Joshua Safran is a Partner at the Rudder Law Group and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, aviation, and municipal law. Joshua specializes in complex development projects, multi-party real estate transactions, and complicated multi-stakeholder airport and public agency programs. He excels at guiding his clients through the challenging regulatory environment and beyond project opposition to successfully achieve their desired results. He also excels at counseling clients on how to meet their strategic and operational objectives in the day-to-day management of their properties, businesses, and agencies.
Before joining the Rudder Law Group, Joshua served for over six years as the Deputy Port Attorney for the Port of Oakland, in-house counsel for one of America's largest container ports, Oakland International Airport, and the Port’s Commercial Real Estate Division. His aviation portfolio included federal regulatory compliance and permitting, security, landside and airside operations, free speech permitting, ground transportation, major litigation, administrative appeals, general aviation real estate, and airport governance. His work at the Airport included permitting, approvals, and grants from nearly a dozen agencies for improvements to the commercial south field; prosecution, defense, and successful resolution of a highly contentious, multi-million dollar, multi-party litigation involving airport concessions, organized labor, and individual workers; negotiating public-private partnerships for the redevelopment of the general aviation north field with multiple fixed base operators; and, drafting and implementing comprehensive airport rules and regulations.
Joshua’s commercial real estate portfolio at the Port included redevelopment, leasing, state regulatory and public trust compliance and permitting, and major litigation for 875 acres of commercial and industrial property along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, including governance and management of Oakland's iconic Jack London Square area. His work included the successful negotiation, legislative and regulatory approval and judicial validation for the $1.5 billion, 64-acre, Brooklyn Basin project, representing one of the largest Chinese investments in American real estate and allowing for the development of 3,100 housing units, 200,000 square feet of commercial space, and 30 acres of parks and open space on former industrial land.
While at the Port, Joshua also represented the Environmental Programs & Planning, Maritime, and Social Responsibility Divisions, as well as the Board of Port Commissioners. His environmental portfolio included environmental review, administrative appeals, and litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and land use regulations within the Port Area of Oakland. His work included drafting and implementing the Port’s land use and development code and managing the Port’s lead agency responsibilities under CEQA. His social responsibility portfolio included management, administrative enforcement and appeals, and litigation relating to the Port’s living wage, prevailing wage, local hire, and project labor agreement programs. His maritime portfolio included federal and state regulatory compliance and permitting and maritime security. His board portfolio included public agency governance and administration and administrative actions and litigation relating to the Port’s open meeting and public records programs.
Before coming to the Port, Joshua worked for nine years as an associate and counsel at Bingham McCutchen, LLP, a global law firm, specializing in land use, real estate, development, and local government law. There, he represented a wide array of governmental agencies, Fortune 500 companies, landowners, and developers in real estate transactions, due diligence, land acquisition, planning, land use entitlement, environmental review and processing, project permitting, the political process, administrative appeals, litigation, development and construction, and property management and disposition.
Joshua is also an author and nationally recognized advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. His 7-year legal odyssey to free an innocent woman from prison was featured in the award-winning documentary film Crime After Crime, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The film won over 25 awards, including the National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Safran has also received numerous awards and national media coverage for his pro bono advocacy work. His critically-acclaimed memoir, FREE SPIRIT: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid (Hachette), about his childhood on the dark side of the Age of Aquarius, has been called a “beautiful, powerful memoir. . . reminiscent of David Sedaris’s and Augusten Burroughs’s best work: introspective, hilarious, and heartbreaking” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and "a remarkable account of survival despite the odds" (Kirkus Reviews).
Joshua received his Juris Doctor with a Certificate of Specialization in Environmental Law from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) in 2001. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College in 1997 with a triple major in Politics, Environmental Studies, and Judaic/Near Eastern Studies.