We offer a comprehensive set of services to assist clients from the earliest stages of property acquisition, through the final stages of permit condition compliance. Click on any service listed below for a detailed description including information to help you to determine how that service can add value to your projects.
Due DiligenceDue diligence involves the blanket, comprehensive evaluation of critical factors that define the general development potential of a given property. These are factors that would affect allprojects on a site, such as zoning designation, General Plan designation, existing easements and other title restrictions, and physical/environmental constraints.
Due diligence is typically performed during the escrow contingency period for purchase of a property. Its complexity varies based upon a client’s needs and the time available to complete the work. We will help you to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective scope for your Due Diligence, to ensure that you have the critical data you need to release contingencies with confidence.
Entitlement Risk AssessmentEntitlement risk assessment can occur as a sub-component of due diligence (see above), feasibility studies (see below) or independently. It involves evaluation of the permit requirements for a specific development concept, or concepts; identification of environmental review requirements (if applicable); review of the itemized findings that the reviewing authority must make to approve the project(s); and, any factors that have the potential to prevent the decision-maker from being able to adopt the findings and/or grant the required approvals (e.g. significant environmental impacts triggered by a component of the project, probability of organized neighborhood opposition, political disposition of the decision makers). Early identification of these factors allows our clients to fully understand the entitlement risk associated with different development concepts they may have for a property, or with various components of a single development concept.
Our clients can move forward with a project that represents the best balance between development program intensity and associated entitlement risk depending upon their individual risk-tolerance. Understanding entitlement risk up-front avoids costly delays that can occur when a project must be re-evaluated and modified as a result of obstacles encountered during the review process.
Feasibility StudiesThese studies evaluate whether or not a clearly identified project can be carried out on a given property. Due diligence and entitlement risk assessment (see above) are foundational components of a feasibility study. Schedule and cost projections (see below) can also be included at the client’s option. Pre-requisites are a known development site, and a well-defined project description (i.e. “a mixed use development with 2,200 square feet of ground floor retail/office space, a minimum of 20 market-rate residential units, podium parking, and a maximum height of 45 feet). Clients often have conceptual development plans drafted prior to initiating a feasibility study. In other cases, Vanguard Planning will generate conceptual plans (see “Conceptual Building And Floor Plans” and “Site Planning” below), or these plans can be created by the client’s other consultants (e.g. architect, civil engineer, surveyor) as part of the study effort.
Feasibility studies produce detailed information about a specific project design, and allow our clients to determine with a high degree of certainty that their desired development program can be accomplished on their property. In many cases, these studies reveal valuable opportunities that may not have been considered during the first round of conceptual design. Another benefit is early identification of design and entitlement issues that could cause future delays. This information allows for revisions to be incorporated in our client’s initial proposal, reducing the time required to obtain project approval.
- Negotiation SupportExperienced negotiators understand that having the right information – at the right time – is essential to making good decisions and obtaining the best agreements. Vanguard Planning provides timely, focused input to clients, enabling them to make informed decisions as they negotiate the terms of purchase/sale agreements and leases.
We can provide analysis and feedback regarding critical aspects of your proposal (e.g. the minimum amount of time necessary to complete your due diligence), and/or elements of the other party’s proposal (e.g. whether the length of escrow your buyer insists upon is much longer than necessary to obtain approvals for their proposed project). We can alert you about issues that you, or the party with whom you are negotiating, may not have considered, and which could have a major impact on your transaction. These issues can then be addressed in your agreement, rather than becoming the basis of a future dispute, or the subject of litigation.
Our experience managing complex acquisitions for real estate development companies gives us a perspective that is different from, but complimentary to that of other professionals typically involved during negotiations, such as brokers and attorneys. Having us on your team will help you to obtain the best possible agreement, which is the first step towards a successful transaction.
Real Property Marketing SupportVanguard Planning assists sellers and brokers by helping to determine a listing value based on the unique features (or limitations) of a given property, and by serving as a member of the marketing team while the property is offered for sale or lease.
In many cases, a property has attributes that contribute significantly to its value, but are not readily apparent during a physical inspection, or even a cursory review of applicable land-use regulations. We can determine whether such factors are present so that these can be promoted in marketing materials. This increases the potential for placing a property under contract quickly, and at a higher price. We can also identify whether there are any conditions that limit a property’s use relative to similar properties. The seller/lessor can then determine whether to adjust the asking price to avoid lengthy marketing periods with no offers, or having their property off the market for months only to have a buyer/lessee back out due to their discovery of an adverse condition.
Often, there are issues that have the potential to generate resistance from prospective buyers or tenants , but which can be quickly and easily corrected. We identify remedies for these issues so that our clients can either resolve them prior to marketing their properties, or present the remedies to their prospective buyers and tenants concurrently with their disclosure.
