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William J. Bernfeld

Fax +1.310.552.5001

Mr. Bernfeld focuses his practice on real estate and commercial law. He counsels clients in the areas of finance, acquisitions/dispositions, leasing, development, troubled real estate, and creditors’ rights. A more detailed description is set forth below. Prior to becoming a real estate and commercial law practitioner, Mr. Bernfeld was a bankruptcy lawyer representing debtors, creditors, and Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 trustees.

Finance: Permanent, construction, and distressed property financing transactions secured by all types of real property located throughout California, shared appreciation loans on behalf of both lenders and borrowers, and whole loan acquisitions and dispositions. Commercial and asset-based lending transactions on behalf of institutional clients for all industry types.

Acquisitions/dispositions: The acquisition and disposition of office, industrial, multi-family, and retail projects, including the acquisition of land intended for development of office and retail uses, the acquisition and disposition of portfolios of both industrial-grade and REO properties, and sale lease-back transactions.

Leasing: Office, shopping center, and other retail leasing (including leases with national retail tenants), industrial (including major leases for publicly traded manufacturing concerns), build-to-suit leases, and restaurant leases.

Development: The transactional elements of various development projects, including negotiation and drafting of CC&Rs, development agreements, development and disposition agreements, construction contracts and architects’ agreements, long-term ground leases, and appearances in land use matters before the Zoning Administrator and Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Los Angeles.

Troubled Real Estate: Advice concerning real estate projects that must be restructured, refinanced, or liquidated, including representation of both lenders and borrowers regarding nonperforming or poorly performing loans and structuring of sophisticated workouts and rearrangements of relationships.

Creditors’ Rights: Receivership, foreclosure, attachment, claim and delivery, relief from the automatic stay, and assignments for the benefit of creditors.


Mr. Bernfeld was selected for inclusion in the Southern California Super Lawyers by Los Angeles Magazine for 10 of the past 11 years.

Professional/Civic Activities

  • Fellow, American College of Mortgage Attorneys
  • Member, Real Property Advisory Committee, California Continuing Education of the Bar, 2015-2016
  • Executive Committee, Real Property Law Section, State Bar of California, 2008-2013, Vice Chair 2010-2011, Advisor, 2011-2013
  • Vice Chair, Real Estate & Construction Division, United Jewish Federation, 2009-2011
  • Member, Commercial Real Estate Finance Council
  • Member, California Receiver’s Forum
  • Board Member, Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum, 1987 - 1991
  • Executive Committee, Los Angeles Mortgage Association

Speaking Engagements

Mr. Bernfeld has moderated panels and lectured extensively on various topics involving commercial real estate for numerous organizations, including:

  • Capital Marketplace West (co-sponsored by International Council of Shopping Centers, NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and Los Angeles Mortgage Association), "Workouts: Migrating the Current Climate of Workouts in an Era of Tranched Debt, Limited Liquidity and Bank Takeovers" (2010)
  • CRE Finance Council, West Coast High Yield Real Estate Finance Summit, “Raising the Roof: Mezz Debt” (2014)
  • Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of California (Panel Moderator), “The Rise after the Fall in the CMBS World: Restructuring Securitized Debt” (2010); “Real Estate—The Anatomy of Defaulted CMBS Loans” (2011); “Financial Institutions Senior Executive Roundtable” (2012); “The New Normal: Financial Executive Roundtable on Current Trends” (2013); “Financial Executives Roundtable--Back to the Future; the Real Estate Recovery and Lessons Learned" (2014); 5th Annual Real Estate Executives Roundtable (2015); 6th Annual Real Estate Executives Roundtable (2016)
  • California Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Commercial Real Estate Finance Conference, "Is All Investing a Crapshoot" (2006); "High Octane Lending" - Mezzanine Lending Concurrent Session (2007); "What's Hot and What's Not" - Retail Lending Concurrent Session (2008); "Special Servicing - What to Expect" (2009)
  • Trigild Lender Conference, "Special Challenges and Solutions - Unfinished Developments and Conversions" (2009)
  • Los Angeles Mortgage Association, “When Will the Bid Meet the Ask” (2009); “Strategies for Dealing with Non-Performing Assets” (2010 Multi-Family Conference)
  • Century City Westside Real Estate Conference, "How High is the Sky" (2003 - 2008)
  • Real Property Section of the Orange County Bar Association, "New Truth in Lending Requirements in Residential Sale Transactions"
  • Annual Convention, State Bar of California, "Creative Financing -- Peaks and Pitfalls"
  • Partnership UCLA, “A Day in the Life -- Private Sector” (2016)
  • Lorman Educational Services, "Commercial Real Estate Financing in California"
  • Best Seminars and Publications, "Residential Real Estate Transactions"
  • Mortgage Institute of California, "Creative Financing"
  • Author of California Civil Code § 2938.1, the predecessor to current California Civil Code § 2938, which served to clarify the requirements for perfecting a security interest in real property rents and profits
Acquisitions and Dispositions
Mr. Bernfeld served as counsel to the following entities:

