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Rebecca Retzlaff

Rebecca Retzlaff


Director of the Academic Sustainability Program

Political Science

Academic Sustainability

Rebecca Retzlaff

Contact Me

7094 Haley Center

Office Hours

By Appointment


PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago

MS, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

BS, Michigan State University

About Me

Rebecca Retzlaff, PhD, AICP, is a professor in the Master of Community Planning Program. Her research interests are planning law and planning history. Her research in planning law analyzes innovative planning tools such as green building regulations and ocean zoning. Her most recent research in planning history has focused on how government officials used planning and infrastructure as a weapon during the civil rights movement in Alabama. She often combines her two areas of research interest by analyzing the history of significant legal decisions in planning.

Retzlaff teaches classes in planning history, historic preservation planning, land use law, and land use planning. Her classes typically include a significant outreach and field work component. Her classes have worked with small towns in Alabama such as Opelika, Loachapoka, and Tallassee, as well as larger cities such as Mobile and Montgomery. Class projects include historic preservation plans, healthy community plans, zoning reform reports, and neighborhood plans. Through the fieldwork component of classes, students get firsthand experience in community engagement.

Research Interests

planning law, planning history



  • Stuart Meck, Kenneth Pearlman, Alan Weinstein, John Bredin, and Rebecca Retzlaff, Ohio Planning and Zoning Law (New York: Thompson Reuters, new edition published annually)        
  • Meck, Stuart, Rebecca Retzlaff, and Jim Schwab. Regional Approaches to Affordable Housing (Chicago: American Planning Association, 2003).

Book Chapters

  • Meck, Stuart, and Rebecca Retzlaff (2008) “Commentary: The Zoning Hearing Examiner: Origins, Evolution, and Status in Statutes and Case Law.” In Popper, Andrew, Patricia Salkin, and David Avitabile, A Companion to Bordering on Madness: An American Land Use Tale, 2nd ed. (Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press), 204-206.

Journal Articles

  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2019) “Interstate Highways and the Civil Rights Movement: The Case of I-85 and the Oak Park Neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama” Journal of Urban Affairs. (in press)
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca and Charlene LeBleu (2018) “Marine Spatial Planning: Exploring the Role of Planning Practice and Research” Journal of Planning Literature 33(4): 466-491.
  • Meck., Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2017) “Planning for Urban Design in the 1960s: The Case of the San Francisco Urban Design Plan” with Stuart Meck, Journal of Urban Design 23(1): 94-122.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca and Sarah Sisser (2014) “The Real Story behind Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal CouncilPlanning Perspectives 29 (3) 275-300.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2012) “Jimmy Carter’s Urban Policy: An Analysis and An Appraisal” Journal of Planning History 11(3): 242-280.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2010) “Developing Policies for Green Buildings: What can the United States Learn from the Netherlands?” Sustainability: Science, Practice, Policy 6(1): 28-38.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2010) “The Illinois Forest Preserve District Act of 1913 and the Emergence of Metropolitan Park System Planning in the USA” Planning Perspectives 25(4): 433-455.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2009) “Green Buildings and Building Assessment Systems: A New Area of Interest for Planners” Journal of Planning Literature 24(1): 3-21.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2009) “The use of LEED in Planning and Development Regulation: An Exploratory Analysis” Journal of Planning Education and Research 29(1): 67-77.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2008) “Green Building Assessment Systems: A Framework and Comparison for Planners” Journal of the American Planning Association 74(4): 505-519.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2008) “The Emergence of Growth Management in the U.S.: the Case of Golden v. Planning Board of Town of Ramapo, and its Aftermath” Journal of Planning History 7(2): 113-157.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2008) “Planning for Broad-Based Environmental Protection: A Look Back at the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan” Urban Ecosystems 11(1): 45-63.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2008) “A Familiar Ring: A Retrospective on the First National Conference on City Planning (1909)” Planning and Environmental Law 61(4): 3-10.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2007) “The Zoning Hearing Examiner: Its Origins, and its Status in Case Law” Planning and Environmental Law 59(7): 3-10.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2007) “The Zoning Hearing Examiner and Its Use in Idaho Cities and Counties: Improving the Efficiency of the Land Use Permitting Process” Idaho Law Review 59(7): 409-443.

Professional Publications

  • Retzlaff, Rebecca (2009) “Green Buildings: Selecting the Right Building Assessment System for Your Jurisdiction” IQ Report, International City Management Association, 41(3).
  • Gaber, John, Rebecca Retzlaff, and Erin Swindall (2008) “Alabama Coastal Smart Growth Outreach Project: Final Report” report prepared with support from the Mississippi State University Coastal Research Extension Center.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca, Falguni Patel, and Rajesh Sawant (2008) “Place-Based Green Building: Integrating Local Environmental Planning into Green Building Guidelines” report prepared with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca and Erin Swindall (2007) “Macon County, Alabama, Historic Preservation Planning Analysis” report prepared with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission. 
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca and Brandon Bias (2007) “Franklin County Ecotourism Development Strategy” report prepared with support from the Appalachian regional Commission.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Green Buildings Present New Opportunities for Planning Commissioners” The Commissioner, Fall 2007.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Habitat Loss: Global Crisis with a Local Solution” Zoning Practice, January 2007.
  • Meck, Stuart, Rebecca Retzlaff, and Jim Schwab (2006) “State of Tribal Transportation Programs” report prepared for the Transportation Research Board, Synthesis Grant, Transportation Research Board National Cooperative Highway Research Program: Project 20-5, Topic 36-16.
  • Meck, Stuart and Rebecca Retzlaff (2006) “Planning 1-2-3” report prepared for the Chicago Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Changes come to Planning Accreditation Criteria” Practicing Planner, December 2006.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Green Buildings: Onus or Bonus?” Zoning Practice, April 2005.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Preserving the Last Green Valley” Planning Magazine, March 2005.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “California Enacts Form-Based Zoning Legislation” Zoning Practice, January 2005.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Massachusetts Town Approves Record Impact Fee From Lowes” Zoning Practice, November 2004.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “New Jersey Passes Transfer of Development Rights Legislation” Zoning Practice, September 2004.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Inglewood Voters Say No to Wal-Mart” Zoning Practice, August 2004.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Illinois Communities Limit Bank Branches and Nonretail Uses in Retail Districts” Zoning Practice, May 2004.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Agritourism Zoning Down on the Farm” Zoning Practice, March 2004.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Changes to New Jersey Affordable Housing Law” Zoning News, October 2003.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Montgomery County Mulls Housing Overhaul” Zoning News, September 2003.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Busses Replace Private Cars on Zion Park Scenic Drive” Planning Magazine, July 2000.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Compuware Brings More Workers to Central Detroit” Planning Magazine, February 2000.
  • Retzlaff, Rebecca. “Lake Tahoe Preservation Case” Zoning News, May 1999.
  • American Planning Association (1999) “A Smart Growth Agenda for Illinois” report prepared with support from the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council.

Courses Taught

  • CPLN 5450/6450: Planning History and Theory
  • CPLN 7430: Land Use Law
  • CPLN 5040/6040: Land Use Planning
  • CPLN 5400/6400: Historic Preservation Planning
  • CPLN 5070/6070: Environmental Planning
  • CPLN 5120/6120: Environmental Policy
  • CPLN 7600/7610: Synthesis Studio
  • CPLN 5110/6110: Sustainable Urbanism and Growth Management
  • POLI 2120: Cities and Urbanization