Matthew Summers is a Senior Counsel in Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley’s Pasadena office who has specialized in representing cities and other public agencies since 2011. His experience includes serving as City Attorney for the City of Ojai since 2015 and as Assistant City Attorney and Planning Commission Counsel for the City of Calabasas since 2012. His practice covers the full range of public law issues, including land use, elections, conflicts of interest, open meetings and public records, public works and public contracting, labor and employment, post-redevelopment advice and litigation, cannabis regulation and enforcement, telecommunications, public agency litigation, and the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Matt also advises the Cities of Barstow, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, and Eco-Rapid Transit, a 15-city joint powers agency, as well as our other general and special counsel clients.
Matt’s recent projects include drafting and implementing ordinances regulating cannabis businesses, advising cities regarding referenda and initiatives, and negotiating and drafting complex development agreements and related land use and zoning entitlements for housing and commercial projects. Matt has extensive land use experience with projects large and small, including two recent 1,000-unit residential subdivisions; complex, large, and contentious single-family-home proposals with extensive environmental issues; a City Hall renovation; a 72-unit condominium; and several mixed-use hotel, commercial, and residential projects. He has:
- Advised planning and community development departments, Planning Commissions, and City Councils on projects and on specific and comprehensive amendments to development codes and General Plans, and associated CEQA compliance.
- Principally negotiated and drafted a development agreement for Calabasas enabling a 100-plus-room hotel that entailed a transfer of vacant land to the City for public parking and resolution of zoning code problems.
- Negotiated a development agreement for a commercial project in Ojai’s downtown that involved a like-for-like transfer of public and private land and complex historic preservation, aesthetic, and community character issues.
- Negotiating and drafting development agreements for two large subdivisions in a Central Coast city, entailing resolution of complex right of way acquisition challenges due to legacy subdivisions from the 1960s.
- Drafted ordinances amending zoning codes and resolutions amending General Plans.
- Litigated several land use disputes.
- Advised the City of Calabasas regarding several large hotel and residential development projects that raised novel General Plan and zoning ordinance interpretation issues, involved extensive public engagement, one of which was subjected to a referendum and CEQA lawsuit, and another which entailed a developer’s initiative.
- Negotiated creative solutions to neighbor-level land use disputes that avoided litigation while meeting the City Council and Planning Commission’s goals.
- Developed and advised during the implementation of a comprehensive regulatory ordinance for Ojai’s cannabis dispensaries and proposed manufacturing and testing facilities.
Notably, Matt has helped his clients avoid CEQA and land use challenges to several large commercial projects that were iterations of earlier, stalled projects.
Matt has a robust elections law practice, including advising Ojai, Calabasas, and special counsel cities on candidate qualification and nomination issues, advising Calabasas on recent initiatives and referenda, and advising Ojai on two recent proposed initiatives and a referendum. He has also:
- Advised several cities considering pre- and post-election challenges to initiatives and referenda and issues that arise in elections for Council Members and directly elected Mayors and City Clerks.
- Advised Calabasas as to several recent land use initiatives and referenda.
- Advised Ojai on its first and second elections of a directly elected Mayor, and a measure on the 2018 ballot to return to an appointed Mayor, ultimately rejected by voters.
- Chaired the League of California Cities, Municipal Law Handbook’s Chapter on Elections in 2017 and 2018, leading a statewide team of reviewers keeping the League of Cities’ invaluable resource on municipal law up to date.
- Advised several cities as they considered California Voting Rights Act challenges to at-large voting, switched to district-based voting, and negotiated and litigated related plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fee demands including under the recent amendments to the California Voting Rights Act.
Matt is our firm’s lead attorney on telecommunications law and has advised Calabasas, Ojai, and Lakeport in a number of vigorous disputes regarding cell tower siting. He drafted Calabasas, Ojai, and Sierra Madre’s recent amendments to their wireless ordinances in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s adoption of new regulations protecting “small” wireless facilities and implementing the “Section 6409” federal exemption from local zoning for modifications to existing wireless facilities.
He has successfully litigated a variety of land use, elections, post-redevelopment, and general public law matters. Mr. Summers, together with Holly O. Whatley, successfully defended the majority of Calabasas’ wireless telecommunications facilities siting ordinance against a facial challenge raising novel issues of federal and state law. In the elections arena, Mr. Summers recently won, on demurrer, a challenge to a ballot statement and question for a proposed City transactions and use (sales) tax. Other recent cases include a published appellate victory in a successful constitutional challenge to the State’s self-help provisions of A.B. 1484, the post-redevelopment legislation on behalf of 4 cities and their successor agencies, City of Bellflower v. Cohen, (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 438; a constitutional challenge to the San Diego County Auditor-Controller’s method of allocating redevelopment dissolution funds, which Matt recently argued in the Third District Court of Appeal after a trial court victory; and several challenges by cities to Department of Finance decisions on Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule and Due Diligence Review disputes.
Matt received his J.D. cum laude from the University of California, Hastings School of Law in 2011 where he was an Articles Editor of the Hastings West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. While at Hastings, Matt worked as a judicial extern for the Honorable Marilyn H. Patel of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. He graduated from Reed College with a B.A. in Economics in 2008 and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
- Public Law
- Elections Law
- Land Use
- Telecommunications Law
- Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Compliance
- Brown Act and other Open Meetings and Transparency Laws
- Public Records Act
- Public Contracting Law
- Cannabis Regulation and Permitting
- Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance
- Presenter, League of California Cities (October 16, 2019) Annual Conference: State Preemption in the New Economy for Food: Sidewalk Vending (SB 946) & Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (AB 626 & AB 377)
- Presenter, California Special Districts Association (CSDA) (September 26, 2019) Annual Conference: Special District LAFCo Involvement
- Presenter, City Attorneys’ Association of Los Angeles County (CAALAC) (March 14, 2019): State Preemption Favoring the New Economy in Food: Sidewalk Vending and Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations
- Panelist, California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Institute (January 26, 2017): Legal Issues to Consider in Developing Short-Term and Vacation Rental Regulations
- Presenter, City Attorneys’ Association of Los Angeles County (CAALAC) (October 27, 2016): Top Ten Election Day Issues
- Panelist, States of California & Nevada Chapter, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SCAN-NATOA) Conference (June 11, 2015): Presentation on Calabasas Wireless Facilities Ordinance
- The California Municipal Law Handbook (Cal CEB), Chapter Chair for Chapter 3, Elections (2017 & 2018), Reviewer, Chapter 10, Land Use, 2015 & 2016
- Contributor, California Special Districts Magazine(2019): LAFCos and Involuntary Dissolutions and Consolidations