Steve Vettel


Farella Braun + Martel LLP

San Francisco Director


Steve Vettel’s practice focuses on land use, zoning, legislative advocacy, environmental review and litigation.  He provides ongoing counsel to a range of development entities in the Bay Area and regularly appears before planning commissions, legislative bodies and zoning officials to advocate on behalf of real estate developers, property owners, non-profit housing providers and governmental agencies.

Mr. Vettel is recognized in Chambers USA as a leading California land use lawyer. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America (Land Use and Zoning Law) and in International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers (Environmental Law). The Daily Journal named Mr. Vettel among California’s “Top 50 Development Lawyers” in 2014 and one of California’s “Top 25 Land Use Leaders” in 2011. The Legal 500 United States has named Mr. Vettel among the Leading Lawyers in area of Land Use / Zoning (2009 – 2016). One client reported to Legal 500 that he “would recommend [Vettel] for dealing with complicated, difficult projects in San Francisco above any other lawyer.”

Mr. Vettel has successfully represented several major developers in obtaining land use entitlements for the construction of some of the Bay Area’s largest residential, commercial and institutional developments, including in recent years the 55- and 45-story One Rincon Hill project in San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion project, and the University of California's University Village project in the City of Albany.  In the face of tough opposition, he has obtained land use entitlements for redevelopment and improvement of several underutilized urban sites throughout the Bay Area, including shopping centers, closed schools and vacant brownfields, often involving the rehabilitation or replacement of historic structures.  He has drafted and secured numerous general plan and zoning amendments.  Recently, he obtained general plan amendments, rezoning and project approvals to convert the historic two-block UC Berkeley Extension campus at 55 Laguna Street in San Francisco into a mixed-use project including over 400 units of housing, including an affordable senior housing component. 

In addition, Mr. Vettel counsels both public and private clients on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance and defends his clients’ environmental review documents in both administrative and judicial forums.  Recent victories in CEQA cases include the 55 Laguna matter, in which the California Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court’s denial of a writ petition challenging the City’s project approvals, and a challenge to a CEQA Negative Declaration issued for the 800 Brotherhood Way project (California Court of Appeal and Superior Court).  He successfully represented the California Masonic Memorial Temple in two Superior Court writ petitions challenging the City of San Francisco’s approvals enabling Live Nation to upgrade and operate the Nob Hill Masonic Center concert venue. 

Mr. Vettel has also represented parties involved in complex public/private partnership deals, including disposition and development agreements, owner participation agreements, and ground leases.  He negotiated the land disposition and acquisition agreement enabling the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to acquire and demolish a city fire station to make room for SFMOMA’s planned expansion; obtained land use entitlements for development of a major hotel project on property owned by the City and County of San Francisco's municipal railroad; and is currently representing the developers of a mixed-use project that will include a new permit center/office building for the City and County of San Francisco as well as over 500 units of rental housing.  He successfully defended the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency in litigation before the California Superior Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, upholding the Agency's expansion of an existing redevelopment area and the approval of a mixed-use project incorporating portions of an historic downtown property.


  • Director (and former Vice Chair), San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association

  • Former Co-Chair, ACLU of Northern California's Lawyers Counsel

  • Former Member, Executive Committee, San Francisco Housing Action Coalition

  • Former Member, Action Plan Advisory Committee, San Francisco Planning Department

  • Former Co-Chair, Diversity Committee, Farella Braun + Martel