Steven Vettel is one of the San Francisco's leading land use attorneys, and represents residential, commercial and institutional developers, and property owners. He specializes in assisting his clients in obtaining governmental permits and other necessary entitlements for their real estate development projects. He also negotiates public/private real estate arrangements, such as development agreements and land disposition agreements, and has drafted and secured numerous general plan amendments and rezoning actions.

Steve has successfully represented several major developers in obtaining land use entitlements for the construction of some of the Bay Area’s largest developments, including several high-rise residential towers in downtown San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion project, the Potrero and Sunnydale HOPE-SF public housing reconstruction projects, and the University of California's University Village project in the City of Albany. In the face of tough opposition, he has obtained land use entitlements for redevelopment and improvement of several underutilized urban sites throughout the Bay Area, including shopping centers, closed schools, and underutilized religious facilities, often involving the rehabilitation or replacement of historic structures.

Steve also litigates land use disputes. He counsels clients on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance and defends his clients’ environmental review documents in both administrative and judicial forums.

The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the country’s most challenging entitlements environments. With over three decades of land use and development experience, Steve is one of the best-known and most effective attorneys in the city. He knows the decisionmakers, knows the consultants, and above all, really knows the city. He is a familiar and respected presence in San Francisco City Hall, and is a team leader, strategist, and high-level advisor who knows, above all, how to put together projects that work.


  • Chambers USA, Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (2011-2019)
  • Best Lawyers in America, Use and Zoning Law (2021-2024)
  • International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers (Environmental Law)
  • “Top 50 Development Lawyers” in 2014, The Daily Journal
  • “Top 25 Land Use Leaders” in 2011, The Daily Journal
  • Leading Lawyer - Land Use/Zoning, Legal 500 United States 
  • Hall of Fame, Land Use/Zoning, Legal 500 United States (2020)
  • Northern California Super Lawyers in Land Use/Zoning since (2015-2023)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Board Member, Friends of San Francisco City Planning
  • Director (and former Vice Chair), San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association
  • Former Co-Chair, ACLU of Northern California's Lawyers Counsel
  • Former Member, Executive Committee, San Francisco Housing Action Coalition
  • Former Member, Action Plan Advisory Committee, San Francisco Planning Department
  • Former Co-Chair, Diversity Committee, Farella Braun + Martel