Potential buyers or lessees of real property frequently have critical land-use and planning-related questions during their initial evaluation of any property. Your ability to provide prompt, accurate answers to their inquiries can make the difference between placing your listing under contract, or losing the buyer/lessee due to uncertainty about whether your property meets their requirements. Vanguard Planning can serve as a member of your marketing team: available to respond quickly to buyer/lessee inquiries in detail, or to seller/lessor inquiries about land-use issues that might prevent a successful transaction with a specific buyer/lessee.
In today’s challenging marketplace, our clients have a competitive advantage.
Schedule And Cost ProjectionsVanguard Planning can help you determine a realistic schedule for your entitlement projects, and a projection of the costs to obtain the required approvals. This service is often performed as component of feasibility studies (see above) and can also be performed independently.
Schedules can be difficult to determine, particularly for projects that involve complex discretionary entitlements. Our experience with all activities that must occur during the course of review and approval for any application enables us to make accurate projections for our clients. In addition to identifying the base schedule, we provide information about sub-elements and decision points within any given review process that have the potential to substantially affect the schedule (positively or negatively).
We can also provide detailed cost projections for any project. Our extensive knowledge of permit and review requirements ensures that we will identify all applicable submittal and processing fees associated with your proposal. Experience managing the acquisition, design, and entitlement of complex real estate development projects enables us to make realistic estimates for third-party consultant costs (e.g. civil engineering, surveying, architecture, soils engineering).
Conceptual Building And Floor PlansConceptual building and floor plans are helpful in determining whether a contemplated development program can occur on a specific property. Producing these plans as early as possible in the design process quickly reveals whether or not a project is feasible, saving our clients time and money that would otherwise be invested evaluating other issues.
In some cases, these plans may show that a project is possible on a site, but that there are specific design issues that will be a challenge to address as the project is later refined (e.g. difficulty in providing at-grade parking, limited service access for retail spaces). Conceptual plans can also confirm that there is a high degree of flexibility in how a client can meet their project objectives, allowing the client to move forward with certainty and confidence.
Our conceptual plans can be used to demonstrate the development potential of a property, which is valuable when marketing it for sale or lease (see Real Property Marketing Support above). These plans can also serve as a “starting point” for your project architect, making it easier for him/her to understand your design goals, which saves the effort and cost associated with multiple rounds of design and drafting.
Design Review And OptimizationThe best designs are often realized through a collaborative process. When professionals with complimentary skills work together to develop a concept, the results can exceed the best work of any individual specialist.
Our staff has managed and contributed to the design of a wide range of floor plans and site plans. We’ve toured hundreds of model homes, and interviewed countless salespersons in an effort to determine what works in a design, and what doesn’t. Our clients benefit from the unique perspective we bring to the process. We focus on the relationship between all elements of a project as well as the critical details of each individual component. We can review an initial concept objectively, and determine if there are opportunities for improvement that are often not identified in a first or second round of drafting.
Design review can also identify whether an element of the initial project concept could adversely affect the entitlement process (e.g. your civil engineer has designed a nine foot tall retaining wall because this is the most efficient construction option, but your project is subject to an aesthetic resource protection policy that discourages retaining walls over six feet in height). In such cases, we can identify other feasible options to accomplish the same purpose as the original concept without triggering issues later on. Having this information early in the design process is extremely valuable.
We enjoy working together with specialists in all fields to help our clients deliver outstanding projects.
EasementsVanguard Planning has successfully negotiated and acquired easements for clients to address issues affecting their properties, and to resolve impacts on adjacent properties caused by our clients’ previous activities.
Our staff has considerable experience managing the acquisition of properties and approved projects for real estate development companies. Reviewing existing easements and their impact(s) on development potential, and/or acquiring new easements to allow for a desired project to be carried out are critical aspects of this work. We know what needs to be identified in the scope and terms of an easement to ensure that it accomplishes its intended purpose and that it protects the rights of both the grantor and grantee.
We recommend that all easement documents be reviewed and approved by licensed legal counsel. However, Vanguard Planning can manage the entire negotiation process and generate the initial draft easement documentation before attorneys are involved. This results in a substantial savings for our clients. We continue to work in a support role as legal counsel refines and finalizes the documentation, identifying land-use issues that could be triggered by specific language revisions, and delivering solutions needed to address conflicts between requests/revisions from each party’s attorney.
Legal Document Development SupportWe can assist during the development of land-use related legal documents of all types, including easements and Conditions, Covenants & Restrictions (CC&R’s). These documents are typically recorded on title, and permanently affect the use of a property going forward. In some cases, these documents also serve as a primary mechanism for implementing environmental impact mitigation measures and other conditions identified when a project is reviewed and approved.
