John E. Ponder

John E. Ponder is a partner in the Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Diego office.

Areas of Practice

Mr. Ponder specializes in the representation of clients involved in real estate development. His practice focuses on advising and representing major residential, industrial, commercial, Native American Indian tribes, and renewable energy developers through all phases of the land use regulatory process and environmental compliance. His land use experience includes real estate due diligence investigations, negotiating and drafting development agreements, processing land use entitlements, advising tribal governments on environmental and natural resources law, and appearing before governmental agencies and commissions.

Real Estate Development

Real estate development has grown increasingly complex and controversial requiring knowledge of applicable federal, state and local laws, as well as the ability to work with a wide range of diverse interests including governmental agency staff, elected officials, landowners, environmental organizations and citizen groups. Mr. Ponder's ability to work with such diverse interests to develop creative, practical and economical solutions is demonstrated by his involvement in the successful approval and permitting of thousands of residential units during the past several years. Most of these residential units were master planned projects in the communities of Sabre Springs, Mira Mesa, Carmel Valley, and Otay Mesa in the City of San Diego. Current projects include redevelopment, infill and mixed use developments in northern, southern, and eastern San Diego County, as well as an additional 3,500+ residential units in the Otay Mesa and Mira Mesa Community Planning Areas in the City of San Diego.

Environmental Compliance

Mr. Ponder has assisted clients in obtaining permits and approvals from various federal agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). He has successfully guided clients through the maze of state and local environmental clearances necessary for development including the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California Fish and Game (CDF&G) 1602 Streambed Alteration Agreement, Tribal-State Compacts, and the City of San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). His working knowledge of environmental constraints and the development process proves invaluable when investigating the potential purchase of real estate and the subsequent preparation of acquisition documents.


An experienced litigator, Mr. Ponder has handled actions involving development disputes, condemnation, environmental compliance, real estate transactions, and construction defect. He has managed complex civil litigation for several residential developers and defended challenges to development approvals. Mr. Ponder was lead counsel in the recent CEQA litigation appellate court decision, Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development (CREED) v. City of San Diego regarding a challenge to an addendum to an EIR involving water supply assessments, greenhouse gas emissions, and exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Professional Qualifications and Activities

Mr. Ponder's practice includes strong ties to the local, state and national Building Industry Associations. The Building Industry Association of San Diego County (BIASD) is the largest independent chapter of the California Building Association (CBIA). BIASD works closely with CBIA and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) on issues related to housing, environmental reform, streamlining permit processing, reducing building fees and construction dispute resolution. The existing relationship with these associations provides continued involvement in the latest issues which impact the development industry.

Mr. Ponder has been active in a variety of civic committee meetings regarding natural resources, employment and real estate development. He has participated in the preparation and implementation of local legislation regarding the Multiple Species Conservation Plan, revisions to the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Regulations to allow impacts to wetlands, updates to the City of San Diego Zoning Code and the Equal Employment Opportunity Ordinance. Mr. Ponder worked with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Employment Lands Inventory Committee to examine issues surrounding the supply and demand of land that will be available for development of office, industrial and research and development facilities. He also worked with SANDAG's Quality of Life Stakeholder Working Group, which provides input on Quality of Life Funding Strategy. Mr. Ponder has been appointed by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan Technical Advisory Group (ATAG). The goal of the ATAG is to enable interested parties to express their concerns regarding the preparation of Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans being prepared for San Diego County airports.

Mr. Ponder is a member of the Finance Committee for San Diego Mayor Elect Kevin Faulconer and Council Member Lorie Zapf.

Mr. Ponder is a registered lobbyist with the City and County of San Diego and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Good to know

Areas of Practice 1) Litigation, 2) Construction & Infrastructure, 3) Real Estate, 4) Land Use, 5) and Environmental, 6) Environmental, 7) Real Estate Acquisitions and Dispositions and 8) Real Estate Development
Law School California Western School of Law ( J.D., 1980)
Education San Diego State University (B.B.A., 1976)
Bar Member / Association California State Bar Association
Most recent firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP
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