Mr. Gross’s career has focused on developing innovative approaches in community economic development, including community benefit agreements (CBAs) – legally-binding private agreements to deliver economic benefits to local residents as part of land use development in urban settings. After graduating from Berkeley Law, Mr. Gross was awarded a Skadden Fellowship and worked at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center of San Francisco for almost five years. In 1998, he started a solo practice based in San Francisco. “I was raised by two public-sector professionals who infused me with a ‘Great Society’-style belief in the importance of government, so I knew that I wanted to pursue public law for a long time,” said Mr. Gross. “I started working with local government to deliver benefits for low-income communities through my fellowship in the 1990s, and I have essentially continued that work to this day. The work of government has never been more important than it is now, during this terrible crisis.”
Mr. Gross has cemented his reputation as the nation’s leading expert on CBAs by negotiating dozens of agreements in cities across California and the nation. His most recent negotiation delivered a set of agreements between community groups and developers in San Francisco’s “Hub” district, ensuring affordable housing and related community benefits and resolving entrenched public disputes.
“Julian brings confidence to challenging situations, creates clear decision pathways through the gray areas and finds the way forward,” said Amie Fishman, Executive Director at the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. “He is the go-to thought partner and strategic legal advisor for all those who are fighting for racial and economic justice, community economic development and the public interest.”
Mr. Gross has expanded his practice in recent years to include public entities that are interested in proactively addressing equity issues by delivering community benefits. Mr. Gross’s public sector clients have included numerous cities and public authorities in the Bay Area and around the country, the State of California and the University of California – San Francisco. Mr. Gross represented the City of Oakland in negotiating a groundbreaking set of agreements related to local jobs in the $500 million redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base, including a project labor agreement, employer jobs policies and agreements with numerous community advocates.
“I’ve worked with Julian on several projects and always appreciate how he invests the effort to understand his clients’ motivations, limits and strengths,” said Gloria Bruce, Executive Director of East Bay Housing Organizations. “His analysis and guidance are keenly tailored to advance our values and goals. With the knowledge we gained from working with Julian, our ‘small but mighty’ organization became even more of a force to be reckoned with.”
Mr. Gross recently served as the inaugural James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow at PolicyLink, a national institute focused on racial and economic equity. He also founded the Community Benefits Law Center at the Partnership for Working Families.
Mr. Gross taught contract drafting and negotiation at the University of California – Hastings College of the Law and has lectured on a variety of topics at Stanford Law School, Yale Law School, Columbia University, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, UC Berkeley, UC Hastings, New York University and McGill University.
Outside of his lectures, Mr. Gross is no stranger to being on stage. He is regularly featured as a guitarist at jazz clubs in San Francisco and Oakland, playing several nights a month in non-quarantine times.
“Incorporating my solo practice into the larger team at RPLG is an exciting step,” said Mr. Gross. “I’m looking forward to learning from the firm’s other lawyers, who are really the best at what they do.
RPLG practices throughout California, advising and advocating for public agencies, nonprofit entities, individuals and private entities in need of effective, responsive and creative legal solutions.