Steven W. Abel

Steven W. Abel
Of Counsel
Portland, OR

About Steve

Steve Abel is Of Counsel to the firm and concentrates his practice in the areas of land use, natural resources and development law.

For the past 29 years he has represented private and public sector clients in the permitting and developing of major industrial, commercial, residential and mixed-use developments. Steve regularly seeks approval for development projects on behalf of clients before local governments, the State of Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), and the Oregon Court of Appeals. He also assists companies with economic development opportunities in new markets. Steve has a long and distinguished record of service on behalf of the city of Portland and the Oregon State Bar, including serving two four-year terms on the Portland Planning Commission and serving for six years on the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners. In his work on the Portland Planning Commission, he was able to promote a regulatory environment encouraging and facilitating redevelopment in the city. He is a frequent speaker on current land use legislation and case law impacting urban and rural lands in Oregon. In addition to numerous private sector clients, Steve serves as general counsel to Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland), which manages 14,000 units in the metropolitan area, with an annual budget of over $600 million.

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  • Achieved approval of a 450-acre mixed-use resort development located in Yamhill County, in the heart of Oregon's world famous pinot noir winemaking region. The resort includes residential, retail and resort facilities and will become Oregon's premier destination resort in wine country.
  • Successfully achieved master plan approval for a major regional shopping center in Portland allowing for redevelopment of a 1970s mall into a new urban shopping environment.
  • Successfully permitted numerous mining sites and processing facilities on resource land for the mining of chromite in southern Oregon. Successfully defended an appeal filed by opponents at LUBA.
  • Represented a local public school district in successfully obtaining approval for transportation facilities to serve the district's students in the face of significant local opposition. Successfully defended appeals before the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court.
  • Successfully obtained approvals for the expansion of McMenamins' Edgefield Resort to include additional golf facilities, hotel rooms and other visitor amenities.
  • Successfully obtained approval for two new public elementary schools in the face of significant local opposition.
  • Successfully represented two local private colleges in updating city-approved master plans allowing for expansion of college-related uses at the colleges.
  • Represented a national real estate developer in the entitlement of five new full-size city blocks in the South Waterfront for high-rise development. The South Waterfront is Portland's newest community attracting middle and upper income homeowners and major office tenants.
  • Successfully achieved permitting for a mining operation in Columbia County following 17 years of protracted litigation.
  • Successfully acquired vineyard land for a major winemaker in Yamhill Valley, allowing for substantial expansion of operations.
  • Successfully defended an appeal at LUBA on behalf of a consolidated group of 10 local governments implementing federally mandated stormwater requirements.
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Honors & Activities

Professional Honors & Activities

  • Named by Best Lawyers® as Litigation - Land Use & Zoning "Lawyer of the Year," Portland, 2017, and Land Use & Zoning Law "Lawyer of the Year," Portland, 2011 
  • Included in The Best Lawyers in America© (currently: Land Use & Zoning Law, Litigation-Land Use & Zoning), 2006-2018
  • Selected as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" (Oregon) by Chambers USA (currently: Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use), 2006-2017
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated with Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Member, Oregon State Bar Real Estate and Land Use Section
  • Member, Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, 1989-1992, 1996-1998

Civic Activities

  • President and commissioner, Portland Planning Commission, 1994-2002
  • Commissioner, Portland Landmarks Commission, 1992-1993
  • Board chairman, Sustainable Northwest, an organization promoting environmentally sound economic development in rural communities in the Pacific Northwest, 2006-2010
  • Treasurer, Legal Counsel and Board Member, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that manages downtown Portland's award-winning public square, 1990-1999
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Insights & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

Steve is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education seminars for lawyers on topics such as land use and sustainability. Recent presentations include:

  • "Oregon Floodplain Regulation in Flux," Dec. 2016
  • "Planning, Preparing and Presenting a Land Use Case," Dec. 2012
  • "Top Ten Land Use Surprises," Dec. 2010
  • "Owning and Operating a Winery, Brewery, or Distillery – Land Use Aspects," May 2010
  • "Vested Rights and Nonconforming Uses," Dec. 2009
  • "Basics of Land Use," The Best of Continuing Legal Education, Portland, Dec. 2008
  • "The Permitting Environment for Green Building," Going Green: Advising Clients in the New World of Sustainability, Portland, Apr. 2008

Related News & Publications

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