Christopher S. Elmendorf


Position Title
Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law

2131 King Hall

Professor Elmendorf works in the areas of property law, election law, statutory interpretation, and administrative law, using both doctrinal and empirical methods. He is a leading authority on California land-use and housing law, and has also done widely noted work on public understanding of housing markets and opinion about housing policy. His research has been published in numerous top law reviews and political science journals, including the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, New York University Law Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and Political Analysis. It has also been covered by major media outlets including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Bloomberg News, and CalMatters.

Elmendorf enjoys translating academic research and legal developments for popular audiences. He’s known for breaking down everything from knotty judicial opinions to pending legislation with long Twitter (𝕏) threads, and he’s written articles and op-eds for The Atlantic, Mother Jones, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Sometimes these various forms of public engagement come together, as when a Twitter thread about a housing controversy in San Francisco led to invited blog posts and op-eds, which he expanded into a law-review article, which engendered statutory reforms, which begat another Twitter thread and a webinar for practitioners. 

Beyond the law school, Elmendorf serves on the advisory board of the Abundance Academic Network, a new initiative of Arnold Ventures to advance policy-minded research on housing, transportation, and clean-energy development. He has also served on working groups and task forces convened by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and on the Legal Advisory Committee of the California Housing Defense Fund. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute. 

Education and Degree(s)
  • B.A. Economics, With Highest Honors, Oberlin College, 1994
  • J.D. Yale Law School, 2001
Honors and Awards
  • Law Clerk, Judge Guido Calabresi, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 2002-2003.
  • Elected to American Law Institute
  • His paper, Auctioning the Upzone, 70 Case Western Res. L. Rev. 513 (2020), was selected for republication in Land Use and Environment Law Review (2023-24) as one of the year’s best articles about land use.
Research Interests & Expertise
  • Land Use and Housing
  • Election Law
  • State and Local Politics
  • Administrative Law
  • Statutory Interpretation


Christopher S. Elmendorf, Clayton Nall & Stan Oklobdjiza, What State Housing Policies Do Voters Want? Evidence from a Platform-Choice Experiment, 5 J. POL. INSTITUTIONS & POL. ECON. (forthcoming 2024).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Clayton Nall, Plain Bagel Streamlining? Notes from the California Housing Wars, 75 CASE WESTERN RES. L. REV. (forthcoming 2024) (symposium on “Permitting the Future”).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Lawyering Cities into Housing Shortages: The Curious Case of Discretionary Review Under the San Francisco City Charter, 32 NYU ENVTL L. J. (forthcoming 2024).

Eric Biber, Christopher S. Elmendorf, Nicholas J. Marantz, & Moira O’Neill, Just Look at the Map: Bounding Environmental Review of Housing Development in California, 54 ENVT’L LAW 221 (2024).

Paavo Monkkonen, Michael Lens, Moira O’Neill, Christopher Elmendorf, Gregory Preston & Raine Robichaud, Do Land Use Plans Affirmatively Further Fair Housing? Measuring Progress, J. AM. PLANNING ASS’N,

Nicholas J. Marantz, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Youjin Kim, Where Will Accessory Dwelling Units Sprout Up When a State Lets Them Grow? Evidence From California, 25 CITYSCAPE 107 (2023) (symposium on recent reforms in zoning).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Timothy G. Duncheon, When Super-Statutes Collide: CEQA, the Housing Accountability Act, and Tectonic Change in Land Use Law, 49 ECOLOGY L.Q. 655 (2023).  

Marisa Abrajano, Kevin M. Quinn & Christopher S. Elmendorf, Measuring Perceived Skin Color: Spillover Effects and Likert-type Scales, 85 J. POL. 320 (2023).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Eric Biber, Paavo Monkkonen & Moira O’Neill, “I Would, If Only I Could” How Cities Can Use California’s Housing Element Law to Overcome Neighborhood Resistance to New Housing, 57 WILLAMETTE L. REV. 221 (2022) (symposium edition).

Abby K. Wood, Christopher S. Elmendorf, Douglas M. Spencer & Nicolas Napolio, Mind the Participation Gap: Vouchers, Voting, and Visibility, 50 AM. POL. RES. 623 (2022).

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Scott A. MacKenzie, The Civic Option: Using Experiments to Estimate the Effects of Consuming Information in Local Elections, J. OF EXPERIMENTAL POL. SCI. (2022)  

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Eric Biber, Paavo Monkkonen & Moira O’Neill, State Administrative Review of Local Constraints on Housing Development: Improving the California Model, 64 ARIZONA L. REV. 609 (2021).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Eric Biber, Paavo Monkkonen & Moira O’Neill, Making It Work: Legal Foundations for Administrative Reform of California's Housing Framework, 46 ECOLOGY L.Q. 973 (2020) (with Eric Biber, Paavo Monkkonen & Moira O’Neill).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Darien Shanske, Auctioning the Upzone, 70 CASE WESTERN RES. L. REV. 513 (2020). Selected for republication in Land Use and Environment Law Review (2023-24) as one of the year’s best articles about land use.

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Beyond the Double Veto: Housing Plans as Preemptive Intergovernmental Compacts, 71 HASTINGS L.J. 79 (2019). Reviewed by Shelby D. Greene, Controlling the Locals from the Top Down and the Bottom Up for Housing, JOTWELL (Dec. 1, 2020).

