Office Managing Partner
Amy M. Steinfeld

Amy M. Steinfeld



Works at the intersection of land use and water law. Santa Barbara office managing partner. Leader in cannabis cultivation projects and co-chair of Cannabis & Industrial Hemp industry group.

Amy Steinfeld is a land use and water lawyer with a broad understanding of environmental issues and a passion for the agricultural industry. Operating in one of the most heavily regulated industries and states, her passion and genuine concern for her clients is critical to her success. Drawing on a substantial network and ability to work closely with state agencies and local governments to anticipate decision-makers’ viewpoints, she efficiently moves even the most contentious projects forward and reduces permitting delays. 

Her combination of water law and land use experience allows Amy to operate at the apex of the industry. She advises water districts, cities, agricultural interests and developers in all aspects of water law. Accomplished in all facets of land development, Amy is recognized for her experience in water supply strategy, local policies and public outreach. She brings deep experience in every part of the process, from site due diligence to the preparation of groundwater sustainability plans and environmental documents to the defense and settlement of complicated multiparty CEQA lawsuits.

Amy is co-founder and co-chair of the California H2O Women Conference, which provides an opportunity to collaborate, educate and support women leaders in the water industry.

Representative Matters

Sungrown Cannabis and Hemp

  • Successfully defended a 17-acre outdoor cannabis cultivation and processing project on three appeals brought to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. Appellants’ concerns included traffic, and potential odors from the cannabis operations and Hydrogen Sulfide in the groundwater. Our team settled many of the appeal issues prior to the Planning Commission hearing and the appellants’ other concerns were unanimously rejected by the Commissioners. The result is a project that deploys carbon scrubbers in the indoor processing facility to mitigate potential odor and includes a proactive approach to investigating odor complaints and monitoring hydrogen sulfide levels.  

  • Successfully represented an outdoor cannabis cultivator through 5 administrative appeals and in trial court litigation, which was the first Santa Barbara County cannabis cultivation case to end up in trial, and the first outdoor cannabis cultivation CEQA case in California. The 22-acre outdoor cannabis farm is one of the largest operational, fully-permitted cannabis farms in California and defending against the appeals and litigation required successful demonstration that cannabis farms are agriculture and can co-exist with traditional farms and educating the public and decision makers on the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable, sun grown cannabis farming.

  • Successfully defended cannabis cultivator against appeal of an approved County coastal development permit for greenhouse cannabis cultivation. The project secured a unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and is referred to by Commissioners as “the gold standard” for cannabis greenhouse projects in Santa Barbara County. Successfully demonstrated that cannabis greenhouses can co-exist with traditional agriculture and residential neighborhoods via stringent odor mitigation measures.

  • Successfully represented in appeal a client seeking a land use permit to cultivate outdoor cannabis in Cuyama Valley, Santa Barbara County. Our team developed a voluntary water offset program to ensure the project would not have a net impact on the Cuyama Basin, a critically overdrafted groundwater basin. Commissioners denied the appeal in a 5-0 vote, commending the proactive nature of the water offset program. This is the first such program of its kind to be implemented in Santa Barbara County but may become an important tool in critically overdrafted basins throughout California as the implementation of SGMA continues.

  • Counsel to cannabis cultivators in Santa Barbara County challenging a County Ordinance that threatened to limit hoop house usage in key cultivation areas. Hoop houses, or temporary greenhouses, are essential tools for California Central Coast agriculture and yield resource savings (e.g., reduced water demand and pesticide application etc.) as well as extend the growing season. Efforts helped deliver a compromise that exempts most hoops on actively cultivated land from prohibitive land use and building codes.

  • Assisted Cadiz, Inc. and Glass House Farms’ joint venture SoCal Hemp Co. in spearheading a pilot research program MOU to cultivate organic, sun-grown industrial hemp for both natural hemp and hemp-derived products including CBD. With Brownstein’s counsel, the project is potentially able to expand from its current operations to cultivate on up to 9,600 acres at the Cadiz Ranch in San Bernardino County, which would make it the largest vertically integrated, commercial hemp operation in the state of California.

Groundwater & Water Supply

  • Counsel to large private landowner and nut grower in the Central Valley regarding water rights; securing and protecting new and existing water supplies; and water quality and strategy, including participation in SGMA. Strategic advice ensured client could continue farming during California’s worst drought in history. Currently represent client during GSP implementation, which proposes a groundwater extraction fee that would result in putting the client and all other agricultural businesses out of business. The resulting widespread fallowing of agricultural land is likely to have significant economic, social, and environmental impacts that the GSA has not properly examined. Brownstein is developing a litigation strategy to protect the client’s water rights and ensure future viability of their agricultural interests.