  • U.S. pension fund in acquisition of a one-third interest in a $300 million office complex (under construction) in Century City.
  • Australian pension fund in $60 million financing relating to acquisition of retail shopping centers in North and South Carolina;
  • National factoring company in connection with financing of $55 million in acquisitions and lines of credit;
  • Diversified financial services company in connection with acquisition;
  • National tennis shoe manufacturer and distributor in connection with purchase and financing of national headquarters office building in Manhattan Beach, California.
Mr. Bernfeld has represented the following entities:

  • National tobacco manufacturer as California counsel in $100 million leveraged lease transaction with drugstore chain and $100 million leveraged lease transaction with big-box retailer;
  • Lender in $54 million synthetic lease termination transaction on retail shopping center located in Orange County;
  • National tennis shoe manufacturer and distributor in connection with lease and subsequent purchase of 263,670 square foot distribution facility in Ontario, California;
  • Publicly traded manufacturer of network switching devices in connection with build-to-suit lease of 38,000 square foot industrial facility in West Hills, California.
Mr. Bernfeld has represented institutional real estate lenders in connection with:

  • Securitization of $250 million mortgage portfolio;
  • Two $100 million securitizations of franchise loans;
  • $55.5 million bridge and permanent financing for high-end retail properties on  Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California;
  • $34 million refinance of high-rise apartments on the West Side of Los Angeles;
  • $25 million construction loan for hotel in Garden Grove, California (serving the Disney theme park California Adventure);
  • $25 million refinance of Century City office building.
On the borrower’s side, he has represented:

  • National food products wholesaler in $190 million financing of warehousing and distribution facilities (served as California counsel in multi-state financing);
  • Investment firm in $150 million leasehold/fee financing in connection with sale of high-end retailer (served as California counsel in multi-state financing);
  • National household appliances manufacturer in $62 million financing of California warehouse and distribution facility (served as California counsel in multi-state financing);
  • Investor/developer in $20 million refinancing of four apartment complexes as part of a securitized lending transaction;
  • New automobile dealership in Culver City, California, in connection with development and financing of new showroom, sales lot, and repair facility.

Mr. Bernfeld has been involved in the following commercial loan transactions, among others: 
  • Review of loan documents and preparation of opinion letters in connection with multi-billion dollar financing and refinancing of term and revolver loans secured by receivables and inventory for high end national retailer.
  • Restructure of $25 million term loan for institutional lender secured by securities traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board. 
  • Representation of national restaurant chain in connection with $23 million senior secured term loan, senior secured capital expenditure facilities, and a senior secured revolving line of credit.
  • $15 million term loan for institutional lender secured by publicly traded securities.
He has represented the following entities in connection with distressed debt:

  • A pension fund with respect to the foreclosure of a 52-unit partially constructed condominium project in San Francisco, California;
  • A pension fund with respect to the appointment of a receiver and the foreclosure of a 118-unit condominium project in Grand Rapids, Michigan;
  • A foreign bank relative to foreclosure and disposition of a construction loan on an industrial condominium project in Alhambra, California;
  • A foreign bank with respect to its restructure of an approximately 1000-unit self-storage/vehicular storage facility in Costa Mesa, California;
  • A special servicer in connection with the restructure of A and B notes secured by a major sports merchandise warehouse in Los Angeles, California;
  • A special servicer relative to a restructure of debt on a  Class A high-rise office building in Costa Mesa, California.