Moira O’Neill

  • Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning
  • Associate Professor of Law, General Faculty

Moira O’Neill is an associate professor in urban and environmental planning at UVA’s School of Architecture. She also holds an academic appointment at the Law School.

O’Neill’s interdisciplinary research and teaching focuses on land use, climate and resilience. Her research examines state and local government efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change while also addressing inequality. She is the principal investigator on a study of land use regulation in cities and exurban areas, the Comprehensive Assessment of Land Use Entitlements Study (CALES). The CALES contributes new data to housing policy debates about which regulations promote housing affordability, integration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. O’Neill has provided state legislative testimony in California on findings from the CALES, and this work has supported recent California legislation to increase transparency around local government regulation of residential development. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, California Community Foundation and California’s Air Resources Board have provided support for the CALES. Most recently, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she is collaborating with UCLA scholars to explore how CALES data, in conjunction with other research methods, can inform fair housing questions.

O'Neill’s research on sustainable public school meal reform initiatives has supported district-level and state policy implementation of sustainable school meal improvements to promote healthy eating and a circular food system. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, the Stupski Foundation, the Berkeley Food Institute and Columbia University’s Population Research Center supported this work. Relatedly, O’Neill serves on the steering committee of Virginia Food for Virginia Kids, a collaboration between the Department of Education, other state departments and nonprofits to increase K-12 student access to healthy, Virginia-sourced food.

Recently, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control provided O’Neill and colleagues support to examine local regulation of nonmedical outdoor cannabis cultivation. This study examines whether current regulation is advancing state policy to bring cultivation out of the illegal market to protect public health and the environment.

Before joining the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, O’Neill was an associate research scholar and adjunct faculty member of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Prior to that, O’Neill was an assistant professor of teaching in the University of California at Berkeley’s department of City and Regional Planning in the College of Environmental Design and at Berkeley Law. O’Neill has taught Introduction to Environmental Law and Planning, Land Use Controls, State and Local Government Law, Local Government Law and Politics, and Community Development. She is presently an associate research scientist at UC Berkeley in the Institute of Urban and Regional Development. She is also an affiliated scholar of UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

O'Neill’s professional and legal experience involved representing public entities and universities in California. She received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2006. She graduated law school with academic honors and awards, including recognition through membership in the Thurston Society. She also served as the executive managing editor for the Hastings Law Journal and worked as a teaching assistant in the Legal Educational Opportunity Program for first-year Civil Procedure, Property and Environmental Law courses.

After graduating law school, she clerked for Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. During law school she externed for Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins of the California Supreme Court, then of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

O’Neill teaches Land Use Law, Local and State Government Law, and Community Development Planning courses.


  • J.D.
    University of California Hastings College of the Law

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