January 13, 2012
Professor Emeritus Charles M. Haar ‘48, a pioneer in land-use law whose scholarship focused on laws and institutions of city planning, urban development and environmental issues, died on January 10, 2012. He was 91.
During his more than five-decade career, Haar influenced urban policy and planning throughout the country, drafted key legislation for inner city revitalization, developed influential legal theories to support equality of services for urban dwellers and access to suburbs, helped pioneer the modern environmental movement, and mentored a generation of scholars and activists.
“Charles Haar was a genuine pioneer who created new ways of making scholarship relevant to the improvement of the human condition through the improvement of the environment,” observed Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “He was a visionary leader in the field of land use law and urban planning with a focus on improving the lives of all Americans, regardless of race or economic status. His legacy includes major tenets of the modern-day environmental movement and the way we teach and study environmental law. It also includes the generations of students to whom he was a mentor and friend, and the contributions they made after learning from him. He will be deeply missed.”
Haar joined the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1952. He was named a professor of law three years later and in 1972, he was appointed the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law.
Jerold S. Kayden ‘79, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design and Director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, who co-authored two books with Haar, said: “Charles was an enormously influential scholar in land-use and urban development law, more or less responsible for establishing land-use law as a distinct field within law school curricula. For Charles, increasingly over his career, his scholarship was incomplete if it did not influence public policymakers, and his teaching was incomplete if it failed to incorporate the realities of making public policy. He loved academic and political worlds and navigated comfortably between the two. A prolific, elegant, scholarly writer, Charles equally extolled the virtues of a crisp one-page memo.”
Early in his career, Haar served as an adviser on urban policy during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, helping to write speeches on housing law and policies. He went on to serve on several important presidential commissions during the Johnson and Carter administrations.
In 1964, he served as chairman of Johnson’s newly formed “National Task Force on the Preservation of Natural Beauty,” a committee to explore how government action in public spaces and urban design shapes social experience. The task force’s report—which discussed cleaning up waterways, access to seashores and improving the availability and design of public transit and cities as a new focus for the Department of the Interior—was described by Haar in a 1998 interview as “a forerunner for the environmental movement.” He was also an organizer of the first White House conference on the environment.
A noted expert on inner city revitalization, Haar was appointed by President Johnson to chair a “Commission on Formation and Organizing a Housing Department.” He also served on a task force for, and was a primary architect of, the Model Cities Program, an initiative developed by the Johnson Administration as a response to the urban riots of the mid-1960s. Haar went on to serve as the first Assistant Secretary for Metropolitan Development in the newly formed Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he was responsible for administering planning programs for cities and metropolitan areas, sewer and water grants, urban mass transportation and land and water pollution programs.
In the late 1960s, Haar helped draft four important pieces of legislation: the Demonstration and Model Cities Act of 1966; the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act of 1968; Title IV of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 (New Communities); and the Section 236 Affordable Housing Guarantee Program. He also worked on the creation of the Federal National Mortgage Association in 1968.
A prolific author, Haar wrote a landmark casebook on Land-Use Planning. His many legal briefs and books focused on land use, equitable distribution of municipal services and what he saw as the proper role of judges in cases involving conflicts between government and individual rights. His scholarship includes: “Land Planning in a Free Society” (1950), “Land and Law” (1964) “Golden Age of American Law (1965), “Property and Law” with Lance Liebman (1977), “Cities, Law and Social Policy” (1984), “Landmark Justice: The Influence of William J. Brennan on America’s Communities,” with Jerold S. Kayden ’79 (1989), and “Zoning and the American Dream,” with Jerold S. Kayden (1989).
In his 1996 work, “Suburbs Under Siege” (Princeton University Press), which won the Gustavus Meyers Award as the best book on human rights that year, Haar argued that all citizens no matter their ethnic background or socioeconomic status have the right to live in the suburbs, and that a socially responsible judiciary must fight to uphold that right.
In a 2005 book “Mastering Boston Harbor: Courts, Dolphins, and Imperiled Waters” (Harvard University Press), Haar wrote that his Washington experience left him with “the conviction that government action in the public interest can benefit people’s lives.” In that book, Haar chronicled his involvement in a major environmental case, City of Quincy v. Massachusetts District Commission, which resulted in the creation of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Act and the successful cleanup of Boston Harbor. Haar served as court-appointed Special Master, appointed by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Paul G. Garrity, to oversee the suit against the Metropolitan District Commission over the pollution of Boston Harbor.
After taking emeritus status at Harvard Law in 1991, Haar taught as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Miami Law School, where he was instrumental in the creation of a graduate program in real property development. He was also actively involved in promoting cooperation between the U.S. the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe in areas of privatization, land-use reform and planning, housing and economic development.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium, Haar emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was six-months old. He was raised in New York City and earned an A.B. from New York University, an M.A. in economics from the University of Wisconsin, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1948. As a recipient of a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship from Harvard University, he studied at the London School of Economics.
During WWII, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific as a Japanese language specialist in Naval intelligence, assigned to the headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Brisbane, Australia and New Guinea.
A fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, he was also a member of the American Law Institute, The American Institute of Planners, the Department of Legal Studies of the National Academy of Sciences Highway Research Board and the Building Advisory Council of the National Academy.
In a festchrift published in the Washington University Journal of Contemporary Law in 1996, Columbia Law School Dean Lance M. Liebman and University of Richmond Professor Michael Allen Wolf described Haar as “one of our great scholar-entrepreneurs.” They wrote, “During five decades, the professional work of Charles Haar has investigated the ways in which the words formally uttered by judges, legislators, and regulators shape and affect the lives, fortunes and minds of Americans. No American law professor in the second half of the twentieth century has had more unerring taste (or smell) for the great topic. Charles saw earlier than nearly anyone else the enigmatic nature of the takings clause, the intricacies for the master plan, the racial and other inequalities in the provision of public services, the evolution of Anglo-American property law, the intergovernmental struggle of regulatory power, and the shape of the municipal landscape. “
For 30 years, Haar was married to Suzanne Keller, a sociologist and the first woman to hold a tenured position at Princeton University, who passed away in 2010. He is survived by his former wife, Natalie, his daughter Susan ‘78, his sons Jeremy and Jonathan, and five grandchildren.