Jan Chatten-Brown dedicates her energies to environmental law


Jan Chatten-Brown is the founding partner of the environmental law firm Chatten-Brown & Carstens. The firm represents environmental and community groups, as well as governmental agencies, seeking to enforce environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, General Plans, and other land-use laws. Before entering private practice, Jan worked in various governmental law offices for 21 years, including the California Attorney General’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. She has twice been named as one of the top 100 women litigators in California.

In addition to her law practice, Jan has served on numerous environmental boards. She was president of the Coalition for Clean Air for many years, and more recently president of the Sierra Nevada Alliance. She serves as a vice president of the Planning & Conservation League in Sacramento. She has taught environmental and land-use law at UCLA and USC.

She and her husband, Jack, moved to La Jolla in April 2011, living above the Village while building a house in Bird Rock. They hope the house will receive the top-green LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating for sustainable home design and construction.

What brought you to La Jolla?

When our younger son and his wife made it clear that they would be starting a family, we decided it was time to move. Even though we had enjoyed living in Pacific Palisades for 21 years, we were also tired of the traffic, and had fallen in love with the beauty of La Jolla and the accessibility of its attractions.

What are your favorite places to go in La Jolla?

Almost every day I walk my dog, often along the nature trail paralleling Prospect Street, down to watch the sea lions. My husband and I love the quality and accessibility of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the Birch Aquarium, as well as walking to the many excellent restaurants that La Jolla has to offer.

What might you add to improve La Jolla?

The large tower along Coast Drive would never have been built if the Coastal Act had already passed. It is a shame that public visual access for many was blocked to benefit the few. Also, it would be great to reduce the vegetation along Torrey Pines that blocks Cove views. I understand that there is a plan to do so, which is great.

The last thing would be to see a restoration of the historic buildings across from Scripps Park, that are now being allowed to be demolished by neglect.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by people of passion who work to better their communities or all humanity, and especially by those with the foresight to understand how precious and fragile our environment is, and how critical it is to the quality of our lives.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt for creating National Parks, America’s best idea; Amory Lovins for articulating why it is economically smart, as well as the right thing to do, to reduce greenhouse gases; Hillary Clinton for her persistence in seeking conflict resolution and advocacy for reducing deadly soot in the daily lives of the poor worldwide; Jane Goodall for inspiring an understanding of the relationship among species; Aung San Sui Kyi for her incredible advocacy and her courage; Einstein, not just for his brilliance, but also for his understanding of the role of humans in the cosmos; and Michelangelo, for his extraordinary creative powers.

Tell us about what you are reading.

“A Passion for Nature: a Biography of John Muir,” the title tells it all, except it does not tell in detail the sad story of the damming of the Hetch Hetchy, destroying the twin valley to Yosemite Valley.

What would be your dream vacation?

We have twice been fortunate enough to go to Africa, and I very much want to go back. When we came back the first time, I told a friend how moving it was — not just the animals, but also the people. He conjectured that we must be hard-wired, since Africa is the cradle of modern man.

What are your favorite movies of all time?

I must admit that I may never tire of seeing “Gone with the Wind. “ It does seem the classics are generally better than recent Hollywood films. “The African Queen” is one of my favorites. Of course, I adored “Out of Africa,” too. “Gandhi,” with a perfect performance by Ben Kingsley, tells the story of one of the men that I most respect. “Amadeus” was so much fun, and yet so tragic.

What is your most-prized possession?

My most-prized possession is time spent with our sons, their two wives, and our four beautiful grandchildren.

What is your philosophy of life?

Personally, I feel an obligation to try to leave this beautiful Earth a better place, and I hope everyone shares this goal.