Photo of Nicholas R. Ghirelli

Nicholas Ghirelli

Shareholder | Orange County


Nick is an experienced public agency attorney who advises on a wide range of transactional, land use, and compliance matters, with a special focus on NPDES permitting and stormwater compliance. Nick is the assistant chair of the Environmental Department and Public Law Department at Richards, Watson & Gershon.

Work for Clients

Nick serves as City Attorney for the cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Seal Beach, and as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Agoura Hills.  In his capacity as city attorney, Nick has negotiated development agreements for a variety of projects and advises on all types of CEQA documents. 

He serves as General Counsel for the Gateway Water Management Authority and Southeast Water Coalition, two Los Angeles-based joint powers authorities. Nick also provides legal counsel to the Contra Costa Clean Water Program, which administers a county-wide stormwater program on behalf of its member agencies.

Professional Experience

From 2007 through 2010, Nick worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein as a member of her legislative staff in Washington D.C.

During law school, Nick externed with the Honorable R. Gary Klausner at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and clerked for the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney. He graduated Order of the Coif and was also a Senior Research Editor for the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.

Professional and Community Affiliations

Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association

Member, California Stormwater Quality Association

City Attorneys Department representative, League of California Cities Environmental Quality Policy Committee (2021-2022)

Parliamentarian, League of California Cities (2022-2023)

Inland Empire Division Representative, League of California Cities Legal Advocacy Committee (2023-2025)



Nick has substantial experience representing municipal clients on stormwater (MS4) regulation and compliance matters relating to the Clean Water Act and Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.  He represented a diverse group of cities in Los Angeles County in litigation involving the 2012 Los Angeles County Stormwater Permit and then advised on the reissuance of the permit in 2021.

Nick assisted the City of Rancho Cucamonga in negotiating a complex real estate transaction to facilitate the development of a privately-owned high-speed rail station at the Cucamonga Metrolink Station.  In connection with that transaction, Nick obtained a successful determination that the City’s land sale to the high-speed rail developer is exempt from the Surplus Land Act. 

Nick has been involved in drafting and negotiating agreements for major development and public works projects, including agreements between the City of Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority governing construction of the Purple Line Subway Extension.



Nick regularly presents on the Brown Act and Public Records Act for the City Clerks Association of California

  • CSDA Special District Leadership Academy, San Diego, 04.16.2024
  • CSDA Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 11.08.2023
  • Event // The Brown Act in a Modern World
    CSDA Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 11.08.2023
  • Presentation // Recent Updates to the Brown Act and Social Media Usage
    CSDA's Special District Leadership Academy, 09.2022
  • Presentation // Understanding California’s Prohibition on Gifts of Public Funds
    California Special Districts Association 2021 Board Secretary/Clerk’s Conference, 10.2021
  • Event // How to Collect Unpaid Bills: New Restrictions on Discontinuing Water Serivce Under SB 998
    California Special Districts Association Webinar, 03.11.2020
  • Event // Stormwater Update
    ACC-OC (Association of California Cities Orange County) Energy, Environment & Water Committee, 03.02.2020
  • Event // Understanding Public Service Ethics Laws and Principles (AB 1234) Training for the New Mayors & Council Members Academy
    League of California Cities 2020 New Mayors and Council Members Academy, 01.24.2020
  • California City Clerks Association's Annual "Nuts and Bolts" Seminars
  • Presentation // Untangling the Law: Important Legal Updates for Board Secretaries and Clerks
    California Special Districts Association’s Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 11.13.2019
  • California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 11.25-28.2019
  • Presentation // Los Angeles County MS4 Permit Litigation Update
    City Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles County Retreat, 03.15.2019
  • Presentation // How to Build and Maintain the Public’s Trust: Practical Ethics and the Law (AB 1234)
    League of California Cities Planning Commissioners Academy, 03.06.2019



J.D., cum laude, Order of the Coif, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

B.A., with honors, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Richards, Watson & Gershon delivers practical advice and solutions tailored to the unique needs of public entities. Working seamlessly across offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Temecula, the Central Coast, and Sacramento, and our dedicated team of experts provides the full scope of public law services.

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