The health justification for One Lake Merritt


June 8, 2015

1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, CA 94612

Dear Oakland City Council members,

As an Oakland-based health policy researcher focused on healthy and equitable communities, I would like to express our strong support for the One Lake Merritt (1LM) proposal put forth by Creative Development Partners (CDP) for the rehabilitation of the Henry J Kaiser Convention Center site. The proposal represents the sort of collaborative, innovative approach to development that Oakland should be fostering. Our support for 1LM results from an understanding, based on our experience and knowledge of the research, that the proposal’s job training, educational partnerships, focus on arts and cultural diversity, and environmentally sound development approach have the potential to affect health and equity in the following ways:

  • Increase life expectancy and reduce physical and behavioral health issues by increasing educational attainment and economic stability among youth. Increased education is associated with a lower likelihood of engaging in risky, health-detrimental behaviors such as smoking and drinking, and also leads to better chances of gaining employment and earning a higher income. All of these are associated with living longer and lower incidence of heart attacks and chronic health issues such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression. Over the life course, employment and income affect health through one’s ability to meet material needs, access to health care, the quality of neighborhoods in which people can afford to live, child health and development outcomes, and interpersonal relationships.
  • Prevent crime and violence by increasing educational attainment and economic stability among youth. Research has shown a relationship between high school graduation rates and crime rates, as well as between educational attainment and the likelihood of incarceration. Greater investments in education have yielded better public safety outcomes at a community level.  
  • Increase physical activity and active transportation by creating a multi-use destination in close proximity to public transit, public open space, and the city center. Neighborhood environments, such as those that are mixed-use with destinations to walk to, are shown to increase physical activity among youth. Having ample physical activity is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, respiratory disease, mental health, stress and more.

It has been said that “the built environment is social policy in concrete.” Approval of the 1LM development would reflect that Oakland plans to infuse its current development boom with a social mission and make policy decisions that position community benefit and health and equity impacts as non-negotiable priorities. As Oakland sits on the precipice of unprecedented gentrification, it is more important than ever that resilience and opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color are actively cultivated and that policy decisions are made that do not exacerbate inequality. We are proud to align with the numerous labor and community groups in support of CDP’s proposal and would welcome an opportunity to engage with you further on the health and equity implications of this and future projects.

Jeremy Cantor, MPH, is Senior Consultant with JSI--San Francisco. His work focuses on advancing sustainable, healthy communities and innovative health reform strategies that promote health, particularly among vulnerable populations. Cantor previously worked at Prevention Institute where he was coordinator of the statewide Healthy Places Coalition and lead consultant on the Eden Area Livability Initiative in Alameda County. He has co-author numerous briefs and studies including Prevention for a Healthier America; Health, Equity, and the Bottom Line: Workplace Wellness in California Small Businesses; Community-Centered Health Homes: Bridging the Gap Between Health Services and Community Prevention; and Laying the Groundwork for a Movement to Reduce Health Disparities. He has developed training and research materials on health equity for numerous organizations including The California Endowment and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cantor has served on the advisory boards for the Community Health Centers Leveraging the Social Determinants of Health Project, California Health Policy Forum, and Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Initiative (RAMP)."