We serve in a support role to your legal counsel as they draft your documents, ensuring that applicable conditions of approval, environmental mitigation, and technical requirements are incorporated clearly. This can expedite review and approval of your documents by the regulatory agency, which is often a critical path item in the ministerial permitting process.
Site PlanningSite planning involves the comprehensive assessment of physical and environmental features (e.g. slopes, soils, hydrology, sensitive habitats), civil engineering requirements (e.g. grading, drainage, access, utilities), amenities (e.g. solar orientation, views), zoning requirements, and development policies to determine the optimal location(s) for various project components on a given property.
The potential for environmental impacts is minimized when a project is designed to fit its site, often leading to a shorter review period and lower entitlement processing costs. In most cases, construction costs are also reduced as a result of placing new structures and associated development such as roads, drainage infrastructure, and utilities onto the portions of a property that are best suited to accommodate them.
With nearly twenty years of site planning experience, we have encountered almost every issue that can affect how a project is located on a property, and developed feasible design solutions in each case. Vanguard Planning can help you determine the best way to meet your project objectives on any site.
Discretionary Entitlements (e.g. Annexations, Subdivisions, Conditional Use Permits)Discretionary entitlements are our core business. These are required to carry out complex projects such as residential subdivisions, mixed-use infill developments, and industrial processing facilities. We serve as our clients’ project team manager and single-point liaision throughout the review and approval process, coordinating all interactions with agency staff, project review committees, and decision-makers.
Our staff has been responsible for the review of discretionary entitlement applications on behalf of public regulatory agencies, and for securing discretionary entitlements for private applicants.We have first-hand experience with all critical aspects of the entitlement process, and we understand it from both a government and private-sector perspective. In preparation for, and throughout the discretionary entitlement process, clients benefit from our depth of experience with environmental regulation, zoning, and land-use policy implementation.
Ministerial Entitlements (e.g. Building/Grading Permits, Condition Compliance, Departmental Clearances)Ministerial entitlements are granted according to obective standards. Unlike discretionary entitlements (see above), agencies do not exercise subjective judgment in the course of granting a ministerial entitlement, and unique conditions of approval are not incorporated in the associated permits (standard conditions may be applied). In most jurisdictions, these are the only entitlements required for minor projects such as accessory structures, retaining walls, and small-volume grading jobs. Ministerial permits (e.g. grading permits, demolition permits, departmental clearances) are also a common mechanism for implementing special project conditions generated through the discretionary entitlement process.
Vanguard Planning is highly experienced in obtaining stand-alone ministerial permits, as well as those issued in association with projects for which we obtained discretionary entitlements. We are particularly skilled at resolving conflicts that can occur when staff in different departments have separate interpretations of the requirements identified in discretionary conditions of approval. Our clients avoid costs and delays associated with multiple rounds of submittals, and can quickly move forward with their projects.
Mitigation Monitoring And ReportingMitigation monitoring and reporting (MM&R) is mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for projects that require adoption of mitigation measures to address potential impacts identified during environmental review. MM&R is implemented in three phases: 1) review of a project’s conditions of approval, plans and specifications; 2) monitoring during construction activities; and 3) ongoing monitoring during the operation of the project. MM&R for the first category is usually covered by the agency’s final plan check process. Most agencies require that a Project Environmental Coordinator (PEC) be designated by the applicant to handle the last two phases of MM&R. Typically, the PEC must be identified prior to issuance of ministerial permits necessary to initiate construction of the approved project.
The PEC is responsible for making certain that mitigation is carried out correctly during construction and, in some cases, long-term operation of the project. This involves review of implementation status and submission of progress reports at regular intervals throughout the construction period, and submission of a final report (including final technical studies if required) when construction is complete. The PEC can continue to handle MM&R throughout the operational life of a project (if applicable) as required by the client.
Vanguard Planning can serve as your PEC, allowing other staff (such as your construction superintendent) to focus on their primary responsibilities. Our staff’s experience authoring CEQA compliance documents, including development of legally adequate mitigation measures, uniquely qualifies us to act in this capacity. Having us on your project team will ensure that the environment is protected, and that you will not experience costly delays which could occur if your project is cited for non-compliance with conditional requirements.
PowerPoint PresentationsEffective visual communication is indispensable when dealing with complex subjects like potential environmental impacts, neighborhood compatibility, and consistency with applicable land-use and development policies. Vanguard Planning produces dynamic PowerPoint presentations in-house that enable decision-makers to quickly and clearly understand how our clients’ projects comply with applicable regulatory standards and address issues that are important to their communities. These presentations are also helpful when discussing development proposals with key stakeholders and neighborhood groups (see “Public Relations” below).