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Scott A. MacKenzie, Racial or Spatial Voting? The Effects of Candidate Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Endorsements in Local Elections, 63 AM. J. POL. SCI. 5 (2019).

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Scott A. MacKenzie, Roadmaps to Representation: An Experimental Study of How Voter Education Tools Affect Citizen Decision Making, 41 POL. BEHAVIOR 1001 (2019).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Abby K. Wood, Elite Political Ignorance: Law, Data, and the Representation of (Mis)Perceived Electorates, 52 UC DAVIS L. REV. 571 (2018).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, From Educational Adequacy to Representational Adequacy: A New Template for Legal Attacks on Partisan Gerrymanders, 59 WM. & MARY L. REV. 1601 (2018).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Darien Shanske, “Solving Problems No One Has Solved”: Courts, Causal Inference, and the Right to Education, 2018 U. ILL. L. REV. 693.

Marisa Abrajano, Kevin M. Quinn & Christopher S. Elmendorf, Labels vs. Pictures: Treatment Mode Effects in Experiments About Discrimination, 26 POL. ANALYSIS 20 (2018).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Marisa Abrajano & Kevin M. Quinn, Racially Polarized Voting, 83 U. Chi. L. Rev. 587 (2016).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Douglas M. Spencer, Administering Section 2 of the VRA After Shelby County, 115 COLUM. L. REV. 2143 (2015).

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Scott A. MacKenzie, Lost in Space? Information Shortcuts, Spatial Voting, and Local Government Representation, 68 POL. RES. Q 843 (2015).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Advisory Rulemaking and the Future of the Voting Rights Act, 14 ELECTION L.J. 260 (2015).

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf & Scott A. MacKenzie, Informing Electorates Via Election Law: An Experimental Study of Partisan Endorsements and Nonpartisan Voter Guides in Local Elections, 14 ELECTION L.J. 2 (2014) (with Cheryl Boudreau & Scott MacKenzie).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Douglas M. Spencer, The Geography of Racial Stereotyping: Evidence and Implications for VRA Preclearance After Shelby County, 102 CAL. L. REV. 1123 (2014).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Douglas M. Spencer, Are Ballot Titles Biased? Partisanship in California’s Supervision of Direct Democracy, 3 U.C. IRVINE L. REV. 511 (2013).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & David Schleicher, Informing Consent: Voter Ignorance, Political Parties, and Election Law, 2013 U. ILL. L. REV. 363.

Christopher S. Elmendorf & David Schleicher, Districting for a Low-Information Electorate, 121 YALE L. J. 1846 (2012).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, What Kind of Discrimination Does the Voting Rights Act Target?, 160 U. PA. L. REV. PENNUMBRA 357 (2012).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Making Sense of Section 2: Of Biased Votes, Unconstitutional Elections, and Common Law Statutes, 160 U. PA. L. REV. 377 (2012).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Ethan J. Leib, Why Party Democrats Need Popular Democracy and Popular Democrats Need Parties, 100 CAL. L. REV. 69 (2012).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Empirical Legitimacy and Election Law, in RACE, REFORM, AND REGULATORY INSTITUTIONS: RECURRING PUZZLES IN AMERICAN DEMOCRACY (Heather K. Gerken, Guy-Uriel E. Charles, & Michael S. Kang eds. 2011).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Refining the Democracy Canon, 95 CORNELL L. REV. 1051 (2010).

Christopher S. Elmendorf & Edward B. Foley, Gatekeeping vs. Balancing in the Constitutional Law of Elections: Methodological Uncertainty on the High Court, 17 WILLIAM & MARY BILL RTS. J. 507 (2008) (symposium on “How We Vote”).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Undue Burdens on Voter Participation: New Pressures for a Structural Theory of the Right to Vote?, 35 HASTINGS CONST. L. Q. 643 (2008) (symposium on “Frontiers of Democracy”).  

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Structuring Judicial Review of Electoral Mechanics: Explanations and Opportunities, 156 U. PA. L. REV. 313 (2007).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, N.Y. State Bd. of Elections v. Torres: Is the Right to Vote a Constitutional Constraint on Party Nominating Conventions?, 6 ELECTION L. J. 399 (2007).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Advisory Counterparts to Constitutional Courts, 56 DUKE L. J. 953 (2007). Selected for the 2006 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum.

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Election Commissions and Electoral Reform: An Overview, 5 ELECTION L. J. 425 (2006).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Representation Reinforcement Through Advisory Commissions: The Case of Election Law, 80 N.Y.U. L. REV. 1366 (2005).

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Securing Ecological Investments on Other People’s Land: A Transaction-Costs Perspective, 44 NAT. RESOURCES  J. 529 (2004) (symposium on “Private Lands Conservation: Institutions and Instruments”).  

Christopher S. Elmendorf, Ideas, Incentives, Gifts, and Governance: Toward Conservation Stewardship of Private Land, In Cultural and Psychological Perspective, 2003 U. ILL. L. REV. 423.

Christopher S. Elmendorf, State Courts, Citizen Suits, and the Enforcement of Federal Environmental Law by Non-Article III Plaintiffs, 110 YALE L. J. 1003 (2001).