California's economy grew at a rate of 3.2 percent in 2016, and the Golden State's gross domestic product has now reached $2.5 trillion according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. This kind of growth creates jobs and stimulates residential real estate markets, but getting even small-scale housing projects off the ground can be challenging for developers. Many developments are fiercely opposed by organized groups of local residents, and some leading media outlets have described the developing situation as a full-scale housing crisis.
Prices soar when supplies dwindle, and commercial real estate developers around the country have been moving away from retail and office space in recent years and concentrating more on residential and mixed-use projects. Abandoned shopping malls and vacant big-box retail stores are becoming familiar sights even in areas with thriving economies, and a corporate downsizing trend has lowered demand for office space in recent years.
Large retail outlets generally feature ample parking and tend to be located close to major highways, and many commercial property owners are converting empty stores into warehouse or distribution centers. However, obtaining the regulatory approval needed to begin even small-scale residential developments can be difficult in California. State laws have been proposed that would require local officials to approve projects that meet existing zoning and land use laws, but experts say that it could take years before this kind of legislative intervention has any meaningful effect.
Attorneys with experience in this area may be able to anticipate and address permit and regulatory problems before they become major hurdles, and they could also seek to ensure that aspects of a project that could inflame local opinion are treated tactfully. Attorneys could also help commercial property owners in the retail sector with the legal challenges involved in putting empty big-box stores to more productive use.