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Built/Natural Environment and Health

This area of research analyzes the relationship between the built/natural environment and how it influences population health. Specifically, we are interested in understanding how housing, transportation, parks, open space, and the overall infrastructure within a metropolitan area affects health outcomes.

Current Projects

  • Housing and Health: This project explores the relationship between neighborhood change, displacement, and health across several cities in the United States, Europe, and South America. This area of research is interested in understanding broadly how housing costs and lack of affordable housing, changing neighborhood conditions within the central city, and commute time of metropolitan populations impact their health.

  • Disaster Management and Recovery in Chile: This project looks at how Chile has responded to an increased amount of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, volcanoes, and landslides. It examines how effectively different government agencies, business interests, NGOs, and academic institutions collaborate to rebuild towns after disasters. In addition, the project explores the implementation of mitigation strategies to prepare for future disasters, and the social implications disasters have on communities. This project is in partnership with several government and academic institutions and aims to discover what lessons can be learned from past disasters to aid future disaster response within Chile, in the United States, and around the world.

  • School Food Environments and Health: This is an interdisciplinary multi-phased project that explores the capacity for public school districts to implement environmentally sustainable school meal reform to address correctable poor health outcomes among low-income students. The research examines the application of a planning framework called Rethinking School Lunch (RSL) in varied local contexts. RSL is a ten-pronged approach to school meal reform premised on the idea that the quality of school food and student learning can be improved while also reducing the meal program’s environmental footprint and contributing to the local and regional economy. This research began in the Oakland Unified School District in California and has supported this District’s implementation of its program and its Health and Wellness strategies.

Economy and Community Development

This area of research is interested in exploring how principles of the circular economy/urban sustainability may impact the quality of life and health of metropolitan populations. A key focus is on the effects of macro-level and micro-level economic, social, and political factors on the well-being of metropolitan populations and their neighborhood environments.

Current Projects

  • The Circular Economy and Food Systems: This study examines how school districts across California, all participating in the California Thursdays® Network, have contributed to a shift in their local food system by increasing procurement of California ingredients for school meal programs. It explores how these shifts in local procurement practices relate to the broader work of moving towards a circular economy.

  • The Circular City: This project is an exploratory project building off the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s research on examining how cities can embed circular economy practices into their urban operations. Specifically, this project attempts to better understand the positive impacts of technological investments, policies, and practices around the built environment; urban mobility; and food systems.

Law and Governance

This research group is collectively engaged in research at the intersection of planning, environmental and land use law, and local government. The research group pursues engaged scholarship to advance the Lab’s mission of promoting urban equity and to support informed policy making.

Current Projects

  • Examining Entitlement Timelines to Inform Policy and Process: Housing affordability in high-cost areas like the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City has rightly received a great deal of attention by lawmakers, the press, academics, and residents within these communities. Important questions raised in this discussion are: What laws or regulations might impede housing construction in high-cost areas? What solutions might help reduce those barriers with a minimum impact on other important values, such as environmental protection, public participation, and equitable treatment of low-income communities of color? This phased empirical research project explores these questions in depth.
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