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Steve helps private and public clients obtain and defend land use entitlements.

Steve assists Seattle’s Major Institutions (hospitals, universities and colleges) in obtaining master plan approvals as well as project-level permits. Steve also litigates land use, environmental, real estate and general matters in tribunals ranging from local hearing examiners to state administrative bodies to courts.

Community Activities

  • Bayview Manor Retirement Community
    • Case Development Committee, Member
    • Citizens’ Advisory Board, Member
  • Downtown Seattle Association, Urban Experience Committee
  • Parents for a Better Downtown Seattle, Steering Committee member
  • Seattle Parks District Citizen Oversight Committee member



  • Assisted two private medical centers in Seattle, Washington navigate the multi-year Major Institution Master Plan process that culminates in the Seattle City Council action to approve growth, allowing each facility to construct more than one million new square feet of hospital space.
  • Advised a private university in Seattle, Washington in obtaining its major institution master plan approval, which establishes the zoning to implement a 20-year vision for campus development.  Assisted the university in securing project-level permits for its first project under the plan, a 280-bed student housing facility.
  • Advised the University of Washington regarding national, state and local landmarks regulation for construction of the new Computer Science and Engineering building, the Paul Allen Center.
  • Assisted CoU, LLC, a Seattle-area private real estate developer, in securing entitlements for Data1, an innovative office project that is home to Tableau Software. The building won the NAIOP award for “Best Office Development of the Year” in 2017.
  • Assisted a Seattle-area developer with entitlements for a 40-story project featuring two residential towers atop a podium with ground-level retail, parking and commercial space.  The project raised novel questions of how Seattle’s tower separation requirement works in practice.
  • Helped a local developer navigate the City of Seattle’s Master Use Permit process, including design review, to entitle a new mixed-use project in West Seattle that will deliver a 108-unit apartment complex over a local grocery store and below-grade parking.
  • Represented a Regional Transit Authority in litigation arising out of a local government’s attempt to delay project commencement.
  • Represented a nonprofit affordable housing developer in the City of Seattle’s Master Use Permit process, including design review, to entitle construction of more than 200 units of transit-oriented apartments in Seattle’s University District. 
  • Represented a port district in obtaining an $8 million jury verdict against a county for tortious interference, as well as successfully defending the award on appeal before the Court of Appeals.
  • Assisted a private university in obtaining federal, state and local entitlements, including a shoreline variance from the state Department of Ecology, to construct new sports facilities on campus.
  • Represented a private developer in obtaining and defending a Master Use Permit entitling a one-million-square-foot mixed-use development in downtown Seattle.  The project includes three levels of retail, a 12-story hotel, 750,000 square feet of office and more than 200 residential units.

News & Insights

News & Insights


Seattle's Inclusionary Zoning Scheme May Face Challenges, Law360, April 2019

Seattle City Council Approves Upzones in Urban Villages Citywide, in Exchange for Mandatory Housing Affordability, Foster Pepper News Alert, March 2019

Regional Real Estate Practice Guide: Washington, Chambers USA: Regional Real Estate guide, 2018

Washington Supreme Court: Pre-1969 Shoreline Fill is Safe from the Public Trust Doctrine, Foster Pepper News Alert, March 2018

The Seattle City Council Upzones Downtown, South Lake Union, and University District in Exchange for Mandatory Housing Affordability, Foster Pepper News Alert, April 2017

Washington Supreme Court Levels the Playing Field in Real Estate and Land Use Litigation, Foster Pepper News Alert, June 2015

Seattle may have an affordable option for a downtown school, Op-Ed,, June 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Expands Scope of Takings Clause, Foster Pepper News Alert, June 2013


You Stonewalled my Gravel Mine! HMMM...LUPA Appeal or Damages Action?, Washington State Bar Association Environmental & Land Use Law Section Midyear Conference, May 2019

Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) Updates, KCBA Environmental & Land Use Section: How Does Our Work Affect the Future Development of Greater Seattle?, April 2019

Affordable housing: Seattle's substantive SEPA solution, 15th Annual Seminar on SEPA/NEPA, January 2018

Recent Developments: Land Use, Foster Pepper 2017 Real Estate/Land Use Briefing: Essential Industry Updates, November 2017

Special Consideration in Project Development Planning, 2017 Environmental and Land Use Law Section Midyear Meeting & Conference, Washington State Bar Association, May 2017

Land Use Hot Topics, Foster Pepper 2016 Real Estate/Land Use Briefing: Essential Industry Updates, November 2016

Land Use Hot Topics, Foster Pepper 2015 Land Use/Real Estate Briefing: Essential Industry Updates, October 2015

Current Constraints on Developers and the Impact on Commercial Brokers, Commercial Brokers Association, May 2015

Constitutional and Statutory Limitations on Funding Society's Needs Through Development Fees, Focus on an Ever-Shifting Landscape: Annual Spring Real Estate Update, WSBA Real Property, Probate and Trust Section, April 2015

Case Update: Important Lessons from Recent Washington Cases, Foster Pepper 2014 Land Use/Real Estate Briefing: New Regulatory Developments and their Impact on the Future of Land Use and Real Estate, November 2014

Shoreline Master Program Updates: What Effect on Shoreline Properties?, 2012 Land Use & Environmental Seminar, October 2012

Legislative Update, Land Use/Environmental Group Seminar, May 2011

Hoods and Woods: Land Use and Environmental Law at Foster Pepper, Firm Survey Training Course CLE, November 2010

SEPA and GMA Integration – Where the Law Meets the Land, State Environmental Policy Act Seminar, CLE, June 2010

Land Use Case Law and Legislative Update, 2010 Real Estate & Land Use Seminar, April 2010

Land Use and Environmental Law at Foster Pepper – Why Steve Gillespie’s Job is Better than Whatever it is You Do, Firm Survey Training Course CLE, December 2009

Recent Land Use Cases and Legislation, 2009 Real Estate & Land Use Seminar, April 2009

SEPA and GMA Integration – Where the Law Meets the Land, State Environmental Policy Act Seminar, CLE, March 2009


  • Washington, 2007
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington, 2012
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, 2010


  • J.D., University of Washington School of Law, 2007
    • Washington Law Review, Managing Editor
    • Order of the Coif
  • B.S., University of Washington, Mechanical Engineering, 1997

Honors & Recognition

The Best Lawyers in America© Land Use and Zoning Law, 2018-2020

Rising Star, Washington Super Lawyers list, 2013-2017

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