The Sohagi Law Group
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Professional Staff


Helene Smookler                     
 
Professional Experience
 
2006-Present The Sohagi Law Group, PLC, Of Counsel, Environmental and Land Use Law and Public Policy Mediation
2004-2006 Fox & Sohagi, LLP,Of Counsel. Environmental and Land Use Law and Public Policy Mediation
2000-Present University of Southern California, School of Policy Planning and Development - Adjunct Professor, Public Policy Dispute Resolution
2002 Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine School of Law - Instructor, Environmental & Public Policy Dispute Resolution
1988-2002 Chief Counsel and Director of Legal Services Southern California Association of Governments
1995-2002 Coordinator, Public Policy Dispute Resolution Program Southern California Association of Governments
1999-2002 Director of Government Affairs, Southern California Association of Governments
2000-2002 Director Contracts and Human Resources Departments, Southern California Association of Governments
1996-2002 The Mediation Institute, Program Development, Training, Convening and Mediation Services
1984-1988 Center for Law in the Public Interest - Attorney
1978-1981 Los Angeles School Monitoring Commission - Executive Director
1979-1981 Los Angeles Superior Court - Special Consultant on School Desegregation
1976-1978 Rose Institute of State and Local Government - Acting Director
  Claremont McKenna College - Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science (Urban Politics and Public Policy)
1974-1976 Wellesley College - Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science (Urban Politics and Public Policy)
1972-1974 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  Center for Urban and Regional Studies - Senior Research Associate
  Department of Political Science - Lecturer

Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, Political Science and History, University of California, Berkeley
  • PhD in Political Science (Urban Politics and Public Policy), University of California, Los Angeles
  • Juris Doctor, University of California, Los Angeles

Professional Affiliations

  • Los Angeles County Bar Association
    • Government Law Section; Chair 2000
    • Environmental Law Section
  • State Bar of California
    • Environmental Law Section
    • Public Law Executive Committee (1996-1998)
  • The Association for Conflict Resolution
Areas of Specialization
 
Dr. Smookler has extensive experience in public law. She has 14 years of particular expertise in complex multi-party Public Policy Mediation, focusing on land use and environmental matters. She also has over 25 years experience in public policy and planning. Her legal experience includes, environmental and land use, including CEQA and NEPA, transportation, housing, and air quality issues.
 
PARTIAL LISTING OF WORK IN AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION
 
California Environmental Quality Act/National Environmental Policy Act
 
ICTF. Legal review, including CEQA for a Joint Powers Authority consisting of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, for the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility proposed by Union Pacific.
 
County of Los Angeles. Ongoing legal advice to the Department of Public Works regarding water, wastewater and infrastructure, and other projects.
 
Port of Los Angeles. CEQA and NEPA legal advice regarding port expansion projects and related programs.
 
Los Angeles World Airports. CEQA and NEPA legal advice regarding LAX expansion and related programs.
 
Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. CEQA Legal advice regarding the University Gateway Project and defense of EIR.
 
California Public Utilities Commission. Legal review of EIR/EIS for construction of high voltage (500 kilovolt) electric transmission line through California and Arizona, known as Devers-Palo Verde No. 2 (DPV2) and upgrades of transmission facilities in an existing transmission line corridor that passes through multiple cities and counties in both California and Arizona, and federal and tribal lands.
 
California Public Utilities Commission. Legal review of EIR/EIS for construction of three separate transmission projects, proposed by Southern California Edison. One Project includes some National Forest land and requires a 50-year term Special Use Easement from the Forest Services.
 
California Public Utilities Commission - Sunrise Project. Legal review of EIR/EIS proposed by San Diego Gas and Electric involving multiple parties and agencies.
 
City of Encinitas. Legal review of EIR for 42-acre public park, CEQA advice regarding greenhouse gas emissions analysis, air quality analysis, review of project alternatives; Legal review of EIR for beach bluff protection project.
 
Port of San Diego - CEQA/NEPA legal review of multiple projects for the Port of San Diego, Airport Master Plan.
 
County of Los Angeles. Legal review and drafting of amendment to County=s Santa Monica Mountains Plan (ridgeline ordinance).
 
Southern California Association of Governments. CEQA advice regarding regional goods movement; Regional Transportation Plan; Regional Comprehensive Plan.
 
County of Marin. Ongoing CEQA advice regarding General Plan update.
 
City of Chula Vista. CEQA advice regarding General Plan update.
 
City of Riverside. CEQA advice regarding proposed Super Wal-Mart and Specific Plan.
 
County of Los Angeles v. County of Ventura. Successfully represented County of Los Angeles in CEQA challenge to Ahmanson Ranch Project.
 
San Diego Association of Governments. Legal advice to SANDAG on environmental review for the Regional Transportation Plan, Regional Comprehensive Plan, TransNet and Coronado Bridge project.
 
