Pittsburg, CA Railroad Avenue Specific Plan Health Impact Assessment (HIA)
Pittsburg is a small suburb located in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of approximately 60,000. Due to high housing costs in the Bay Area, the more affordable Pittsburg has experienced a surge in population and the need to plan for a higher growth rate than the surrounding community. The City of Pittsburg supports Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) plans to begin a 4-stop extension, including a station at Railroad Avenue, with Transit Oriented Development (TOD) surrounding each station. The Pittsburg Railroad Avenue Specific Plan includes a new BART station, to be located in the State Highway 4 median, surrounded by almost 1,600 units of multi-unit housing, 450,000 sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, and pedestrian and bike improvements. New construction would fall within a 1/2-mile of the proposed BART station.
The Great Communities Collaborative (GCC), whose members advocate for TOD projects across the Bay Area, chose Pittsburg as a priority project where using a health lens could help to achieve the project's goals. GCC conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the proposed plan to assess potential health impacts and make recommendations to promote health. HIA partner organizations included TransForm, a transportation and land use advocacy group; CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Communities Organizing), a grassroots faith-based organization; and Human Impact Partners, a non-profit organization with technical expertise in conducting HIAs. The HIA included topics like: housing, livelihood, transportation, retail and services, air quality, and noise. To analyze these issues, Pittsburg’s HIA methods included: air quality modeling, noise modeling, transportation predictive tools for vehicle trips and BART ridership, retail GIS mapping with a predictive tool for where a grocery store should ideally be located, Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI) maps and data analysis, and literature review.
The resulting HIA found the following impacts on Pittsburg’s community:
- Housing: more housing was needed to accommodate demand.
- Transportation: there was an increase in BART ridership from the current 8.4% to 16% in the project area, but as a result more protective measures were needed to protect pedestrian safety.
- Air Quality: there was an overall improvement in regional air quality, but the risk to residents living in the station area needed to be addressed. Findings included a quantitative estimate of percentage increase in hospitalizations and illness.
- Noise: Mitigations were needed to protest new residents.
- Retail: a grocery store was needed in the area and an optimal site was identified. Sites for retail and public services were also identified.
- Jobs: Hiring local day laborers would improve the health of local residents.
The Specific Plan incorporated high-quality filtered HVAC systems and noise mitigations such as triple-pained windows. Some Pittsburg residents did not want an entire affordable housing complex to be built, using the argument that the air quality would cause poor health for low-income residents. The City was able to keep the entire building in the plan by showing they had followed the HIA's recommendations for air quality mitigations. Even later, one City Councilman proposed to delete one of the affordable housing sites and add a park instead. Residents, organized through a local health clinic, testified that affordable housing would bring seniors closer to public transportation and encourage increased health benefits.
Category: Health and Safety
Issue: Health Impact Assessments
Community Type: Urban
Organization: Human Impact Partners
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