Nicki Carlsen - Alston & Bird LLP

Nicki Carlsen

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2017

Nicki Carlsen is the co-leader of the firm’s Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources Group. Her practice focuses on land use, environmental compliance and litigation. She has over 25 years of experience with the federal, state and local regulations affecting development projects, including land use planning and subdivision laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California Coastal Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act, endangered species acts and cultural resources requirements. 

Through her representation of industrial, residential and commercial property owners, Nicki can navigate a course of action from project inception to completion. Her land use experience extends to all project entitlements, including general plan amendments, specific plans, development agreements, zone changes, subdivisions, conditional use permits, variances and grading, building and encroachment permits, as well as specialized environmental permits such as coastal development permits, Section 404 permits and “take” permits. She also advises clients regarding proposed regulations at the local, state and federal levels. 

Nicki advises clients on how to comply with CEQA and NEPA statutes and oversees the adequacy of CEQA and NEPA documents. She has successfully defended project approvals in the trial and appellate courts and has also successfully prosecuted actions on behalf of property owners to obtain land use entitlements. 

Nicki has also been listed in the 2017 edition of The Best Lawyers in America© in the area of Litigation – Land Use and Zoning.

Additional Information

Areas of Concentration
  • Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources
  • Land Use
  • Climate Change / Carbon Management
  • Environmental Litigation
  • Environmental Compliance, Permitting & Transactions
  • Environmental Appellate Litigation
  • Coastal Land Use
  • Energy
University of IllinoisBS 1983University of IllinoisMS 1985University of Southern CaliforniaJ.D. 1990
California Building Industry Association (CBIA)California Independent Petroleum AssociationWestern States Petroleum AssociationUrban Land Institute (ULI)West Hollywood Chamber of CommerceLaw360's Environmental 2013 Editorial Advisory BoardBren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Council of Legal Advisors (2013-2016): Administrative Law and Land Use LawWestside Neighborhood School, Los Angeles, California

Case History

E&B Natural Resources (City of Hermosa Beach Oil Drilling Project) — Ensured compliance with CEQA and Coastal Act for ballot measure to approve an oil and gas production project, including Development Agreement and amendment to coastal Land Use Plan.  
Washington Mutual/JPMorgan Chase (Ahmanson Ranch Project, Ventura County) — Provided land use and environmental counseling for over 10 years on a 2,500-acre master planned community. Defeated and prosecuted over 14 lawsuits to protect project entitlements.
AREA Property Partners (Sunset Millennium Project, West Hollywood) — Facilitated approval of a hotel, residential and retail project located on two blocks on Sunset Strip and defeated three lawsuits challenging environmental impact reports (EIRs) under CEQA in Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. 
Malibu Bay Company — City of Malibu and the California Coastal Commission approved an amendment to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) to facilitate a residential subdivision on the last undeveloped parcel on Broad Beach in Malibu.  Project opponent filed an action, and the Court of Appeal upheld the LCP amendment, confirming the validity of the Coastal Commission’s certified regulatory program and denying various CEQA claims regarding biological resources, aesthetics and preservation of views. Same opponent sought to challenge issuance of Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for project, but was barred by res judicata. Ross v. California Coastal Commission, 199 Cal.App.4th 900 (2d District 2011).
Rottman Froman Communities (Oak Canyon Ranch Project, Calaveras County) — Facilitated approval of Specific Plan, Zoning Code and Development Agreement and certification of EIR for a 3,000-acre master planned community. Supported the development team in obtaining permit approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Office Location

333 South Hope Street, 16th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90071-3004
United States

Practice Areas

Litigation - Land Use and Zoning

Other Information

Gender: Female