Charles M. Haar, R.I.P.

Charlie Haar, retired Harvard Law professor died in Miami on January 10, 2012, at the age of 91.

His field was land use. He was largely government-oriented in his views, and in his last law journal article fiercely defended traditional Euclidian zoning, in spite of the fact that in practice it was often used as an exclusionary device, and that the passage of time exposed its many other flaws. You can get his proper obituary on the Harvard Law School web page www.law.harvard.edu/news/2012/01/13_charles-m-haar.html

We won’t attempt to comepte here with those eulogizing him, but we feel obliged to pass on one little known war story to our readers. In the 1960s, Charlie was assistant secretary for metropolitan development in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and in that capacity he prepared and submitted to President Lyndon B. Johnson an “administratively confidential memorandum” entitled Thinking the Unthinkable About Our Cities: A Scenario in Four Parts.  You can read  it as an appendix to Roger Biles, Thinking About the Unthinkable About Our Cities — Thirty Years Later, 25 Journal of Urban History 57 (1998). An interesting read, that.

Why Haar’s paper was classified as confidential for some 30 years, is not clear to us, but you can form your own opinion as to that. Our hunch is that it was feared that upon receiving widespread publicity, the condition of cities may well have stimulated a large-scale exodus from cities to suburbs, which was already underway without it. See our brief discussion of the factors that added up to motivate city dwellers to head for the suburbs en masse, in 4 Albany Gov’t. L. Jour. at 70-71. But this exodus happened anyway.

Haar was right in his perception that as a ressult of the riots of the 1960s, cities faced a choice between (a) becoming armed fortresses, or (b) there would be an emergence of black-governed cities with the white urban population turning inward, or (c) we would see the white populations move out to the suburbs. He was right. What we got was a combination of (b) and (c). But his hopes for a harmonious solution to urban race problems, however, did not materialize.

R.I.P. Charlie.

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