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November 08, 2023 Commentary

Dan Mandelker—A Land-Use Legacy Unlike Any Other

Patricia E. Salkin

It is an honor to share thoughts about the importance of Professor Daniel Mandelker’s legacy to the field of land-use and zoning law. The word “legacy” means, among other things, “something that is part of your history or that remains from an earlier time.”1 At ninety-two, he was the longest actively teaching land use law professor in the United States. His academic career began in 1949 when he was appointed an Assistant Professor at Drake Law School, with relatively short stints at the University of Indiana Law School and Columbia Law School, followed by his appointment at Washington University School of Law where he taught for the last sixty years.2 He has not only taught law students for seven decades, but his scholarship has shaped the perspectives of the players in the land-use game and in the courts for generations. Professor Mandelker has gifted to the land-use-law profession a legacy of thoughtful, cutting edge, and sometimes controversial work that has guided planners, lawyers, judges, and municipal officials in approaching myriad land-use dilemmas. In return, his colleagues and collaborators have honored him with not just one, but two festschriften during his lifetime,3 a recognition received by no one else in the land-use law community.

Many law professors focus their scholarship and area of concentration on a small number of narrow topics, but not Professor Mandelker. Part of his legacy is a collection of work spanning decades that illustrates a mastery of subject matter on a broad range of critical topics, including how environmental regulation shapes land, affordable housing, planned unit developments, sign regulation, and takings. Aware of his prior work, I first met Professor Mandelker at one of the annual American Law Institute-American Bar Association (ALI-ABA) Land Use Institutes organized then by Frank Schnidman and Gideon Kanner.4 It was apparent immediately that Dan Mandelker was a giant in the land-use field just by observing the revere and respect that Land Use Institute attendees had for him. People took copious notes and then formed lines at the breaks following presentations to get a couple of minutes of his time to ask for his advice on local dilemmas.

Our paths crossed again later at ABA State and Local Government Law Section meetings, where Professor Mandelker lead the Joint Committee on Land Use Procedures and Appeals from 2006 to 2008. His work contributed to the development and adoption of a Model Statute on Local Land Use Procedures, advanced jointly by ABA’s State and Local Government Law and Administrative Law Sections and co-sponsored by the Real Property Law Section and the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division.5 Our service also overlapped at the American Planning Association, including membership on that organization’s Amicus Curiae Committee and our work on the Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook.6 In all of these situations, professional titles aside, I was the observant student, listening to what Professor Mandelker had to say and how he said it, which shaped the manner in which I analyzed complex land-use challenges and modeled how creative problem solving could be brought to the matter at hand.

Although I consider myself one of the lucky ones who had the privilege of working with and learning from Professor Daniel Mandelker, his former law school students also benefitted from his passion and his desire to help launch the careers of countless new land-use lawyers, some of whom have participated in this Festschrift. Professor Mandelker has inspired his students and has actively created opportunities for interested students to engage in land-use-related research and, in a number of cases, to publish their work as law students.

I had the honor of being one of the closing speakers at the September 2022 symposium honoring Professor Mandelker.7 A sampling of words that appropriately described him included the following: smart, principled, passionate, generous, kind, mentor, and friend. While many in academia look to someone’s erudite scholarship—that often focuses on new legal theories, one of the reasons that Professor Mandelker’s work has been so important is that it is relevant and practical. In reviewing his posted list of select publications and activities, it seems that there is nothing he has not done. He has given numerous speeches and testimony before Congress, a Presidential Commission, the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, White House working groups, and state and local governments. There is perhaps no greater way to influence the future balance of land uses and preservation than by speaking to the lawmakers and regulators who are responsible setting forth statutory and regulatory agendas.

Professor Mandelker has been committed to teaching and training beyond his students in his law classes. By making time to publish with and present for a variety of organizations that serve members who work in a wide range of land-use planning and decisionmaking roles, Professor Mandelker’s perfected art of teaching has had power and reach across the United States. For example, he has contributed to the work of the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), the Institute for Local Government Studies at the Center for American and International Law, the National Association of Environmental Professionals, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the Urban Land Institute, the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, the American Planning Association, and the American Bar Association. Considering all of these activities, the profound impact of his career can be extrapolated to the tens of thousands of people he has taught and presented to, plus those who have read and used his work. It is true that it is simply impossible to quantify the number of people, neighborhoods, and communities who have been positively impacted because of Professor Mandelker’s work.

