Former city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, whose term was marked by what has become a Downtown development boom, has joined the real estate division of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.
As Special Counsel in the law firm’s Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice Group, Ahn will work out of the firm’s Los Angeles office, focusing on land use matters, including advising developers on entitlements.
He will also work on the San Francisco-based firm’s commercial leasing, dispositions, and acquisitions, along with forming legal entities and company legal structuring.
Ahn will remain president of the L.A.’s Cannabis Regulation Commission, a 2017 appointment by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Ahn, who was one of nine members on the Planning Commission, served from 2013 to 2017; Garcetti also appointed him to that post. His time at the commission was marked by a ramping up in development activity, as the real estate industry continued to accelerate following the Recession.
Before working for the city, he handle real estate transactions as an private attorney. He left that work during the Recession to join his family real estate firm, Western Investments and Properties, which mostly owns retail assets in Southern California.
The commission approved numerous high-rise construction proposals in Downtown L.A. during that period, as well as hundreds of new projects citywide. Developers filed 281 projects in 2016 alone.
“I learned a lot. I got a lot of insight into the planning process and we were on the front lines of development,” Ahn said on Thursday. “I got to watch the trends in the industry.”
Ahn’s foray into politics came in 2017, when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat to represent the 34th District. It covers Koreatown, Downtown L.A. and north to Highland Park.