August 10, 2021

Environmental Law Alum Addresses Housing, Development Issues in California

Mitch Tsai, ’10, says his firm can’t keep up with public interest demands
from California’s housing affordability crisis and greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Mitch Tsai ’10 founded his public interest environmental law firm in Southern California in 2015 and reports today that “I cannot hire lawyers fast enough.” The firm Mitch Tsai Law currently consists of four attorneys and three support staff and primarily practices litigation to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Policy Act as well as the state planning and zoning laws. They represent environmental, labor and community groups to fight for a healthy environment, quality of life, and community benefits.

They handle cases against transportation and water infrastructure as well as private real estate development to fight for habitat preservation, open space, affordable housing, fair labor standards and community benefits.

Recently his firm just secured affordable housing victory in a Hollywood luxury apartment project. In a win for affordable housing, Tsai’s firm secured 45 below market rate units for lower-income Angelenos, out of a total of 299 units on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Read more of the victory here.

In addition, in 2019, his firm secured a settlement stopping the freeway portion of the High Desert Corridor Project, a 63 mile freeway and high-speed rail transportation project that would have induced significant industrial and residential development in a previously undeveloped stretch of land in Los Angeles and San Bernardino County. Read more about that case here.

With the State’s housing affordability crisis prompting a boom in new development, in California, Tsai’s firm has grown quickly over the past few years. While he acknowledges that development is needed to accommodate the State’s recent rapid economic growth, he argues that environmental laws such as the California Environmental Quality Act are needed to make sure that new development and infrastructure is environmentally sensitive, consistent with the State’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, and beneficial to the local community.

Tsai got his big break opposing the Devil’s Gate Dam Sediment Removal Project in 2017, a dam maintenance project set to remove some of the last remaining wetlands as well as habitat for the federally endangered Least Bell’s Vireo in

Southern California. After several favorable trial decisions, his firm was able to secure a settlement that significantly reduced the amount of habitat set to be cleared by the project and air pollutant emissions generated by the project. Read more about the Devil’s Gate Dam case here.

Tsai graduated in 2010, and earned a certificate in Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law,. While in law school, he served as Managing Editor of Environmental Law review. Tsai started his legal career doing a variety of contract work, including immigration law, civil business law, before handling environmental law cases as an Associate with The Law Office of Gideon Kracov. He started his firm in 2015.