Oceanside Citizens Against the Airport v. City of Oceanside. Defense of mitigated negative declaration prepared for City's airport master plan projects and successful settlement.
 
County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works. Challenge to sand and gravel pit permits.
 
Southern California Association of Governments
 
      Master and Program EIRs for complex regional plans, including the 1995, 1998 and 2001 Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs). MEIR and PEIR among the most complex developed under CEQA.
 
      Legal review of Master and Program EIRs for compliance with CEQA.
 
      Legal review of Requests for Proposals for CEAQ and NEPA consultants for transportation projects, including high speed rail.
 
      El Toro Reuse Planning Authority v. Southern California Association of Governments. Challenge to the 2001 Regional Transportation Plan's EIR
 
Air Quality
 
Dr. Smookler has extensive experience with the federal Clean Air Act and its regulations, including conformity requirements under 42 USC § 7506 and with California's air pollution laws, including the California Clean Air Act of 1988, the Lewis-Presley Air Quality Management Act, and the Air Toxics "Hot Spot" Information and Assessment Act of 1987. She has up-to-date knowledge of the Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA"), the California Air Resources Board's ("CARB"), and the South Coast Air Quality Management District's ("SCAQMD") standards for criteria pollutants, emissions analysis, health risk assessments, air quality modeling and air quality environmental justice issues. Her legal review of environmental documents includes analysis of conformance to EPA's, CARB's and SCAQMD's requirements.
 
Dr. Smookler has been at the cutting edge of climate change issues, particularly AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. She has provided advice regarding its relationship to CEQA and have commented on and provided revisions for EIR chapters since the passage of AB 32.
 
As Chief Counsel for the Southern California Association of Governments ("SCAG") she was responsible for the legal adequacy of SCAG's portion of the SCAQMD's, Air Plan under Health & Safety Code §§ 40460 and 40463, which included emissions data and budgets for transportation measures and strategies. She also provided legal review the transportation conformity findings under 42 USC § 7506. Ms. Smookler's negotiation and drafting of transportation and air quality Environment ice documents has been recognized by the Federal Highway Administration and included in their case studies. Dr. Smookler has worked closely with all levels of staff at both CARB and SCAQMD for twenty years. While at SCAG she litigated the following cases.
 
Coalition for Clean Air, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, SCAQMD and Southern California Association of Governments. Successfully defended challenge to mobility portion of 1991 South Coast Air Quality Management Plan.
 
Coalition for Clean Air, et al. v. EPA, 971 F.2d 219 (9th Cir. 1992), cert. denied 113 S.Ct. 1361, 1993. Challenge to 1991 South Coast Air Quality Management Plan.
 
California Air Resources Board v. EPA, SCAQMD and SCAG. Challenge to agreement between U.S. EPA and Coalition for Clean Air.
 
Review of air quality and global warming greenhouse gas analysis for the following clients:
 
Port of San Diego. Legal review of air quality chapter for San Diego Airport Master Plan.
 
Port of Los Angeles. Legal review of EIR/EIS air quality chapter and greenhouse gas analysis for port expansion project. Review of Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach "Clean Air Action Plan."
 
County of Marin. Legal review EIR air quality chapter and greenhouse gas analysis for General Plan Update.
 
California Public Utilities Commission. Legal review of EIR/EIS air quality chapters and greenhouse gas analysis for transmission line projects. Advice to planning staff, legal counsel and Administrative Law Judge on CEQA and greenhouse gas analysis.
 
San Diego Association of Governments. Legal review of EIR air quality chapter and greenhouse gas analysis for Regional Transportation Plan.
 
San Gabriel River Discover Center. Legal review of EIR/EIS air quality chapter and greenhouse gas analysis.
 
Southern California Association of Government. Advice on greenhouse gas analysis and health risk assessments.
 
City of Vista. Legal review of EIR air quality and greenhouse analysis.
 
City of Encinitas. Legal review of greenhouse gas analysis.
 
Dr. Smookler also has extensive experience and up-to-date knowledge of CARB's and the SCAQMD's rules and regulations, particularly those relating to mobile and construction emissions and greenhouse gases. (See qualifications under Clean Air Act above.). Our legal review of environmental documents includes analysis of conformance to CARB's and SCAQMD's rules and regulations. She works closely with staff CARB and the SCAQMD and reviews all proposed and new regulations, Air Quality Management Plans, and the State Implementation Plans.
 
Other relevant air quality experience includes:
 
Initiated concept for voluntary emission reduction program that was amended into the federal air pollution control act.
 
Developed innovative concept for implementing federal Interagency Consultation regulations. Negotiated and drafted agreements for inclusion in South Coast Air Quality Management Plans.
 
Coalition for Clean Air, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, SCAQMD and Southern California Association of Governments. Successfully defended challenge to mobility portion of 1991 South Coast Air Quality Management Plan.
 
