Healthy Planning in Pasadena, Texas

At a Glance:

Location: Pasadena, Texas

Date: 2016

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety, Lifelong Learning, Meaningful Work and Wealth, Reliable Transportation, Thriving Natural World

Determinants of Health: clean air,nutrition,education,employment,meaningful work and wealth,parks,transit system,traffic safety,clean water,physical activity

Affected Population: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, English Language Learners, People Living in Poverty, People with Chronic and Multiple Chronic Health Conditions

Research Methods: Literature review, Primary research, Qualitative research

Community Types: urban

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Located in the Houston metropolitan area, Pasadena is the second-largest city in Harris County, Texas, and is near two of the four largest refineries in the U.S. Pasadena’s Code of Ordinances states that the director of planning should coordinate the development of a city plan that covers multiple years. The HIA provided recommendations to the director and the city as they developed the plan, which will ultimately guide land use, mobility, and other decisions that could affect health.

Researchers determined that developing multifamily housing on vacant lots could produce health benefits associated with greater population density, including more walking and other physical activity among residents and better air quality. However, the authors noted that living in multifamily housing can result in stress and other negative mental health outcomes, depending on the building’s design and neighborhood satisfaction. Furthermore, developing the city’s vacant lots would play a minimal role in alleviating concentrated poverty. The researchers recommended that the planning department partner with stakeholders to convert some vacant lots to green spaces, small parks, mixed-use developments, or commercial developments. Other recommendations included partnering with the Pasadena Police Department to develop a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design program for multifamily housing developments; prohibiting new multifamily housing developments near Superfund sites and other places with environmental hazards; and encouraging mixed-use development.

Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services collaborated with the Pasadena Planning Department and other key stakeholders, including Air Alliance Houston and community residents, to conduct the HIA. The HIA will also be included in a comparative analysis to examine the capacity for HIA across levels of local government in the region.


Because of municipal leadership changes that occurred after the HIA’s release, the final comprehensive plan has been delayed. However, Harris County staff noted that the relationship between Pasadena officials and the county health department is stronger after participating in the HIA process, as demonstrated by their collaboration on a Safe Routes to School plan. Pasadena also applied for and received a Houston-Galveston Area Council livable centers planning study grant.

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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