Pathways to Community Health: Evaluating the Healthfulness of Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites

Authors: Human Impact Partners

Location: California, United States

Completion Date: August 2009

HIA Report: Pathways to Community Health: Evaluating the Healthfulness of Affordable Housing Opportunity Along the San Pablo Ave. Corrirdor

Summary of the HIA

Proposed Policy or Project

A Specific Plan for development of the San Pablo Corridor in El Cerrito and Richmond, CA is to include development of housing sites in addition to other land uses. Previous to the HIA, land use planning agencies had not determined specific sites for affordable housing nor the percentage and type of affordable housing at any site. Urban Habitat, an organization that advocates for social, economic and environmental justice in the Bay Area, asked Human Impact Partners to assess health benefits and liabilities associated with three sites they proposed to include in their campaign for affordable housing in the Specific Plan.

Background and Policy Context

The cities of El Cerrito and Richmond, California are engaged in a Specific Plan process to revitalize the San Pablo Avenue Corridor, which passes through both cities. In 2008, Human Impact Partners worked with the Great Communities Collaborative to engage community residents on a Health Opportunities Assessment, or “HOA,” which identified opportunities for optimizing health on the Corridor. The HIA followed the HOA process, and was intended to provide guidance to Urban Habitat and community members for their advocacy around affordable housing sites in the Specific Plan, and to suggest mitigations to prevent adverse health impacts.

Scope and Methods

For each of the three potential affordable housing sites, Human Impact Partners evaluated health assets (e.g., parks, trails, community centers, schools, transit, retail diversity) and health liabilities (e.g., air pollution, noise, collisions, concentrated poverty). Methods included a literature review, GIS mapping, analysis of data from Google Maps and other public data sources, the Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI), analysis of census data, field observations, a parks assessment, focus groups, the Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI), noise modeling, and air dispersion modeling of particulate matter emissions from vehicle traffic.

Summary of Findings

Overall, the three assessed affordable housing sites, which are located very close to one another and all border San Pablo Avenue, were determined to have a similar set of health opportunities and liabilities. Slight differences between impacts associated with the three sites were forecasted for concentrated poverty, violence and crime, and access to a full-service supermarket and community centers. A more significant difference between the sites was determined for quality of schools. Recommended mitigations in the HIA for reducing adverse health impacts included increasing space for healthy retail and public services, offering reduced-cost transit passes to residents, incentives for car-share memberships and car-share parking, a needs assessment for local park programming, joint-use agreements with local schools, improved park maintenance and security, a new public elementary school, increased access to existing community and senior centers, bike lanes, traffic calming features, pedestrian-level lighting, secure outdoor bike parking, housing design strategies for reducing air and noise impacts, indoor ventilation and filtration systems for removing air pollutants, mixed-income housing developments, and a living wage offered by local employers.

Decisions/Actions following the release of the HIA

A letter from our partners to the City Council and city staff included health-based recommendations and is currently being considered. The Draft San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan is being revised to incorporate all public comments to date.

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E. Celia Harris

Research Associate

304 12th Street, Suite 3B

(510) 452-9442