Another measure of the impact of one’s work is to determine whether it has had any influence on the courts. When searching the Westlaw databases for case law referencing Professor Mandelker’s work, I found a total of sixty-five results, including citations in six federal circuit court of appeal cases. The Second Circuit cited to his book, Environmental Protection: Law and Policy (2d ed. 1990),8 his Land Use Law book (5th ed. 2003),9 and his National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Law and Litigation book.10 The Fourth Circuit referenced the second edition of his Land Use Law book11 and his NEPA Law and Litigation treatise.12 The Fifth and Ninth Circuits cited to his NEPA Law and Litigation treatise,13 and the Ninth Circuit also referenced the fourth edition of his Land Use Law book.14 The Seven Circuit relied on the fifth edition of his Land Use Law book,15 and the Tenth Circuit also relied on his NEPA Law and Litigation book.16

In addition, Professor Mandelker has been actively cited at the state level by the highest court in ten states, plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.17 The Wisconsin Supreme Court has cited his work in multiple cases,18 as has Montana.19 He has been cited by the high courts in Colorado,20 Florida,21 Maryland,22 Illinois,23 Indiana,24 Washington,25 North Carolina,26 Hawaii,27 and Louisiana28 and in many appellate court decisions in those and other states, as well as federal district court opinions across the country.

A number of Professor Mandelker’s books have been the subject of published reviews. It is instructive to consider some of critiques of these contributions. University of California, Davis Law Professor Daniel Fessler reviewed his1971 book, called The Zoning Dilemma, writing, “As a student of urban growth politics and multi-faceted economics and private land use decision- making, he finds in the ambitious rhetoric of the ‘comprehensive plan’ a promise that exceeds the goal-defining and development-directing capacities of the municipal sovereign.”29 Among the many themes of the book, Professor Mandelker, while embracing zoning regulation, worried about its impact upon and discrimination against the economically disadvantaged (note this was back in 1971, when Professor Mandelker was ahead of his time in challenging readers to recognize certain injustices when zoning was used in the wrong way).30 Professor Fessler points out, “The overriding preference for the single-family dwelling unit and the tendency to concentrate and segregate high intense uses from the environs intended for the advantaged threaten to imprison the urban poor.”31 Professor Dan Tarlock also reviewed this book in 1972 and began, “For many years Professor Mandelker has ranked among the most energetic scholars serving the law-in-action tradition of the University of Wisconsin.”32 Professor Tarlock described how Dan set out to provide an empirical study to determine, primarily on a formal record, whether zoning agency decisions were consistent with a comprehensive plan.33 Of note, back in 1972 when Professor Mandelker was working on the book, he used a computer program to help aid the research and analysis.34 His use of technology back then was ahead of the time, and he continued to explore ways to effectively use the Internet and a website. Still today, he actively updates a land-use-law website hosted by the Washington University School of Law where, among other things, he posts summaries of significant cases and makes available free publications that he has authored on various land-use topics.35 In addition, Professor Mandelker has shared a fraction of his work on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN), and, with only twenty-one articles listed, his work has over 1,600 downloads.36

Brooklyn Law professor Bailey Kunlin reviewed Professor Mandelker’s 1971 book, Environmental Equity: A Regulatory Challenge, summing up its message: “Environment and Equity are an indeed regulatory challenges, they are fraught with unresolved conflicts which will doubtlessly get worse. We must go on with solving them.”37 This is a theme to which Professor Mandelker has dedicated a good portion of his career: solving problems and pursuing equity, both for environment and humanity. Douglas Kmiec also reviewed this book, noting that Professor Mandelker “departs from other environmental advocates at the time by stating his interest in the environment as a subjective value preference that should be accorded absolute protection against other interests in energy, housing, industrial productivity and environment.”38 He notes the central thesis: “Environmental values are subjective incapable of objective proof.”39

In the 1989 Naval Law Review, Lieutenant Daniel Rosenberg published a review of Professor Mandelker’s 1984 book, NEPA Law Litigation.40 Rosenberg explained, by example, the practical approach and usefulness of the book to—as in his case—anyone dealing with the environmental consequences of military activities.41 In 2010, Dwight Miriam reviewed Designing Planned Communities and noted that Dan Mandelker began this work because he was troubled by hostile court decisions holding that standards for planned communities were unconstitutionally vague; yet, Dan found, through court decisions, support for comprehensive plans that can enunciate conceptual design indicators without having to articulate specific and too narrow design standards for planned communities.42

In 1998, Professor Mandelker was interviewed for Planning Magazine.43 The final question of that interview was: “Do you have thoughts on retirement?” Twenty-four years ago, he responded, “Never.”44 Colleagues and admirers of Professor Mandelker hope that “Never” remains true because the field continually benefits from his intellectual wisdom and insights. The American Planning Association also asked Professor Mandelker, “If you could change one thing about planning law in the United States what would it be?”45 He responded, “I would make planning mandatory, and I would require zoning to be consistent with the plan.”46 True to form, this answer is consistent with a career of advocacy about the importance of the comprehensive plan as the basis of land use and zoning regulation and decision making.


