal Periodicals:

  • “‘CEQA-in-reverse’ case could expand reach of environmental-impact law”, The Recorder, (February 10, 2014) (co-authored with Matthew C. Henderson).
  • “Reform of CEQA is incremental, but thoughtful”, Contra Costa Times and Tri-Valley Herald, (September 2013) (co-authored with Matthew C. Henderson).
  • “Are Courts Actively Limiting CEQA’s Scope In The Absence Of Meaningful Legislation Reform?”, Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert, Vol. 23, No. 3 (January 2013). 
  • “A Matter of Discretion? The Court of Appeal Construes the Map Act’s Lot Line Adjustment Exclusion to Authorize a Ministerial Local Agency Approval Process and to Allow Sequential Adjustments of Lots”, California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter, Vol. 21, No. 11 (September 2012) (co-authored with Matthew C. Henderson). 
  • "Local Matter or Federal Case?  The Network of Cell Tower Regulation in California," Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert, Vol. 21, No. 6 (July 2011) (co-authored with Sean R. Marciniak). 
  • "Back to Basics:  Setting the Environmental Baseline Under the California Environmental Quality Act," California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter (February 2011) (co-authored with Sean R. Marciniak).
  • “When Environmental Review Under the California Environmental Quality Act Becomes “Groundhog Day”: What’s A Frustrated Developer To Do?” Co-authored with Carolyn Nelson Rowan.  Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert (Thomson West).
  • “Creditors’ Rights Affected by Bankruptcy Judge” Industry News, January 19, 2010.
  • “Examining SB 375’s Landmark Regional Land Use Planning Scheme: Is The Sacred Cow of Local Land Use Control Now Roadkill?” Vol. 18, No. 2, November 2008 California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter (Argent Communications Group).
  • “When Inconvenient Truths Displace Popular Fictions:  What Proposed SB 375 and The California Legislation Addressing Climate Change Reveal About Local Land Use Planning and Control.”  Vol. 18, No. 4, March 2008, Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert (Thomson West).
  • “Thinking Globally When Acting Locally:  How Will CEQA Adapt to A Changing Environment?”  Co-authored with Kristina D. Lawson, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2007, California Real Property Journal, State Bar of California.
  • “Thrice More Into The Breach:  The Supreme Court Takes on Takings in Kelo, San Remo and Lingle.”  Co-authored with Ethan K. Friedman.  Vol. 14, No. 11, August/September 2005, California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter (Argent Communications Group).
  • “A New Era: Punitive Damages Reined In By The United States Constitution”. Co-authored with Edmund L. Regalia. Vol. 15, No. 1, September 2004, Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert (Thomson West).
  • “Of Hidden Treasure and ‘Fool’s Gold’: The California Supreme Court Holds Ancient ‘Subdivision’ Maps Do Not Create Legal Lots.” Co-authored with Douglas M. Smith. Vol. 13, No. 5, May 2003, Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert (Thomson West).
  • “Is Plowing A Point Source Discharge Of Pollutants? The Aftermath Of Borden Ranch,” Summer 2003 issue, American Bar Association’s Natural Resources & Environment Journal.
  • “Compensation For Regulatory Taking Of Property: How Far Can A Regulation Go Before It Goes ‘Too Far’”? Co-authored with Edmund L. Regalia. Vol. 13, No. 1, September 2002, Miller & Starr Real Estate Newsalert (Thomson West).
  • “Planning Agencies’ Newest Hobgoblin: The Napa Citizens Case Shifts General Plan Vertical Consistency Analysis From ‘Clear Conflict’ To Adequate ‘Implementation’.” Vol. 11, No. 4, December 2001, California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter (Argent Communications Group).
  • “Everybody out of the (Vernal) Pool!? The Army Corps’ Jurisdiction over Isolated Intrastate Waters Dries Up as the U.S. Supreme Court Shoots Down the ‘Migratory Bird Rule’.” Vol. 10, No. 7, March 2001, California Land Use Law & Policy Reporter (Argent Communications Group). Revised and reprinted in Vol. 5, No. 7, May 2001, issue of Western Water Law & Policy Reporter (Argent Communications Group).


  • Chapters 25A, “California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA),” Miller & Starr, California Real Estate, 3d Edition (Thomson Reuters 2014), revised and rewritten in 2014
  • Chapter 25, “Subdivisions, Land Use Planning, and Approvals”, Miller & Starr California Real Estate, 3d Edition (West 2007), revised and rewritten in 2007.
  • Chapter 25, “Subdivisions”, Miller & Starr, California Real Estate, 3d Edition (West 2001), co-authored with Harry D. Miller.
  • Chapter 30B, “Community Redevelopment”, Miller & Starr, California Real Estate, 3d Edition (West 2004), co-authored with Basil S. Shiber.
  • “From Here To Attorney: The Ultimate Guide to Excelling in Law Schooland Launching Your Legal Career.” (1993 Professional Publications, Inc.) Co-authored with J. Robert Arnett III and Michael Di Geronimo.


News / Media:

  • “What to Know About Coastal Projects”,, By Carrie Rossenfeld (June 8, 2015)
  • “Calif. High Court’s CEQA Ruling Won’t End Project Disputes”, Law360, By Andrew McIntyre (March 2, 2015)
  • “Calif. Supreme Court Urged To Reinforce CEQA Exemptions”, Law360, By Daniel Siegal (December 23, 2014)
  • “Wal-Mart Ruling Opens New Road To Calif. Developers” Law 360, By Jonathan Randles (August 8, 2014)
  • “Calif. Lawmakers To Take On Minimum Wage, CEQA Bills”, Law360, By Erin Coe (August 5, 2013)
  • "Proposed landmark law reform light on details, less sweeping", Daily Journal, By Fiona Smith (February 26, 2013)
  • “Calif. High Court Could Play Major Role In CEQA Reform”, Law360, By Erin Coe (March 07, 2013)


  • Argent Communications Group’s California Land Use Law & Policy Conference: “CEQA Guidelines Update and SB 743—it’s Not Just About Vehicle Miles Traveled”, March 9, 2015 (Co-presenter)
  • Miller Starr Regalia's Land Use Program – Speaker
  • Bay Planning Coalition Program: CEQA Update – Supreme Court and Hot Topics for Review, 2013 and 2014
  • The State Bar of California Litigation Subsection of the Real Property Law Section presents: “A Practical Guide to Extraordinary Writs in the Court of Appeals”, October 20, 2014
  • McGeorge School of Law, Adjunct Professor - Land Use Planning, Spring 2002
  • CEB's Annual Recent Developments in Real Property Law Practice - Speaker / Panelist multiple years, Moderator in 2002


  • In addition to being named for many years as a Northern California Super Lawyer and one of The Best Lawyers in America® in the practice area of Land Use & Zoning Law, Art has also been named a “Top Rated Lawyer” for Land Use And Zoning, Energy Law, Environmental Law and Land Use Law by American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell. Art is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Art was also named as Best Lawyers' 2014 Oakland Land Use & Zoning Law "Lawyer of the Year".