USC Gould Search

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Real Estate Law and Business II (Land Development Law) (Spring 2017)

  • Course Number: LAW-629
  • Class Number: 03270, 03271
  • Instructor: George Lefcoe

Course Description

This course is about real estate development– everything from new mixed use projects to infill development.

We trace the entire development process:

(1) Obtaining land ;

(2) Securing “entitlements” from local government which is all about politics and planning, a

thoroughly practical approach to zoning, subdivision regulations, development agreements,

community benefit agreements, and environmental laws (CEQA, the Endangered Species Act,

the Clean Water Act).; the politics of running campaigns and the legal limits to  “ballot box zoning” from Inglewood

 (The Rams facilities) and Beverly Hills to Malibu.

(3) Owner-architect and Owner-General Contractor Agreements.

 (4) Construction and Permanent Financing for new development;

(5) Mechanics’ Liens;

(6) Ground leasing (examples are the Stanford Research Park and by video the Kamehameha

Trust, Honolulu);.

(7) Commercial leasing and subleasing, particularly for office and retail projects– a site visit to The Platform in Culver City, an innovative mixed use project—anchored by shops and restaurants for the millennial market, quite possibly the most innovative approach to retailing in the country by The Runyon Group.

 (8) The concluding sessions are about local government incentives available to private projects favored by local officials, public-private partnerships, tax increment financing, and eminent domain valuation disputes when governments take private property for public uses.

.This course includes seven site visits:

(1) Playa Vista near Marina Del Rey ( This is the heart of what has become known as Silicon Beach.  Our hosts are Randy Johnson, Co-President and Marc Huffman, Vice President for Planning. Playa Vista is the largest “infill” new community in the US.

(2) The Great Park Neighborhoods—a new community in Orange County on the site of the former El Toro Marine Air station. Our host is Emile Haddad, CEO, Five Point Communities.

(3) Our “infill” site visits include:  Wayne Ratkovich’s The Bloc.–)The BLOC  encompasses the entire area from 7thto 8thand Hope to Flower, which the Ratkovich Company acquired for redevelopment. It includes a regional shopping center, office buildings and a hotel.

(4)  The Metropolis Project in downtown Los Angeles—a new collection of residential high rise condo towers, a boutique hotel, sky pools and parks dining, and retail, in the heart of downtown LA, guided by Greenland USA General Counsel Jennifer Leung.

(5) The Line Hotel, 3515 Wilshire, with Jeremy Selman, President and Co-Founder, the Sydell Group of Hotels. An older building was completely renovated into a contemporary hotel.

(6) The Platform, Culver City, a Runyon Group mixed use project at 8850 Washington Blvd in Culver City, of restaurants, boutique clothing stores, art and entertainment , and creative office space.

(7) The Office of Stir Architects,  617 W 7th St #400, meeting with Gary Dempster, partner, and Ron Altoon.This firm, with offices in LA, Amsterdam and Shanghai, has designed regional shopping malls, subway stations and mixed use projects in the Middle East, Russia, China, Europe and the US.

We try to return from site visits to the law school by 1:45 p.m. but we could be late on one or

more occasions. So we recommend if possible NOT electing this course if you elect others that

start at 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday or Thursday .

This course is not available for CR/D/F. Each of the two accompanying sixth unit offerings is graded CR/D/F.


Here are comments about the course from former students:

Dear Professor,

I thought I'd share this with you. I've been practicing at Milbank Tweed for the last year and have been working with several USC Law alumni to raise a real estate investment fund. After several months of scouring the market, we've actually found a potential tear-down project in West Hollywood that we're excited about and putting an offer on this week. The property is an early 20th-century Bungalow - one of the last remaining holdouts on a street full of new MFR residential - that's zoned for up to 4 stories. We're considering either building units or a 4,000 square foot home. As I was conducting due diligence, I was having flashbacks to the lessons I learned in class, which has helped me tremendously. I still reference both of my outlines on a regular basis, and am using   my 5th unit development feasibility project to guide our analysis.

I'll keep you updated if the project works out! Take care and thanks again for your commitment to students.



“I should thank you for holding such great classes.

I summered at [a leading real estate finance firm], and I was able to complete most of my

assignments by recalling the information I learned from your materials. It was great news when I

received the full time offer.”

“I started work in the RE group at [a medium size firm in downtown LA] about a month

ago...Honestly, a lot of what we covered in your classes has given me a pretty good foundation

for this work.”

Another recent grad wrote: “Taking your class confirmed my interest in real estate law and

eventually lead me to a wonderful job with a small real estate firm in Santa Monica. It is a

perfect time to be a young land use lawyer here.... The foundation I gained in your class has been

a tremendous help. In addition, I can’t tell you how valuable the site visits were in helping me

understand what it really took to develop a project from start to finish (and developing wonderful

contacts in the industry).”

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 5
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: T/Th 10:00 am - 11:50 am
  • Room Number: Room 130
  • Exam: Open-book, multiple choice
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Pre-requisites: While prior enrollment in Real Estate Law and Business I is highly recommended it is not required. Instructor approval is not required.
  • Enrollment Limitation: 44 students