Bond attorney John M. Hartenstein died Sunday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 52.

Mr. Hartenstein chaired the school finance and general obligation bonds group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco.

He was an authority on voter-approved debt, California election law, and California school and community college districts. Mr. Hartenstein developed a bond and disclosure counsel practice that stretched across the state.

He was credited with helping draft laws implementing Proposition 39, the 2000 ballot measure that lowered the threshold to 55% for passing most California local school bond measures. It led to a wave of school GO issuance.

“He was a friend to school districts in California and provided counsel to many of us trying to understand the complicated world of bond and debt financing,” said long-time client Patty Hagemeyer, chief business officer for the Sacramento Unified School District. “On a personal level, he always made time for those of us lucky enough to work with him. I will miss him greatly.”

Mr. Hartenstein’s colleagues remember a man apt to sprint through halls, take stairs two at a time, and avidly debate etymology — the history of words and language — with the help of the complete Oxford English Dictionary in his office.

“He was an excellent and thoughtful attorney who cared deeply about his clients. As importantly, he was a true gentleman and a dear friend,” said Roger Davis, chair of the public finance department at Orrick.

Friends describe Mr. Hartenstein as a true son of Berkeley, who graduated from Berkeley High School and received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He also received a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

From 1984 to 1988, he was a policy analyst at San Francisco International Airport. Before attending law school, he trained as a pastry chef in Vienna, Austria.

Mr. Hartenstein is survived by his daughter Meena and many family members and friends.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at noon at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts at 2640 College Ave., Berkeley, Calif.

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