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James Gilpin

Litigator helps agencies acquire property for public projects

An attorney specializing in public works, construction and eminent domain litigation, James Gilpin sees his work as having a long-term impact on San Diego.

The tireless litigator concentrates his practice on assisting public agencies, with a focus on acquiring property for public works and on construction litigation -- representing clients in all phases of litigation, including writ proceedings, jury and court trials, and appeals.

Gilpin, who was involved in acquiring the land for the San Diego Trolley five years ago, says he genuinely enjoys his work, and is fulfilled by seeing physical reminders of things he's worked on over the years. "I specialize in working with entities such as public transit, water and school districts," he said. "When I drive by a school I've represented, or past something like the Trolley line in Mission Valley, I realize I've helped with something that will last. I like to think I can help make an impact for the long term."

A partner with Best Best & Krieger LLP, a full-service law firm with more than 185 attorneys in eight offices throughout California, Gilpin joined the company after finishing law school at the University of Wyoming. He began his professional career at the firm's Riverside branch, and moved to San Diego in 1993 when it opened an office here.

This past year has been an especially busy one for Gilpin, who has been immersed in complex issues ranging from rent control to construction defect to land preservation. For the last 10 years, he has represented the city of Santee in heated rent control litigation. This year marked a milestone for that case, which finally wound its way to state and federal courts, prevailing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "This is especially gratifying, as we've helped keep rent control practices in place for impoverished seniors living in a manufactured home park," he said.

Also on the front burner: a construction contract dispute for Vista Unified School District, which was sued by a contractor on claims related to Oceanside's Temple Heights Elementary School. The case is still in dispute. He has also been hard at work with the North County Transit, helping the district acquire property for the $440 million Sprinter passenger train project, a new commuter line between Escondido and Oceanside. In addition, Gilpin recently represented Citizens for the Preservation of Coronado Beach. The group is opposed to a proposed 2,500-square-foot beachfront lifeguard facility. In this case, he ensured that Coronado residents will be able to vote this February on whether or not the controversial project gets built.

His work also frequently takes him outside of San Diego, and he represents public agencies throughout California, acquiring property for public projects. Earlier this year, he helped the city of San Pablo acquire a large mobile home park for redevelopment, and he is also currently working with the redevelopment agency of the city of Sacramento to obtain property for a new downtown project.

Moore is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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