Susan F. Petrovich

Susan F. Petrovich



Susan counsels in environmental law, land use and real estate, representing both public and private sector clients. In addition to her broad real estate practice, which includes residential and commercial purchase and sale transactions and easement disputes, she has a particular emphasis on state and federal permitting, inside and outside the California Coastal Zone, and agricultural law, including vineyards and wineries, cannabis, the agricultural preserve program, conservation and rangeland easements, agricultural leasing, and agricultural land purchases. 

Susan has a wide range of experience, having represented public agencies and private landowners in environmental and real estate matters throughout her career. She understands the importance of balancing economics, deadlines and client objectives with the rigors of regulatory programs and thorough due diligence. In addition to an in-depth knowledge of real estate and of federal and state environmental laws, she brings leadership, team experience, hard work, a creative strategic approach and the negotiating tactics necessary for the successful completion of real estate, environmental, land use and water-related projects. 

Susan's experience includes extensive work on the Coastal Branch, Phase II, of the California State Water Project. She coordinated with the Central Coast Water Authority on project design and siting for the pipelines, the water treatment plant, storage tanks, pump stations and related facilities to avoid and mitigate environmental impacts. She supervised consultants writing environmental impact reports and negotiated with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish & Game on all agreements necessary to construct, operate, repair and maintain the project facilities. 

Susan has provided various legal and strategic services for Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans, for the State Water Project Monterey Amendment, for the City of San Luis Obispo Water Reclamation Project, for the Lopez Dam Remediation, for the Salinas Reservoir Enlargement and for the Castaic Lake Water Agency. Susan currently serves on the County of Santa Barbara Regional Conservation Strategy Committee, preparing a plan balancing protection of threatened and endangered species with project permitting countywide.

Representative Matters

CEQA Litigation

  • Represented equestrians in a CEQA petition against the County of Santa Barbara regarding the County decision during the COVID-19 lockdown, with no environmental review and no public input, to open to hikers/trail runners and bicyclists a trail that had been reserved solely for equestrian use for decades. The County adopted a Notice of Exemption then quickly opened the trail to virtually all comers, disregarding the potential impacts on wildlife habitat and cultural resources. The petitioners pointed out that a 10-year old Environmental Impact Statement/Resource Management Plan and several other older studies called for site-specific environmental analysis before expanding or increasing the uses of any of the Lake Cachuma trails. Brownstein argued that County failed to conduct sufficient environmental review for the proposed changes to the trail use, including potential impacts to nesting eagles and a host of other sensitive species, and failed to adequately support the public’s rights to participate in any changes of this trail’s use. The Court agreed and found in the petitioners’ favor, further finding that the County failed to properly post the Notice of Exemption. The Court also noted the County’s “aggressive and uncompromising” litigation strategy and awarded $300,000 in attorneys’ fees. Brownstein’s team delivered a major victory to our client in preserving existing trail access requirements and sensitive environmental and cultural resources.

  • Provide assistance to land use consultant preparing CEQA documentation and processing permits for remediation of oceanfront site in Santa Barbara County, and negotiating and drafting option agreement with non-profit for purchase of site upon completion of remediation. Assisting client in obtaining adequate water supplies for land farming, dust control, and revegetation of impacted site with natives plants and in obtaining permits for relocation of major creek. Permitting included Federal, State, and County agencies. Remediation groundbreaking is imminent.

Agriculture & Ranchlands

  • Represented the Santa Barbara Cattlemen's Association regarding various land use and environmental issues in administrative proceedings before the County of Santa Barbara, State Water Control Board, and Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. More recent work includes pro bono support for the Association regarding ensuring input from agriculture and working lands interests in the County’s draft Agriculture Enterprise Ordinance that allow farmers and ranchers to conduct, or allow others to conduct, a wide of recreational activities farms and ranches to boost their revenue. Uses would include camping, composting, fishing, horseback riding, ranch tours, farmstays, and educational opportunities.

  • Represented cattle ranch in acquisition of land use permit for controversial agricultural building. Successfully defended County's reliance on a CEQA exemption and associated Subdivision Map Act and land use claims.

Real Estate, Infrastructure & Energy

  • Counsel to the Central Coast Water Authority since 1991. Our representation includes coordinating legal services for all phases of planning, permitting, environmental compliance, right-of-way acquisition, construction and operation related to a $600 million drinking water delivery system.

  • Assisted client in preparing remediated property for sale to park foundation in the middle of heavily industrialized area of Los Angeles County with no nearby park serving local residents. Services included negotiating and documenting sale, drafting appropriate deed restrictions to prevent change of use that could expose seller to risk of liability, resolving/clearing title issues, drafting lease agreement, coordinating with buyer in negotiations with regulatory agencies for bona fide purchaser status under California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act of 2004 (CLRRA), Prospective Purchaser agreement, agreement and covenant not to sue (from DTSC), land use covenant and agreement for environmental restrictions, and related documents. Transaction was completed timely.

  • Represent Edison Mission Energy in zoning and land use matters related to obtaining entitlements for construction of a solar energy project in Santa Barbara County, California. Representation includes environmental review, amendment of the zoning ordinance to provide for solar projects in agricultural zones, and conformity with the Williamson Act (Agricultural Preserve).

Insights & Publications



  • J.D., 1975, UC Hastings College of Law
  • B.A., 1969, University of California at Santa Barbara


  • California, 1975

Community Involvement


Santa Barbara County Cattlemen’s Association Land Use Committee

Board of Directors, Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance