rwgWhitney G. McDonald
Whitney G. McDonaldSenior AttorneyCentral Coast







Whitney G. McDonald is a senior attorney at Richards, Watson & Gershon and a member of
the firm's Public Law Department and its Litigation Department. Ms. McDonald's practice encompasses all aspects of public entity representation, from public meetings and administrative and transactional matters to litigation in state and federal courts.

With an emphasis in land use and planning law, Ms. McDonald advises local governments in their review of development projects and enactment of general plan amendments and ordinances, as well as the defense of those actions in litigation. Her considerable land use background encompasses topics such as housing, mobilehome parks, mining, oil exploration, telecommunications, medical marijuana, rail transportation, and renewable energy, and includes expertise in the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and the substantive laws affecting the land use entitlement process. Ms. McDonald also brings a practiced knowledge of water law, including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the adjudication process. Her experience in both advisory and litigation capacities enables Ms. McDonald to work to achieve her clients' goals with an eye toward managed risk. She currently serves as General Counsel to the Nipomo Community Services District, which provides water, sewer, solid waste, and street lighting and maintenance to customers in southern San Luis Obispo County.

Ms. McDonald first joined RWG in 2007. In 2010, she relocated to the Central Coast and worked as a Deputy County Counsel for the County of San Luis Obispo. In her five years at the County, Ms. McDonald advised the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and Department of Planning and Building on land use matters, often in the midst of significant controversy and public scrutiny. Ms. McDonald then successfully defended those decisions in writ actions at the Superior Court and Court of Appeal. Ms. McDonald returned to the firm in 2016 to head its Central Coast office.

Before her time at the County of San Luis Obispo, Ms. McDonald was an associate in the firm's Litigation Department where she represented the cities of Highland, Palmdale, Palm Desert, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Upland in litigation and code enforcement matters.

Ms. McDonald's representative appellate and writ cases include:

City of Palmdale v. Palmdale Water District, 198 Cal.App.4th 926 (2011). Published Court of Appeal decision holding that a water rate increase that disproportionately impacted irrigation customers like the City violated Proposition 218.

Excelaron v. County of San Luis Obispo,
2d Civil No. B248051 (Cal. Ct. App. July 24, 2014). Unpublished Court of Appeal decision upholding the dismissal of $6.24 billion lawsuit challenging the denial of a use permit for an oil exploration project.

Agriculture, Business & Labor Educational Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (COLAB) v. County of San Luis Obispo, 2d Civil Co. B233805 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2012). Unpublished Court of Appeal decision upholding the use of a Negative Declaration under CEQA to enact smart growth amendments to the County's general plan.

Paso Robles Water Integrity Network v. County of San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, Case No. CV138391 (Ruling filed January 12, 2014). Trial Court decision denying a challenge to interim zoning ordinances that imposed limitations on the use of groundwater extracted from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.


B.A., High Honors, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2001
J.D., University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, 2006

Practice Areas

Energy and Natural Resources
Land Use, Planning & Zoning
Public Agency and Municipal Law
Water Rights and Water Law