Many use PowerPoint in a manner that causes the audience to lose interest, decreasing the likelihood that the information presented will be received and understood. We have developed a reputation for delivering presentations which are both informative and interesting to watch, ensuring that the audience is fully engaged and that our clients’ message hits home.
Process-Specific RepresentationThere are many cases when a process undertaken by a City, County, or other agency has the potential to affect the use and value of your property even though you may not have any applications or requests pending. Examples include General Plan updates, revisions to affordable housing policies, adoption of development impact fees, and annexations. Most agencies actively seek input from stakeholders and the community at large during these processes in an effort to ensure that the end results represent the consensus of those affected. However, property owners often neglect to participate in these community-wide processes because they are very complex, and are not specifically related their site(s). The results can affect your property whether or not you have any impact shaping them.
Vanguard Planning provides professional representation for clients throughout these processes to ensure that their interests are taken into consideration and reflected in the final result(s). We also make certain that critical facts in support of or opposition to the intended results of a given process are clearly documented in the agency’s administrative record. This is essential in the event that a client is forced to take legal action to address the outcome. We can ensure that your voice is heard and that your interests are considered when any agency that regulates your property revises its policies, standards and requirements or sets out to craft new ones.
Public RelationsEngagement of groups with an interest in a proposal’s potential impacts and benefits is essential to identify the important issues that can determine whether that proposal is approved or denied. Outreach to neighborhood groups and key stakeholders with clear, fact-based messages can also head off opposition that often results from a lack of understanding, or widespread misinformation. Effective public support is only possible when people have the information they require to draw an independent conclusion about a project.
We have successfully managed public outreach under a variety of circumstances. Whether working with small, highly-organized special interest groups, or large multi-neighborhood associations, our technical proficiency and ability to clearly communicate complex land-use concepts makes a difference. We are also experienced working with the media throughout the review process to ensure that reporting about our clients’ projects is accurate and objective.
Public relations services are typically provided in association with obtaining discretionary entitlements (see above) for our clients. We can provide these services independently on a case-by-case basis.
Special ProjectsIn some cases, clients seek the benefit of our background and experience for a special project that does not fall within a standard category of services. Examples include assisting legal counsel with research to prepare court documents, and working to change utility service charge methodologies. Vanguard Planning is available to evaluate any situation that may require professional land-use planning and development advice to determine if we can add value.
Story-Pole Installation ManagementStory-poles are erected on a project site to approximate the mass, bulk, and scale of a proposed structure. Many agencies require installation of story-poles to help them assess potential visual impacts and neighborhood compatibility. In most cases, a story-pole plan must also be prepared and submitted. The plan indicates which points on a proposed structure are physically represented in the field, and is used by the surveyor and the contractor to erect an accurate installation.
We have designed and managed the erection of story-pole installations for small and large-scale development projects. Each pole in an installation adds costs (survey, materials, and labor), so it is critical to utilize the smallest number of poles which will accurately represent a proposed project. Too few poles result in an installation that overstates or understates visual impacts. Too many poles generate excessive costs. Our staff has evaluated visual impacts for public agencies, and we know which points on a proposed structure can be left out of an installation, and which must be included to provide an accurate representation of mass, bulk, and scale.
We have the experience to determine the optimum balance between simplicity and accuracy. Vanguard Planning can ensure that your story-pole installation provides for accurate assessment of your project’s impacts, and that your costs are kept to a minimum.
Zoning Violation AbatementZoning violations can become an issue following a public complaint filed with a regulatory agency, or when staff directly identify a violation during the course of inspecting another nearby property (e.g. a building inspector visiting your neighbor’s permitted home addition observes an unpermitted retaining wall in your front yard). In some jurisdictions, all properties are inspected for zoning violations as part of any sale transaction. Unresolved violations can lead to enforcement actions (which can include fines) and/or prevent a real estate transaction from closing. Therefore, it is essential to identify and implement feasible remedies for any known zoning violations as soon as possible.
Vanguard Planning can assist with the abatement of any zoning violations identified on your property. Our permitting/entitlement expertise and development experience allows us to quickly identify practical solutions and obtain required approvals. Abatement of some violations may involve a more complex process, such as retroactively obtaining discretionary entitlements. In these cases, we identify the available permit path and assist our clients to file applications within short time-frames, which often results in the suspension of any pending enforcement action. Vanguard Planning can then manage the entitlement process and obtain the approvals needed to permanently resolve the violation (see Discretionary Entitlements above).
We are also available to pre-screen your property in advance of any planned activities that are likely to result in an inspection by regulatory agency staff, such as listing the property for sale and/or opening escrow. The information we provide enables our clients to correct any identified violations before ever being cited.