Coalition for Clean Air, et al. v. EPA, 971 F.2d 219 (9th Cir. 1992), cert. denied 113 S.Ct. 1361, 1993. Challenge to 1991 South Coast Air Quality Management Plan.
 
California Air Resources Board v. EPA, SCAQMD and SCAG. Challenge to agreement between U.S. EPA and Coalition for Clean Air. Air Quality and Conformity. Numerous papers and speeches on air quality conformity.
 
Transportation
 
ICTF. Legal review, including CEQA for a Joint Powers Authority consisting of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, for the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility proposed by Union Pacific. The project includes a complete modernization of the existing railyard, including the locomotives (line-hauls, switchers, and services) and cargo handling equipment. The upgraded 250 acre site, which now handles approximately 140 trains per week, will allow for greater cargo handling with approximately a 70% decrease in emissions.
 
Port of Los Angeles/TraPac. Legal review, including CEQA for the Port of Los Angeles TraPac project, which included analysis of the relocation of on-dock rail.
 
As Chief Counsel for the Southern California Association of Governments:
 
     LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency. Legal representation including creation of the Agency. Los Angeles/San Diego ("LOSSAN") Rail Corridor Agency is comprised of rail owners and operators and regional transportation planning agencies along with 351 mile, six-county coastal corridor.
 
     Locomotive Emissions. Worked with railroads, SCAQMD, CARB and EPA to develop agreements to reduce locomotive emissions.
 
     MAGLEV. Legal review of proposals to build MAGLEV projects, reviewed relevant FRA regulations and funding applications.
 
     Rail Planning. Legal review of heavy and light rail planning and air quality issues for SCAG's Regional Transportation Plans.
 
     Legal and planning advice for development of the regional long range transportation plans. Plans include all transportation modes, including airports' size and access, rail (passenger and freight) routes, transit, freeways and arterials, and non-motorized transportation.
 
     Keith v. Volpe. Plaintiffs' counsel on Century Freeway case during remedy phase. Issues included light rail and highway planning. 1984-1988.
 
Environmental Justice
 
Featured speaker on Environmental Justice at annual conference of the Intermodal Planning Group (IPG). IPG is composed of federal and state transportation planners.
 
Keith v. Volpe. Plaintiffs' counsel (1984-88) in first major environmental justice case in the United States. Federal environmental justice regulations are based on Keith v. Volpe.
 
Southern California Association of Governments. Developed environmental justice program for transportation planning. Participated in development of quantified evaluation of Environmental Justice impacts.
 
Housing
 
Hatcher, et al. v. Cities of Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and County of San Diego. Successfully represented three of defendant cities in homeless housing mediation.
 
Los Angles Homeless Services Authority, Chair and member. Developed policy and allocated approximately $43 million per year to programs serving the homeless in City and County of Los Angeles.
 
National Science Foundation grant to examine mechanisms for successful integration of affordable housing into suburban communities. Findings amended into federal New Towns statutes.
 
Successful motion is Keith v. Volpe creating innovative affordable housing program for Century Freeway Corridor. Monitored program for three years.
 
Southern California Association of Governments. Legal advice regarding Regional Housing Needs Allocations for six counties and 187.
 
Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plans. Developed strategy for negotiation of city and county needs. Counsel for hearings and review boards.
 
City of Moreno Valley, et al. v. Southern California Association of Governments and Department of Housing and Community Development and Southern California Association of Governments v. Department of Housing and Community Development. Challenges to Regional Housing Allocation numbers.
 
Dispute Resolution/Mediation
 
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP)/Coalition to Preserve Open Reservoirs (CPOR). Mediation between CPOR subcommittees and DWP regarding construction and reservoir planning issues for Upper Stone and Lower Stone Canyon and Elysian Reservoirs.
 
Salton Sea. Mediated water quality, stabilization of water elevation and ecosystem issues, and enhancement of recreation and economic development potential of Salton Sea. Participants: Coachella Valley Water District, Imperial Irrigation District and the Counties of Imperial and Riverside. Resulted in creation of Salton Sea Authority.
 
San Diego County Cities. Mediation of dispute among homeless advocates, five cities and County of San Diego regarding winter shelter housing.
 
Southern California Association of Governments. Through mediation, negotiated affordable housing allocations for 187 cities within the six county region of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura counties.
 
Adjunct Professor. Public Policy Dispute Resolution, University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development. 2000 to present.
 
Instructor. Public Policy Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine School of Law, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.
 
U.S.-Indonesia Conflict Resolution Exchange Program. Training Indonesian Local Government Officials in Public Policy Mediation.
 
League of California Cities, Planners' Institute. "Nimby Issues: How to use Mediation as a Tool for Working with Homeowner Groups."
 
