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Howard N. Ellman

Howard N. Ellman

Partner Emeritus


  • Real Estate
  • Land Use

WSG Practice Industries


California, U.S.A.


Howard N. Ellman has practiced law since 1960, concentrating in the areas of real estate, land use, and environmental regulation. Mr. Ellman handles transactions and litigation involving such diverse matters as constitutional rights of property owners and others, property transfers, development, environmental regulation, endangered species, debtor/creditor’s rights, real property security (loan agreements, mortgages, deeds of trust, etc.), development joint ventures, real estate investment entities, water law, conservation easements, and habitat plans.

Mr. Ellman has served as lead counsel on numerous high-profile projects. These include representing AT&T in the complex real estate aspects of the telephone divestiture in 11 western states, representing developers of major high-rise office projects, shopping centers, and other similar developments in an urban context from the initial acquisition, through the entitlement process, financing, construction, leasing and sale. He has also handled major litigation, including successful defense of a lender in a $250 million lender liability case and presentation of cases in the United States Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, and the California Courts of Appeal.

A recognized expert in his field, Mr. Ellman has spoken and taught extensively on the subject of real estate and land use law. He served as a Visiting Lecturer in Law at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley; an Adjunct Professor at Stanford School of Law where he taught a seminar on advanced real estate problems, and various advanced real estate and land security courses at Golden Gate University School of Law. He has also been a guest lecturer at John Muir College, University of California at San Diego. Mr. Ellman has been a lecturer and panelist in continuing legal education programs on real estate, land use, condominium/planned-unit development, and construction financing sponsored by the California Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), the University of California Extension, American Law Institute/American Bar Association (ALI/ABA) Joint Committee on Legal Education and Practicing Law Institute (PLI). He has spoken at many programs offered by business and professional associations. He is also a published author having written an historical novel set in the Thirteenth Century.

An active participant in California’s real estate community, Mr. Ellman owned and operated a rice farm in the Sacramento valley for 15 years and has been active in water and conservation issues. He is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (Real Property, Probate and Trust, Environmental and Agricultural Law sections), the Bar Association of San Francisco, the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, and the Northern California Water Association.

Mr. Ellman, who is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale Hubbell, has been recognized as a 2014 Top Rated Lawyer by American Lawyer Media. He is recognized by Chambers USA as a leader in the field of Real Estate and Land Use. He has also been recognized twelve times as one of Northern California’s Super Lawyers (2004 to 2016) including Super Lawyers’ Corporate Counsel Edition (2009, 2010) and was selected as a 2012 San Francisco Best Lawyer. Most recently, Mr. Ellman was recognized by Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Land Use & Zoning, Real Estate Litigation, and Real Estate Law, an honor he has received since 1983.

Bar Admissions

  • California


  • Stanford Law School
  • University of Illinois Committee on Accountancy
  • Northwestern University
Areas of Practice

Land Use | Real Estate


Buchalter COVID-19 Client Alert: San Francisco Moves to Lowest COVID Tier in California, Begins Process of Reopening Non-Essential Offices; Other Bay Area Counties Slower to Follow
Buchalter, November 2020

On October 20, 2020, San Francisco County was upgraded to the “minimal” tier within the California COVID-19 tracking system, meaning it has the fewest restrictions on reopening all businesses as promulgated by the State of California. In order to qualify for the “minimal” tier, a county must have an infection rate of less than one daily new positive COVID case per 100,000 residents and have a positive test rate of less than 2% for two consecutive weeks...

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