1. Legacy, Cambridge Dictionary, (last visited Jan. 18, 2023).

2. Daniel R. Mandelker, Resumé (2020),

3. The first Festschrift was published by more than twenty years ago in 2000 by the Washington University Law Journal of Law and Policy. See Evolving Voices in Land Use Law: A Festschrift in Honor of Daniel R. Mandelker, 3 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y (2000). In this volume, commentators focused on many of the themes that Professor Mandelker published and spoke about.

4. For example, in 2004 the ALI-ABA Land Use Institute was held in Boston, and Professor Mandelker delivered the keynote address titled, “Zoning: What Is in Its Future?” See ALI-ABA, Land Use Institute (2004),

5. See Patricia Salkin, American Bar Association Adopts Model Statute on Local Land Use Planning Procedures, Law of the Land (Aug. 17, 2008), The Model Act, intended to serve as a guide to state, local, and tribal governments who adopt land use regulations, is intended to recommend appropriate administrative procedures that (1) provide for the timely consideration of development permit applications; (2) provide a development permit-review process for land-use decisions by local governments; (3) authorize a consolidated development permit-review process for land-use decisions by local governments; (4) provide for the appointment of hearing examiners; (5) provide for a Land-Use Review Board; (6) authorize conditional uses, variances, and mediation in land development regulations; and (7) provide a judicial review process for land-use decisions. This effort was based upon Chapter 10 of the American Planning Association’s Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook (authored by Professor Mandelker).

6. Stuart Meck, Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook (Am. Plan. Ass’n 2002). “Professor Daniel R. Mandelker, AICP, of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis wrote working papers and drafted model legislation for Chapter 10, on administrative and judicial review of land-use decisions and Chapter 12, on integrating state environmental policy acts with state and local planning. Professor Mandelker also contributed substantially to the model legislation on corridor mapping in Chapter 7 and on amortization in Chapter 8.” See id. at xxxiii.

7. Washington University School of Law, Professor Daniel Mandelker Festschrift Symposium, YouTube (Sept. 28, 2022),

8. United States v. Plaza Health Lab’ys, Inc., 3 F.3d 643 (2d Cir. 1993).

9. Fortress Bible Church v. Feiner, 694 F.3d 208 (2d Cir. 2012).

10. Nat’l Audubon Soc’y v. Hoffman, 132 F.3d 7 (2d Cir. 1997).

11. L.M. Everhart Const., Inc. v. Jefferson Cnty. Plan. Comm’n, 2 F.3d 48 (4th Cir. 1993).

12. North Carolina v. F.A.A., 957 F.2d 1125 (4th Cir. 1992).

13. Fath v. Tex. Dep’t of Transp., 924 F.3d 132, 135 (5th Cir. 2018); O’Reilly v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, 477 F.3d 225 (5th Cir. 2007); Sierra Club v. Bosworth, 510 F.3d 1016 (9th Cir. 2007); Edwardsen v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior, 268 F.3d 781 (9th Cir. 2001); Barnes v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp., 655 F.3d 1124 (9th Cir. 2011); N. Alaska Env’t Ctr. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, 983 F.3d 1077 (9th Cir. 2020); N. Alaska Env’t Ctr. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, 965 F.3d 705 (9th Cir. 2020).

14. Buckles v. King County, 191 F.3d 1127 (9th Cir. 1999).

15. River of Life Kingdom Ministries v. Village of Hazel Crest, Ill., 611 F.3d 367 (7th Cir. 2010).

16. Davis v. Mineta, 302 F.3d 1104 (10th Cir. 2002).

17. Heftler Int’l, Inc. v. Junta de Planificación, 99 P.R. Dec. 467 (1970) (quoting Daniel R. Mandelker, Managing Our Urban Environment (1971)).

18. Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley, 809 N.W.2d 362 (Wis. 2012) (citing multiple times to the fifth edition of his Land Use Law treatise); Town of Rhine v. Bizzell, 751 N.W.2d 780 (Wis. 2008) (citing multiple times to the fifth edition of his Land Use Law treatise); Applegate-Bader Farm, LLC v. Wis. Dep’t of Revenue, 955 N.W.2d 793 (Wis. 2021) (citing to his NEPA Law & Litigation (2020)); Wood v. City of Madison, 659 N.W.2d 31 (Wis. 2003) (citing to an essay that Prof. Mandelker wrote about Professor Jacob H. Beuscher in the Wisconsin Law Review); AllEnergy Corp. v. Trempealeau Cnty. Env’t & Land Use Comm., 895 N.W.2d 368 (Wis. 2017) (citing the 2016 ed. of Land Use Law); Thorp v. Town of Lebanon, 612 N.W.2d 59 (Wis. 2000) (citing the fourth edition of Land Use Law).