Mediator. Convened complex mediations for Malibu Watershed, Burbank Airport, and transportation planning disputes.
 
Mediator/Coordinator. Developed, with Mediation Institute and Western Justice Center, innovative local government public policy Dispute Resolution Program. The program included establishment of a public policy mediation service with a selective roster of mediators with experience in mediation of complex public policy disputes
 
Project Co-Director. Developed unique city-based mediation programs for Cities of Glendale, Monrovia, and Azusa.
 
Mediator. Provided public policy mediation training for local public officials (elected officials and staff) in cities and counties throughout Southern California.
 
Speaker. Public Policy Mediation: California League of Cities, Udall Center for Dispute Resolution, Southern California Watershed Council, California Coordinated Resource Management and Planning Conference, Los Angeles River Conference, U.S. EPA, League of Women Voters.
 
Recipient. Haynes Foundation Grant for evaluation of intergovernmental (local) dispute resolution programs.
 
Air Quality and Conformity. Numerous papers and speeches on air quality conformity.
 
Joint Powers Authorities
 
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Chief Counsel for largest Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in the United States (a joint powers agency).
 
Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN). Negotiated and drafted joint powers agreements establishing LOSSAN. Rail improvements for three counties (Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego) and the Salton Sea Authority. The LOSSAN agency was created to implement a program of rail system improvements in the three-county area of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego. The Salton Sea Authority JPA resulted from a complex series of mediations involving the counties of Imperial and Riverside, and the Imperial Irrigation District and the Coachella Valley Water District.
 
Contracts
 
Southern California Association of Governments. Responsible for legal review, drafting, and negotiation of approximately $45 million per year in government contracts. Also drafted MOU's, letters of agreement, and interagency agreements. Responsibility for consistency with federal, state, and agency contracting procedures and regulations. Drafted agency's conflict of interest codes.
 
General Counsel/Legal Management Experience
 
Southern California Association of Government. (SCAG) Served as Chief Counsel and Director of Legal Services for SCAG, a regional multi-jurisdictional, multipurpose planning agency and the largest Metropolitan Planning Organization and Council of Governments in the United States. SCAG membership is composed of elected officials representing six counties and 184 cities. Responsible for all legal activities of the agency, including all of the statutory and regulatory relating to planning activities, internal transactional matters, Brown Act, Public Records Act, contracting, human resources, government affairs, and outside counsel supervision. Responsibilities also included staffing and advising all Board and Committee meetings and supervision of outside counsel.
 
Other Management Experience
 
Southern California Association of Governments. Served as Director of the Contracts, Human Resources and Government Affairs, and participated as part of the Management Team which advised the Executive Director and Board on all of the policy and administrative decisions of the agency. In the absence of the Executive Director, had responsibility for the agency activities. Additionally, from 1978-1981, Executive Director of a Court-appointed Commission.
 
PUBLICATIONS AND SPEECHES (SELECTED LIST)
 
California Environmental Quality Act and Greenhouse Gas Analysis. Environmental Science Associates.
 
California Environmental Quality Act - Air Quality Analysis. City of Los Angeles, Harbor Division.
 
Mediation as a Tool in NIMBY Planning. California League of Cities, Planner's Institute.
 
Making the Environmental-Land Use Connection. California State Bar Environmental Law Conference.
 
Use of Consensus Building and Alternative Dispute Resolution for Environmental Issues. Frequent speaker on public policy dispute resolution: California League of Cities, the Southern California Watershed Council, California Coordinated Resource Management and Planning Conference, the Los Angeles River Conference and Udall Center, Environmental Conflict Resolution in the West Conference.
 
Environmental Justice. Featured speaker at annual conference of the Intermodal Planning Group (IPG). IPG is composed of federal and state transportation planners.
 
"Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Public Arena," Public Awareness Quarterly, Fall 1998.
 
"Stuck in Traffic: Transportation Policy in Southern California as We Enter the 21st Century," Public Awareness Quarterly, Spring 1998.
 
Accountability of Public Officials in the United States, Public Service Accountability: A Comparative Perspective. 1988.
 
Economic Integration in New Communities, Lippincott/Ballinger, 1976. (Study of mechanisms to integrate affordable housing into suburban communities.)
 
Other Professional Experience
 
Century Center for Economic Opportunity (CCEO). Board Member and President. CCEO, Inc. serves the Greater Los Angeles area by fostering economic development though education and training of at-risk 18-24 year olds (Youth Build) and participation in the development of affordable housing.
 
Century Freeway Affirmative Action Committee. Appointed by U.S. District Court. Responsible for implementation of court-ordered program for minority, women, and disadvantaged business and employment. Directed transition from oversight of Century Freeway Consent Decree to non-profit housing development and training programs.
 
California Coalition for Public Education. Founding member and President. Active support for public schools throughout the state, working with public officials and communities.
 
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