  • Special water counsel to one of the largest agricultural water districts in the US, which is heavily dependent on groundwater, assisting with SGMA implementation, including GSA formation and GSP adoption. The firm assisted with all facets of GSP development, which will curtail water use. Great care must be taken to provide a realistic and pragmatic approach to bring groundwater pumping into compliance without devastating the farming community. Engaged with GSP implementation to ensure all legal and regulatory requirements are met.

  • Secured a ruling in the Sacramento Superior Court that validated the eleven year-old Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement and related agreements and secured a key component of long-term reliable water supply for San Diego County. Brownstein team's knowledge and experience of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) played a major role in the victory of this litigation.

  • Represented seller of Sacramento River water rights to the 2009 Drought Water Bank, including negotiation of water transfer agreement, acquisition of regulatory approvals and defense against environmental litigation. This water transfer was based on water conservation and groundwater substitution.

  • On behalf of two major municipal water suppliers, obtained regulatory approvals of the cities’ respective recycled water projects, including reductions in the cities’ respective discharges of highly treated wastewater to the Los Angeles River, and overcame project opposition. Representation included successfully settling litigation challenging one of the city’s compliance with CEQA for its recycled water project in a manner that allowed the City’s project to be implemented.

Development & Infrastructure

  • On behalf of a national homebuilder, Brownstein obtained approval of the Water Supply Assessment, final Environmental Impact Report, General Plan Amendments and Specific Plan for development of a 1,500 acre-property in Southern California proposed to include 5,400 residential units and commercial uses. The project raised numerous water supply and water quality issues, including groundwater storage, replenishment and development, water transfers, conjunctive use, water re-use, flood protection and stormwater management.  

  • Represented three landowners to successfully obtain a Clean Water Act Section 404 Emergency Permit to restore an incised creek due to heavy rainfall and flooding which resulted in aging flood control infrastructure to fail. While obtaining local, state and federal permits to conduct work within a creek can often take years, Brownstein’s team was able to deliver full authorization of the project on an aggressive timeline by working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and leveraging California’s Executive Order N-10-23 streamlining levee repairs and debris removal to waive the CEQA process and other state requirements.

  • Successfully negotiated contract to purchase and construct a pipeline to convey recycled water from city to a golf course in an unincorporated portion of county. Resulted in significant reduction in golf course’s potable water costs.

  • Successfully defended the entitlements for the Cadiz Valley Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, a Southern California water supply infrastructure project designed to put 50,000 acre-feet per year to beneficial use over 50 years by conserving water lost to evaporation and delivering it to the Colorado River Aqueduct via a 43-mile pipeline. Led the successful defense of the project at both trial and in the California Court of Appeal, which upheld the environmental review against all challenges brought by opposing parties in six lawsuits. The appellate court also sustained the local management of groundwater and, in published opinions, endorsed the project’s structure as a template for processing P3s under CEQA.

Insights & Publications



  • J.D., 2005, University of Colorado Law School, with honors
  • B.A., 2000, University of California, Los Angeles, cum laude


  • California, 2005
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit


International Cannabis Bar Association

Santa Barbara Women Lawyers

Santa Barbara County Bar Association


Community Involvement


Board of Directors, Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce

Water Education Foundation Water Leaders Mentor, 2023

ACWA Legal Affairs Committee, 2018-2019

Board of Directors, Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition

Board of Advisors, California Water Law & Policy Reporter

Secretary, Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, 2008-2013 

Photo Editor, Santa Barbara Lawyer Magazine Editorial Board, 2007

Guest Lecturer, Global Studies, “Social and Environmental Compliance,” Santa Barbara City College



Best Lawyers in America, 2021-2024

Los Angeles Daily Journal, Top Cannabis Lawyer, 2022

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Agriculture and Viticulture, 2023

Pacific Coast Business Times, Most Influential People in the Region, 2020, 2021

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Energy and Environment, 2018

Water & Wastes Digest, Young Water Professionals Award, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Top 50 Women in Business & Editor's Choice, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Professional Services, 2016

Pacific Coast Business Times, 40 Under 40, 2013

Contributing Editor, Association of California Water Agencies' Summary of Appellate Cases Decided by the Court, 2008-2010

Lead Articles Editor, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, University of Colorado School of Law, 2004-2005

President, Environmental Law Society, University of Colorado School of Law, 2003-2004