Steinfeld, Amy M.

Amy Steinfeld serves as office managing partner of the Santa Barbara office and co-chair of the firm’s Cannabis & Industrial Hemp industry group. Her unique practice focuses on the intersection of land use and water law. Amy has more than a decade of experience in the permitting and development of controversial projects throughout the state.

Amy has worked on cannabis-related issues in California since the passage of Proposition 64. She supports indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivators through the land use permitting and licensing process. This includes ensuring compliance with California’s complex land use, zoning, environmental and water laws. Amy also works closely with industry groups to educate the public and decision makers on issues facing the hemp and cannabis industries.

Additionally, Amy regularly advises water districts, regulated utilities, cities, developers and agricultural interests in all aspects of water law. Her work includes water rights permitting and due diligence, complex groundwater adjudications, water transfers, urban water management planning, water supply/demand evaluations, infrastructure development, and all other matters associated with the use, conveyance, development and management of surface water and groundwater supplies

Amy is skilled in all facets of land development, from the preparation of environmental documents, to the defense and settlement of complicated multi-party CEQA lawsuits, and ultimately to the implementation of fully permitted projects. Amy is recognized for her experience in Colorado River Issues, Endangered Species Act compliance and cannabis law. Amy’s broad understanding of environmental issues, her practical approach to the law and her ability to work closely with local governments allow her to efficiently move projects forward and reduce permitting delays. Amy writes and speaks regularly on water, land use and cannabis issues.

Amy is co-founder and co-chair of the California H2O Women Conference, which provides a formal opportunity to collaborate and coordinate with and educate and support women leaders in the water industry with the goal of empowering women to change the way we manage California’s and the world’s most important resource.

Before going into law, Amy served as the environmental director and an environmental consultant and analyst for the California Safety Compliance Corporation. She traveled to 37 countries to conduct social and environmental audits of factories for large manufacturing companies, and developed an environmental audit tool. When not at the office, Amy enjoys spending time with her son and taking photographs.

Representative Matters
  • Brownstein is assisting Cadiz, Inc. and Glass House Farms joint venture SoCal Hemp Co. in spearheading a pilot research program MOU to cultivate organic, sun-grown industrial hemp for both natural hemp and hemp-derived products including CBD. With Brownstein’s counsel, the project is potentially able to expand from its current operations to cultivate on up to 9,600 acres at the Cadiz Ranch in San Bernardino County, which would make it the largest vertically integrated, commercial hemp operation in the state of California.

  • Secured a ruling in the Sacramento Superior Court that validated the eleven year-old Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement and related agreements and secured a key component of long-term reliable water supply for San Diego County. Brownstein team's knowledge and experience of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) played a major role in the victory of this litigation.

  • On behalf of a national homebuilder, Brownstein obtained approval of the Water Supply Assessment, final Environmental Impact Report, General Plan Amendments and Specific Plan for development of a 1,500 acre-property in Southern California proposed to include 5,400 residential units and commercial uses.

  • Brownstein attorneys won a broad reversal of the trial court's judgment in the complex, coordinated Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) cases. The trial-court judgment invalidated twelve of the historic QSA-related agreements, but as a result of this appellate decision, the largest agriculture-to-urban water transfers in United States history, and numerous Colorado River programs that have been created by the United States and other Colorado River Basin states based on the QSA, will continue to be implemented while the remaining issues are decided on remand by the trial court.

  • Represented seller of Sacramento River water rights to the 2009 Drought Water Bank, including negotiation of water transfer agreement, acquisition of regulatory approvals and defense against environmental litigation. This water transfer was based on water conservation and groundwater substitution.

  • Trial counsel for one of California’s largest shareholder-owned public water suppliers in complex litigation to adjudicate and control the water resources in the Santa Maria groundwater basin. The case involved more than 1,000 parties who rely on local water resources and two federally-owned reservoirs. After eight years of litigation, the case was resolved through a settlement stipulation among the vast majority of the parties, thereby providing legal certainty with respect to the use and management of the resource.

  • Water rights counsel for a national land developer/home builder with respect to the water supply components of a proposed 5,000 home residential and commercial development in southern California. The project raised numerous water supply and water quality issues, including groundwater storage, replenishment and development, water transfers, conjunctive use, water re-use, flood protection and stormwater management.

  • Brownstein successfully negotiated a complex, multi-agency settlement of a water rights complaint alleging violations of the public trust and California Fish and Game Code section 5937, on behalf of one of California's largest wholesale water providers. The settlement provides a perpetual, multimillion-dollar program for the re-operation of numerous dams and associated water supply facilities on three watersheds, including flow enhancements, barrier removals and habitat restoration. Brownstein continues to provide legal support associated with obtaining all regulatory approvals of the settlement and its implementation.

  • Ongoing representation of multiple buyers and sellers of water rights in the Sacramento River system for negotiation and implementation of water transfers.

  • Representing developer for large multi-family real estate project in Napa County, California related to water supply and utility issues, including use of groundwater, water transfers, conjunctive use, and water reuse and recycling.

  • Advised a major California city on reorganization of its water, wastewater and solid waste utilities, including evaluation of dependent and independent special district, privatization and public-private partnership options and financing. Legal services were provided in conjunction with financial consultants to advise the city on developing an option to meet its short and long term financial goals and commitments.

  • Lead Counsel, Lake Arrowhead Enforcement Hearing, State Water Resources Control Board (November 2005) representing the Arrowhead Lake Association.

  • Counsel to a cannabis cultivator in challenging a County Ordinance which threatened to limit hoop house usage in key cultivation areas. Hoop houses, or temporary greenhouses, are essential tools for California Central Coast agriculture which yield resource savings as well as extend the growing season. Along with industry colleagues, Brownstein’s efforts helped deliver a compromise which exempts most hoops on actively cultivated land from prohibitive land use and building codes.

  • Successfully defended cannabis cultivator against appeal of an approved County land use permit for outdoor cannabis cultivation. Ultimately, the project secured a unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors for a 22-acre outdoor cannabis farm, one of the largest operational, fully-permitted cannabis farms in California. Defending against the appeal required successful demonstration that cannabis farms can co-exist with traditional farms, including vineyards and tasting rooms and educating the public and decision makers on the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable, sun grown cannabis farming.

News & Events

ACWA Legal Affairs Committee, 2018-2019

Board of Directors, Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition

Board of Advisors, California Water Law & Policy Reporter

Secretary, Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, 2008-2013 

Photo Editor, Santa Barbara Lawyer Magazine Editorial Board, 2007

Guest Lecturer, Global Studies, “Social and Environmental Compliance,” Santa Barbara City College

Publications & Presentations
  • J.D., 2005, with honors, University of Colorado Law School
  • B.A., 2000, cum laude, University of California, Los Angeles
  • California, 2005
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Pacific Coast Business Times, Most Influential People in the Region, 2020

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Energy and Environment, 2018

Water & Wastes Digest, Young Water Professionals Award, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Top 50 Women in Business & Editor's Choice, 2017

Pacific Coast Business Times, Who's Who in Professional Services, 2016

Pacific Coast Business Times, 40 Under 40, 2013

Contributing Editor, Association of California Water Agencies' Summary of Appellate Cases Decided by the Court, 2008-2010

Lead Articles Editor, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, University of Colorado School of Law, 2004-2005

President, Environmental Law Society, University of Colorado School of Law, 2003-2004


International Cannabis Bar Association

Santa Barbara Women Lawyers

Santa Barbara County Bar Association