Neighborhood Completeness Indicator

Introduction

The Neighborhood Completeness Indicator (NCI) is a quantitative spatial assessment tool measuring the proximity of San Francisco residents to daily goods and services in their neighborhoods. It was created as part of the Healthy Development Measurement Tool to advance the Public Infrastructure objective of assuring access to daily goods and service needs.

Included in the NCI are 11 key public services and 12 key retail services, necessary for meeting the daily needs of neighborhood residents. Although geographic distance is one dimension of accessibility, proximity to services promotes increased walking and biking, reduced daily vehicle trips and miles traveled, increased possibilities for healthful and meaningful work, and increased interactions among neighbors and others on the street.

Key Public Services Key Retail Services
Child care centers Auto Repair Shops
Community centers Banks
Community gardens Beauty and barker shops
Public health facilities Bike repair shops
Libraries Dry Cleaners
Open space Eating establishments
Parks 1/2 acre or larger Gyms
Post offices Hardware stores
Public art installations Laundromats
Public schools Pharmacies
Recreational facilities Retail food markets
Video rental stores/movie theaters

Background and Development

In November 2004, SFDPH convened over 20 organizations to carry out the Eastern Neighborhoods Community Impact Assessment (ENCHIA), an 18-month process to analyze how development in several San Francisco neighborhoods affected attributes of social and physical environments that are most important to health. Recognizing that there were no mandates, tools, or guidelines to systematically consider and mitigate health impacts in planning processes, the ENCHIA process conceived and advanced the concept of the Healthy Development Measurement Tool as a standard assessment tool to assess “health” impacts.

Participants in ENCHIA also identified the need for an HDMT indicator specifically looking at the provision of key retail and public services at the neighborhood level. To gather data for this indicator, a literature review was conducted to identify research related to neighborhood completeness, and to understand the experience of other municipalities where such an indicator was being studied and/or implemented. Drawing from this literature, a student intern collected and sorted services data and assisted in map development and validation. Data on retail and public services were obtained from a variety of resources, including Dun and Bradstreet; Garden for the Environment; State of California Department of Consumer Affairs; SF Arts Commission; SF Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families; SF Food Systems; SF Recreation and Park Department; and SF Department of Public Health. These data are disaggregated by neighborhood and illustrated spatially to highlight disparities in key retail and public services, and point the way toward actionable solutions.

Collaborations/Constituencies Involved

The content of the NCI reflects the ENCHIA Community Council’s vision for a healthy city. The multi-stakeholder Community Council that guided the ENCHIA process consisted of over 20 diverse organizations whose work was affected by urban development. As the NCI is further developed, there will be additional outreach to the Planning Department, community organizations, and other city agencies to review the indicator.

Relevance to Health and Health Equity

The fundamental vision of the Community Council, and subsequent framework of the NCI, is that all communities should have equal access to health resources. The more key public and retail services a neighborhood has, the greater the chance for residents and workers to walk or bike to access those services, increasing physical activity, social interactions, and “eyes on the street”.

Research has found the presence of a supermarket in a neighborhood predicts higher fruit and vegetable consumption and a reduced prevalence of overweight and obesity. Neighborhoods with diverse and mixed land uses can create closer proximity between residences, employment, and goods and services, thereby reducing vehicle trips and miles traveled and as a result, reducing air and noise pollution.

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Applications and Policy Targets

Application of the Neighborhood Completeness Indicator is appropriate for urban land and community plans in dense, socially, and economically diverse settings. It is also relevant to new residential, commercial, mixed-use, and industrial development projects. Application of the NCI may occur as part of a larger HDMT application or independently on its own. An application of the NCI asks the following questions:

  1. Does a place have all of the key public and retail services that contribute to neighborhood completeness?
    • NCI data are used to assess baseline conditions
  2. Does a plan or project advance neighborhood completeness?
    • Plans/projects are assessed to evaluate the extent to which they meet NCI development targets
  3. What recommendations for planning policies, implementing actions, or project design would advance neighborhood completeness?
    • Concrete, specific recommendations are provided to the plan/project based on the evaluation

The NCI was piloted in summer 2009 on the five San Francisco HOPE SF projects to help identify service gaps in each neighborhood. To learn more about HOPE SF, click here.