Dawn McIntosh


Dawn McIntosh has two decades of in-depth land use and environmental law expertise, including extensive litigation experience in both state and federal courts.  She represents public and private clients in both litigation and transactional matters dealing with complex land uses, water law and water rights, constitutional law, and compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and state and federal endangered species laws.

Prior to joining Meyers Nave, Dawn served as a senior legal advisor to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service), leveraging her previous experience as a biologist for the National Institutes of Health. For NOAA Fisheries Service, Dawn was lead attorney for matters involving regulatory compliance, endangered species, land use conflicts, NEPA, interagency and inter-jurisdictional issues, water rights and water quality, and the public trust doctrine. She represented the federal agency in CALFED proceedings, negotiations with state and other federal agencies, and hearings before state boards, including the State Water Resources Control Board and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Since joining Meyers Nave in 2006, Dawn has been representing public and private clients on compliance with CEQA, NEPA, and state and federal endangered species laws, as well as advising on issues regarding energy and natural resources, complex land use, water law and water rights, and constitutional law involving civil rights claims and Fifth Amendment takings. In 2015, Dawn first-chaired a nationally publicized 11-day trial that involved testimony from 18 witnesses, including the Mayor of Sacramento and the majority owner of the Sacramento Kings NBA team, more than 150 exhibits and the presentation of an administrative record. Dawn’s win in Gonzalez v. Johnson (Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, Case No. 34-2014-80001489) overcame the last legal challenge to the new $477 million downtown arena that will serve as the home of the Kings. The case focused on (1) claims of a “secret subsidy,” fraud, illegality and waste of public funds and (2) a reverse validation claim challenging the City’s issuance of bonds for the project under the Marks-Roos Local Bond Pooling Act of 1985. Plaintiffs dismissed their case in exchange for a waiver of costs after the court's proposed Statement of Decision found that plaintiffs "failed to meet their burden of proof on any of their causes of action."

Dawn is a frequent speaker and author on key regulatory and legal issues, including those involving the Endangered Species Act and California Environmental Quality Act, for publications such as the Daily Journal and organizations such as the Los Angeles County Bar and the American Planning Association. She has served as the American Bar Association Chair of both the Endangered Species Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Litigation Committee.

Dawn is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all U.S. district courts in California, and all California state courts.


Published Decisions

  • Zubarau v. City of Palmdale (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 289, 2011 Daily Journal D.A.R. 1655 [land use, federal preemption]
  • PR/JSM Rivara v. Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (2010) 180 Cal.App.4th 1475 [redevelopment; density bonus]
  • Gammoh v. La Habra (9th Cir. 2005) 395 F.3d 1114 (9th Cir. 2005), amended 402 F.3d 875 cert. denied 126 S.Ct. 374. [constitutionality of zoning regulations]
  • Morris v. United States (2004) 392 F.3d 1372 [Endangered Species Act and takings]
  • Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District et al. v. United States, 49 Fed.Cl. 313 (Fed.Cl. 2001) [water rights, endangered species, takings]

Honors and Awards

  • Recipient, Phoenix Award, American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy and Resources, 2009

Presentations and Publications

  • Co-Author, Build the Arena, and Lawsuits will Come, Daily Journal, August 20, 2015
  • “The Endangered Species Act and Its Application to Oil and Gas Exploration and Production,” HalfMoon Seminar, 2010
  • “Endangered Species Act Compliance for Oil and Gas Operations,” West Coast Land Institute, 2008
  • “Land Use Planning and the Endangered Species Act,” ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources Fall Meeting, 2008
  • “Streamlining Compliance with the Endangered Species Act,” Los Angeles Association of Professional Landsmen, 2008
  • “Endangered Species Act Compliance: Typical Issues and How to Avoid Them,” Orange County Chapter of the International Right of Way Association, 2008
  • “Common Pitfalls of the Section 7 Consultation Process Under the Endangered Species Act,” ABA’s 34th Conference on Environmental Law, Keystone, Colorado, 2006
  • “Water, Property Rights and the Endangered Species Act - The Legacy of the Tulare Lake Decision. The $17,000,000 Shell Game, ABA Section of Environment,” Energy and Resources Fall Meeting, 2005
  • “Streamlining the Consultation Process Under the Endangered Species Act - How to Save Time and Money,” American Planning Association Annual Conference, San Francisco, California, 2005

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • Member, The State Bar of California
  • Prior Chair, American Bar Association’s Energy and Natural Resources Litigation Committee
  • Prior Chair, American Bar Association’s Endangered Species Committee
  • Member, American Bar Association, Section on Environment, Energy and Resources - Strategic Planning Committee


  • University of California at Davis, King Hall School of Law, JD, 1992
  • University of Maryland, BS, Marine Biology, 1988