This article is a focus on the figure of Professor Sheila Foster, LabGov’s co-founder.

Sheila R. Foster is University Professor and the Albert A. Walsh Professor of Real Estate, Land Use and Property Law at Fordham University. She is also the faculty co-director of the Fordham Urban Law Center. She served as Vice Dean of the Law School from 2011-2014 and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2008-2011. Professor Foster is the author of numerous publications on land use, environmental law, and antidiscrimination law. Her early work was dedicated to exploring the intersection of civil rights and environmental law, in a field called “environmental justice”. Her most recent work explores the legal and theoretical frameworks in which urban land use decisions are made. Land use scholars voted her article on Collective Action and the Urban Commons (Notre Dame Law Review, 2011) as one of the 5 best (out of 100) articles on land use published that year.Professor Foster is the recipient of two Ford Foundation grants for her on environmental justice and urban development. Professor Foster is also the coauthor of a recent groundbreaking casebook, Comparative Equality and Antidiscrimination Law: Cases, Codes, Constitutions and Commentary (Foundation Press, 2012). She has taught and conducted research internationally in Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Austria, Colombia, Panama, and Cuba. Her

Here is an anthology of her publications.


  • Comparative equality and antidiscrimination law: Cases, codes, constitutions and commentary, with David Oppenheimer and Sora Han (Foundation Press, 2012).
    “This casebook compares U.S. equality and anti-discrimination law with the law of several other legal systems, such as Europe, South Africa, China, Colombia, and Argentina. Coverage includes equality issues in marriage, employment, affirmative action, reproductive rights, state religion, religious minorities, hate speech, and federalism”.
  • The law of environmental justice: Theories and procedures to address disproportionate risks, co-editor with Michael B. Gerrard (American Bar Association, 2008).
    “Environmental justice is the concept that minority and low-income individuals, communities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, and that they should share fully in making the decisions that affect their environment”.
  • From the ground up: Environmental racism and the rise of the environmental justice movement, with Luke Cole (NYU Press, 2001). 
    “When Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order on Environmental Justice in 1994, the phenomenon of environmental racism—the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards, particularly toxic waste dumps and polluting factories, on people of color and low-income communities—gained unprecedented recognition. Behind the President’s signature, however, lies a remarkable tale of grassroots activism and political mobilization”. 

Recent Publications:

  • Vulnerability, Equality and Environmental Justice in Handbook of Environmental Justice (eds.  Jayajit Chakraborty and Gordon Walker) (forthcoming Routledge 2017)
  • The City as a Commons, with Christian Iaione (Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2016). “City space is highly contested space. As rapid urbanization takes hold around much of the world, contestations over city space – how that space is used and for whose benefit – are at the heart of many urban movements and policy debates”. Full article here.
  • Human Rights and Climate Change: Building Synergies for a Common Future, with Paolo Galizzi, in The Climate Change Law Encyclopedia (eds. Daniel Farber and Marjan Peeters, 2016). “Human rights exist only on the margins of the existing international climate change regime. Undoubtedly, bringing a human rights framework to international efforts can help to solidify the ethical moorings needed to compel meaningful action to address climate change. However, while advocates of a rights-based approach to climate change agree that human rights principles should underpin global climate change policies, there are many variations in how human rights may be defined, justified, and brought to bear in the climate change arena”. Full article here.
  • Comparative Urban Governance for Lawyers, with Fernanda Nicola (Fordham Urban Law Journal n. 42, 2015).
    “How can some cities’ experiences guide and enrich our understanding of what cities in other parts of the world should or should not do? What is the relevance of these comparisons in determining what type of economic development agenda is more suitable to a specific political and economic environment? How can interdisciplinary tools be utilized to establish some entry points for cross-national comparisons? What are the limitations of crossnational comparisons given the ways in which most local governments around the world are constrained within a vertical system of legal
    Full article here.
  • Breaking up Payday: Anti-Agglomeration Zoning and Consumer Welfare (Ohio State Law Journal n. 75, 2014).
    “Dozens of local governments have enacted zoning ordinances designed to limit the concentration of payday lenders and other alternative financial services providers (AFSPs), such as check-cashing businesses and auto title loan shops, in their communities. The main impetus for these ordinances is to shield economically vulnerable residents from the industry’s lending practices in the absence of sufficiently aggressive federal and state consumer protection regulation.
    This article casts considerable doubt on whether zoning is the appropriate regulatory tool to achieve the consumer protection and welfare goals animating these ordinances”. 
    Full article here.
  • The Mobility Case for Regionalism, with Nestor Davidson (UC Davis Law Review n. 47, 2013).
    “In the discourse of local government law, the idea that a mobile populace can “vote with its feet” has long served as a justification for devolution and decentralization. Tracing to Charles Tiebout’s seminal work in public finance, the legal-structural prescription that follows is that a diversity of independent and empowered local governments can best satisfy the varied preferences of residents metaphorically shopping for bundles of public services, regulatory environment, and tax burden”.
    Full article here.
  • Collective Action and the Urban Commons (Notre Dame Law Review n. 87, 2011). 
    “Urban residents share access to a number of local resources in which they have a common stake. These resources range from local streets and parks to public spaces to a variety of shared neighborhood amenities. Collectively shared urban resources suffer from the same rivalry and free-riding problems that Garrett Hardin described in his Tragedy of the Commons tale. Scholars have not yet worked up a theory about how this tragedy unfolds in the urban context, particularly in light of existing government regulation and control of common urban resources”. 
    Full article here
  • Integrative Lawyering: Navigating the Political Economy of Urban Development, with Brian Glick (California Law Review n. 95, 2007).
    “In this article we explore how contemporary urban development practices present intriguing challenges for lawyers representing community-based organizations working to proactively rebuild their communities into ones that are both socially just and ecologically sustainable”.
    Full article here.
  • The City as an Ecological Space: Social Capital and Urban Land Use (Notre Dame Law Review n. 82, 2006).
    “The notion that certain uses of public and private property can have negative effects beyond legally defined property boundaries is firmly embedded in land use law. We are now comfortable regulating land use to prevent and control for impacts to our natural resources, environmental quality, and nuisances to third parties. This idea is partly rooted in economic theory – i.e., the existence of negative externalities – but also in the theory of ecology – i.e., the notion that property is inextricably part of a network of social and economic relationships and that its impacts traverse legally defined property boundaries. But not all impacts, or costs, of land use are properly accounted for in land use regulation”. 
    Full article here.

Additional publications can be found here.

Recently published articles:

  • The Co-City: from the Tragedy to the comedy of the Urban Commons, published on The Nature of Cities, November 2nd 2016. Available here.
  • Common threads: connections among the ideas of Jane Jacobs and Elinor Ostrom, and their relevance to urban socio-ecology, published on The Nature of Cities, May 28th, 2016. Available here.

  • Cities, Inequality and the Common Good, published on The Huffington Post, US Edition, October 30th 2015. Available here.