Humboldt County General Plan Update

At a Glance:

Location: Humboldt County, California

Date: 2008

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety, Humane Housing, Reliable Transportation

Determinants of Health: food access, healthcare access, neighborhood safety, nutrition, affordable housing, transit system, physical activity, housing, food access

Affected Population: People Living in Poverty

Research Methods: Focus Groups, Primary research, Qualitative research

Community Types: urban, rural

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The HIA addressed an update of the Humboldt County General Plan. Three growth alternatives to accommodate future population were being considered in the General Plan Update (GPU): 1) denser development in urban areas; 2) some growth to exurban areas; and 3) unrestricted growth throughout the county. Pathways and health issues explored included comments on six sections of the GPU: housing, transportation, public infrastructure, public safety and social cohesion, healthy economy and environmental stewardship. Within these six domains, baseline conditions and predicted impacts on 35 indicators of healthy development were assessed. Focus groups of 50+ community organizations and members were conducted. The HIA recommended, generally, adopting the growth plan that concentrated population growth in more urban areas. There were many specific recommendations in each chapter, including increasing public transportation options and outreach, adopting a countywide inclusionary zoning ordinance for affordable housing and preserving timber lands.

This was the first rural HIA and the first HIA conducted on a general plan update in the United States.


Impacts from the HIA have been positive. The County of Humboldt Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Branch and community groups communicated the results of the HIA widely, through meetings with the county board of supervisors and over 50 community meetings and conferences. Both the draft Housing and Circulation elements adopted many of the HIA’s recommendations and the HIA was included as an appendix to the GPU. Collaboration between the PHB and the county planning department was positive and other collaborative efforts have taken place. Community engagement and education about the links have been widespread. The final decision about which alternative the GPU will adopt is still pending.

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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