100 Years of Advancing Destinations

John Lambeth


President, Civitas

Mr. Lambeth, president of Civitas, is a California attorney who specializes in property and business improvement districts. He has extensive experience working with cities, counties and business and property owners to create public-private partnerships. Some of his many notable accomplishments include successful formation of tourism improvement districts in Kona, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and San Diego, California. Since forming California’s first property and business improvement district in 1995, he has assisted with the formation and renewal of over 125 improvement districts, including 74 tourism districts. Mr. Lambeth has also taken the business improvement district concept abroad, working on legislation and districts in El Salvador and Brazil.

Throughout his career, Mr. Lambeth has extensively studied existing special district laws throughout the United States. He has used this broad knowledge to write laws enabling special districts in California, Nevada and Hawaii. As the needs of his clients have evolved, Mr. Lambeth has remained involved in the legislative process, drafting amendments to update existing business improvement district laws. Recently, Mr. Lambeth was instrumental in the drafting and adoption of AB 483, to protect DMO funding for the travel industry in California. This intimate knowledge of the law has also allowed Mr. Lambeth to engage in many speaking endeavors, including presenting at many conferences including: the California Downtown Association, International Downtown Association, Visit England’s Economic Forum, Maringa, Brazil’s Symposium, ISHAE, DMAI, CalTravel, US Travel and the Association of Town & City Management’s conference in Ballymena, Ireland. In addition to his speaking engagements, Mr. Lambeth has authored several articles on business improvement districts and tourism improvement districts. Last year, Mr. Lambeth was awarded the 2014 Cal Travel Promotion and Advancement of Tourism Award.

Mr. Lambeth takes a very active role in every aspect of the formation and renewal of special districts. He is an expert at building consensus among disparate owners, developing systems to measure results, undertaking ballot and petition processes, and developing successful service plans and budgets. He has successfully guided cities, counties and owners through the process of forming highly customized districts meeting the unique needs of each area.

He and his firm have authored two ground-breaking studies on tourism districts. In 2014, a study of tourism district enabling laws across the United States was completed, for the US Travel Association. In 2010 and 2014, intensive surveys of tourism districts, covering everything from the formation process to results, was conducted.

Mr. Lambeth is and has been involved with many civic and governmental organizations. He has served as Chairman of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Sacramento County Planning Commission and been appointed by two California governors to the position of Chair of the Capitol Area Committee.

Mr. Lambeth studied philosophy and political science at Claremont McKenna College before earning his juris doctor, with distinction, from University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Lambeth served as clerk to the Honorable Malcolm M. Lucas, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.