19. Ash Grove Cement Co. v. Jefferson County, 943 P.2d 85 (Mont. 1997) (citing Daniel R. Mandelker, The Role of the Local Comprehensive Plan in Land Use Regulation, 74 Mich. L. Rev. 899 (1976)); Citizens for a Better Flathead v. Board of County Commissioners, 386 P.3d 567 (Mont. 2016) (citing the fourth edition of Land Use Law).

20. Evans v. Romer, 882 P.2d 1335 (Colo. 1994), aff’d, 517 U.S. 620 (1996); Robertson v. City & County of Denver, 874 P.2d 325 (Colo. 1994) (citing his 1977 book, State and Local Government in a Federal System).

21. Board of Count. Commissioners v. Snyder, 627 So. 2d 469 (Fla. 1993) (citing Daniel R. Mandelker & Dan Tarlock, Shifting the Presumption of Constitutionality in Land-Use Law, 24 Urb. Law. 1 (1992)).

22. Montgomery County v. Butler, 9 A.3d 824 (Md. 2010) (citing his Land Use Law treatise); Richard Roeser Pro. Builder, Inc. v. Anne Arundel County, 793 A.2d 545 (Md. 2002) (citing the fourth edition of Land Use Law).

23. Board of Ed. of Sch. Dist. No. 150 v. City of Peoria, 76 Ill. 2d 469 (1979) (citing D. Mandelker & D. Netsch, State and Local Government in a Federal System 418–23 (1977); 10 Ill. L. & Prac. Cities, Villages and Other Municipalities sec. 1114 (1955)).

24. Board of Zoning Appeals v. Leisz, 702 N.E.2d 1026 (Ind. 1998) (citing the third edition of Land Use Law).

25. Rhod-A-Zalea & 35th, Inc. v. Snohomish County, 959 P.2d 1024 (Wash. 1998) (citing Daniel R. Mandelker, Prolonging the Nonconforming Use: Judicial Restriction of the Power to Zone in Iowa, 8 Drake L. Rev. 23 (1958)).

26. Beroth Oil Co. v. N.C. Dep’t of Transp., 757 S.E.2d 466 (N.C. 2014) (quoting Daniel R. Mandelker, Inverse Condemnation: The Constitutional Limits of Public Responsibility, 1966 Wis. L. Rev. 3. (1966)).

27. Save Sunset Beach Coal. v. City & County of Honolulu, 78 P.3d 1 (Haw. 2003) (citing the fifth edition of Land Use Law).

28. Polk v. Edwards, 626 So. 2d 1128 (La. 1993) (citing to State and Local Government in a Federal System).

29. Daniel William Fessler, Book Review, 73 Colum. L. Rev. 1182 (1973) (reviewing Daniel R. Mandelker, The Zoning Dilemma).

30. In 2020, Professor Mandelker again revisited discrimination in zoning with an article entitled Minority Discrimination Through Popular Vote in the Land Use Process, 43 Zoning & Plan. L. Rep., no. 10, 2020, at 1.

31. Fessler, supra note 29.

32. Daniel A. Tarlock, Carving Up the Urban Fringe, 50 Tex. L. Rev. 1083 (1972) (reviewing Daniel R. Mandelker, The Zoning Dilemma (1971)).

33. Id.

34. Id.

35. See Land Use Law, Washington University School of Law, (last visited Feb. 2, 2023).

36. Daniel R. Mandelker, SSRN, (last visited Feb. 6, 2022).

37. Bailey H. Kuklin, When Incommensurable Values Conflict—Thoughts on Mandelker’s Environment and Equity: A Regulatory Challenge, 49 Brook. L. Rev. 245 (1983).

38. Douglas W. Kmiec, Environmental Inequities—Observation on Mandelker’s Environment and Equity—A Regulatory Challenge, 57 Notre Dame L. Rev. 313 (1981).

39. Id.

40. Daniel R. Rosenberg, Book Review, 38 Naval L. Rev. 241 (1989) (reviewing Daniel R. Mandelker, NEPA Law and Litigation (1988)).

41. Id.

42. Dwight Merriam, Review, 76 Plan. Mag., no. 6, 2010, at 42 (reviewing Daniel R. Mandelker, The Word on Planned Communities, Designing Planned Communities (2010)).

43. Up Closes: Daniel R. Mandelker, Esq., 64 Plan. Mag., no. 2, 1998, at 3.

44. Id.

45. Id.

46. Id.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

Patricia E. Salkin

Touro University.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost of the Graduate and Professional Divisions of Touro University. Patricia Salkin is Professor of Law at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Touro Law Center and former Dean of the Law Center. This commentary is an edited version of the presentation shared at the September 28, 2002, Festschrift Symposium. This contribution, in part, is a thank you to Professor Mandelker for being a role model, a mentor, and a friend.