James R. Dawe

Mr. Dawe is a shareholder and member of the Executive Committee of the firm. He also serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the firm and chairs the Administrative, Land Use & Environmental Law practice group. His practice encompasses real property, land use, administrative and environmental law.  His primary practice consists of representing owners and developers of master-planned communities and complex commercial projects. He also represents landowners in connection with environmental cleanup issues.


Mr. Dawe received his B.A. from Lehigh University in 1967 and a Master of City Planning Degree from San Diego State University in 1974, both with honors. He earned his law degree, cum laude, from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1976.

Representative Matters

  • Represents owners and developers of master-planned communities and complex commercial projects to obtain entitlements with appropriate conditions
  • Negotiates on behalf of owners and developers of master-planned communities with agencies such as the California Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game and various special districts to assure environmental clearance and the provision of services
  • Responsible for real estate and land use law advice in connection with San Diego projects including La Costa (3,500 acres surrounding the La Costa Spa and Resort), Carmel Mountain Ranch (1,500 acres), Rancho San Diego (3,000 acres), Singing Hills Residential (1,000 acres), Miramar Ranch North (1,200 acres) and San Diego Naval Training Center (a base closure and redevelopment project of 400 acres)
  • Represented major telecommunications and high-technology companies in connection with out-sourcing and franchising issues with municipal governments

Professional Affiliations & Admissions

  • American Bar Association (ABA Advisory Panel, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section and Urban, State and Local Government Law Section)
  • American Bar Association Committee on Creative Growth Management Techniques
  • State Bar of California
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
  • San Diego County Bar Association (Land Use, Environmental and Real Property Sections)
  • Lambda Alpha International, an honorary land economics society - San Diego Chapter (Board of Directors)
  • Urban Land Institute (Associate Member)
  • National Association of Home Builders Legal Action Network for Development Strategies Advisory Council
  • California Building Industry Association (Legal Action Subcommittee, Environmental Issues Task Force and the Select Conference on Industry Litigation)
  • Building Industry Association of San Diego (Former Chair, Legal Action Committee; Officer, Political Policies Committee, Urban Council)

Community Affiliations

  • San Diego Economic Development Corporation (Executive Committee, Board Member, Development Committee, Public Policy Committee Chair)
  • Friends of Balboa Park (Advisory Council)
  • Chaired numerous national, state and local library boards
  • Chair, Urban Libraries Council—the members of which include the 120 largest public library systems in the United States
  • President, Library of California Board
  • Chair of Californians for Literacy and Community Libraries—the campaign committee in support of the $350 million library bond issue measure passed by the voters of California in March, 2000
  • San Diego Public Library Commission (Chair, eight years)
  • San Diego Public Library Foundation (Founding Chair)
  • Downtown San Diego Partnership (Executive Committee Member, past Chair)
  • San Diego City Manager Ballot Committee (past Chair)
  • San Diego Opera (Board of Directors; past Vice President of Legal Affairs)
  • San Diego Symphony (past Advisory Committee Member)
  • Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art Development Board (Founding Chair of Development Board and current Board Member)
  • Musical Arts Foundation (Founding Board Member)
  • Francis W. Parker School (past Officer, Board Member)
  • Co-Chair, Steering Committee for Downtown San Diego Centre City Community Plan Update (2006)
  • San Diego History Center (past Board Member)
  • Art of Elan (Board Member)

Professional Awards & Honors

  • Listed in the 1993-present editions of The Best Lawyers in America
  • Listed in the 2007-present editions of the Southern California Super Lawyers, San Diego Edition
  • Listed in Who’s Who in American Law
  • Association of Fundraising Professionals – San Diego Chapter, National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer Award (2003)
  • American Jewish Committee, San Diego Chapter, Judge Learned Hand Award (2004)
  • Listed in Who’s Who in the World
  • American Library Association Trustee of the Year Award and 100 Most Influential Library Supporters of the Twentieth Century (1995)
  • California Library Association’s President’s Award for efforts to improve library services throughout California and the nation (1999)
  • Downtown San Diego Partnership Alonzo Awards – President’s Award (2006) and Founder’s Award (2010)
  • San Diego Best Lawyers, Lawyer of the Year, Land Use & Zoning – San Diego (2012)
  • Lambda Alpha International – San Diego/Tijuana Chapter, Crystal Globe Award (2012)
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Outstanding Attorney of the Year Award (2012)
  • San Diego Super Lawyers – 2014, 2015 (Land Use/Zoning)
  • Martindale Hubbell Peer Review rating of AV Preeminent