Jack London Gateway Rapid Health Impact Assessment

Authors: Human Impact Partners, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, San Francisco Department of Public Health

Location: Oakland, California, United States

Completion Date: May 2007

HIA Report: Jack London Gateway Rapid HIA: A Case Study

Summary of the HIA

Proposed Policy or Project

Jack London Gateway (JLG) is a residential and commercial development project proposed in 2006 by the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). The project includes approximately 55 units of low-income senior housing and an additional 14,000 feet of retail space in an under-utilized parking lot of the existing Jack London Gateway Shopping Plaza. The 7.39-acre site currently contains approximately 57,000 sq. ft. shopping center. The site is close to the junction of Interstate 980 and Interstate 880, and is less than 400 feet from Interstate 980. It is also approximately 1100 feet from the Port of Oakland and Interstate 880.

Background and Policy Context

West Oakland is a neighborhood in Oakland, California whose residents have predominantly low socio-economic status (61% or residents earned less than $30,000 in 1999, as compared to only 26% in Alameda County), are majority African-American (64%), and face many health issues. Life expectancy in the area is 7.3 years lower than Alameda County. The mortality rate for every disease reported by the Alameda County Department of Public Health is higher in West Oakland than in the rest of the County, and particularly so for cancer and heart disease. Rates of asthma hospitalizations are also significantly higher. Under the tenure of Jerry Brown, Oakland’s mayor from 1998 to 2006, the city pursued policies (e.g., the “10K Plan”) to increase residential and retail development with the philosophy that any improvement must be founded on an increased tax base. Brown charged the Community and Economic Development Agency, which includes land use planning, with streamlining new development. The agency shifted staff resources to expediting project approvals while abandoning the idea of comprehensive planning. As a result, planning staff did not have the opportunity to engage the community in an assessment of their needs nor innovate with new forms of sustainable and environmentally conscious development.

Scope and Methods

In 4 meetings over 3 months, HIP worked with community stakeholders to: select the project; engage EBALDC in discussions about project details; scope and prioritize health concerns associated with the project; identify supporting evidence using existing literature re: prioritized impacts; develop mitigations to address identified health impacts; and write a letter to EBALDC and Planning Commission re: potential project impacts and mitigations. Health impacts addressed were those related to indoor and outdoor air quality, noise, safety, and retail.

Summary of Findings

The HIA found that, without mitigations, the project would lead to: 1) higher rates of chronic and acute respiratory illness and higher rates of morbidity from asthma from traffic-related emissions compared to people living further from these roadways; 2) higher rates of chronic and acute respiratory illness and higher rates of morbidity from asthma as a result of poor indoor air quality caused by second-hand smoke; 3) chronic high noise levels that may result in annoyance, high blood pressure, and sleep loss; 4) high rates of stress and restricted activity outside home because of fear of crime and physical injury as well as increased physical injury from crime; and 5) increased availability of health-promoting goods of services and, potentially, increased physical activity as a result of the availabilty of these new resources OR increased availability of health-detrimental goods and services. The HIA made recommendations in each of these areas to mitigate potential negative impacts.

Decisions/Actions following the release of the HIA

The HIA working group engaged EBALDC around four identified areas of concern. As a result, EBALDC conducted the following actions:

  1. Air Quality - As a result of the HIA, EBALDC installed a central ventilation system with air filters inside housing units and also modified the design of the building by changing the proposed balconies facing the freeway into bay windows. They also designed the ventilation system for the common spaces with filtration in order to mitigate air quality issues.
  2. Noise - EBALDC modified residential building design to orient entryways through a noise-buffered courtyard rather than near a freeway. Ideally this mitigation will contribute to reducing the outdoor noise impact on future residents, to increasing the social network of future residents by easing their interactions with neighbors, and to improving safety by allowing seniors to avoid the busier roadways when walking.
  3. Safety - EBALDC has been in discussions with the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council about crime in the area and how to mitigate it.
  4. Retail Planning - EBALDC has provided the community with the results of a small survey it conducted to evaluate the community’s interests in retail usage.

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Jonathan Heller

Executive Director

304 12th Street, Suite 3B

(510) 452-9442