This past week Plan4Health coalitions from around the country came together in Sacramento to participate in a multi-faceted meeting over the course of three days. Here, attendees had opportunities to meet and learn from one another as well as many guest speakers, share experiences and get out in the community to see the impact of the work that the Sacramento coalition is involved in.
We were very fortunate to have a number of guest speakers throughout the three day meeting to provide guidance and feedback to coalition members and talk about their experiences with similar work. These sessions offered some great insights into best practices in public health and planning and the examples shared resonated with attendees. As part of many of these sessions activities were held that encouraged critical thinking and the opportunity to not only work with representatives from their own coalitions but the larger Plan4Health community as well. Gaining new insights, understanding equity, addressing diverse perspectives and being prepared for new and potential barriers are just some of the takeaways from these sessions.
Guest speakers were from many different organizations, including: Prevention Institute; CDC’s Division of Community Health; Build Healthy Places Network; ChangeLab Solutions; the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and San Mateo County Health System
Attendees got to hear from local leaders as well. This was a great way to learn about what was happening in the Sacramento community and some of the issues they’ve faced and how they’re being addressed to make it a healthier place to live. Though attendees came from all over the country, many could relate to the examples and experiences shared from Sacramento. Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Mike McKeever, the Executive Director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (both planners) set the tone for the robust dialogue that occurred throughout the meeting.
When planning the meeting it was important to include time for each of the coalition’s to speak about the work being done through the Plan4Health grant in their communities. During day two, each coalition was asked to present an overview of their work for the rest of the attendees, which proved to be one of the highlights of the meeting. In addition to the project overview, each coalition included a question for the rest of the group to help facilitate conversation. This resulted in some great dialogue and experiences shared that may help to avoid and move past known and potential barriers. These presentations and ensuing conversations helped continue to foster cross-coalition relationships that will hopefully continue well into the future.
Getting outside and into the community was a key aspect of this meeting and created a lot of excitement amongst the group. These excursions allowed for a less formal way for attendees to get to know one another and see some of the positive changes taking place in Sacramento.
The first opportunity to get out of the conference room and into the community came on day one where an evening social hour was arranged at the Oak Park Brewing Company in South Sacramento. With the restaurant closed to the public and great food and company readily available, Plan4Health representatives, local planners and public health professionals got to unwind and continue to connect in a more casual atmosphere. It was also a special treat to have present David Rouse, FAICP, Managing Director of Research, APA National, Hing Wong, AICP, President of APA California, and Tracey Ferguson, AICP, President of the Sacramento Valley Section of APA, CA, each representing the exciting work taking place within their respective chapters.
The night was emceed by Kirin Kumar of the Sacramento coalition and guests were treated to some encouraging words from planning and public health leaders in attendance. The last, and arguably the most memorable, speaker of the night was Katie Valenzuela Garcia from the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. Katie gave an impassioned speech outlining some of the struggles of the area as well as the progress that’s been made and the positive changes they continue to work towards. She also acknowledged their efforts to reduce and address gentrification. Additionally, her speech included some history of the importance of the Oak Park Brewing Company and how it’s seen as a great example of the revitalization that’s taking place in the area.
On the second day, attendees were treated to a multi-site tour of the community. The first stop was Maple Elementary School. This site is a reclaimed elementary school which now serves as a community center within one of Sacramento’s most disadvantaged areas. Led by the La Familia Counseling Center, this recaptured space offers many programs related to emotional and physical health, employment and adult education and youth and family needs. Recreation, creative play and social interaction is also an important part of their work, and we saw this occurring throughout the site. Additionally, they host a variety of community events throughout the year.
Rachel Rios, the executive director of La Familia Counseling Center, graciously took the time to welcome us and provide some background on the site as well as what they hope to accomplish in the coming years. During the tour, the Plan4Health group was fortunate to see various classrooms with both children and adults, an innovative area for children’s play, and an attendee favorite – The Imaginarium. These different programs and places showcased how the community center helps foster childhood activity and creativity and was an inside look at the valuable opportunities offered to residents.
The next stop on the tour was The Cannery located in Davis, CA. This national award winning master-planned community developed by The New Home Company is a prime example of how a community can maintain, and even improve, health through planning. The community features more than 500 homes that cater to people from all walks-of-life. Bordered by its own 7.4 acre urban farm, The Cannery will provide homes, restaurants and local neighbors with farm fresh seasonal produce. Improving access to, and encouragement of, physical activity was a major consideration as well. Thanks to the extensive network of biking and walking paths, no location within the community will be more than a 10 minute walk or 5 minute bike ride away and each home will be within 300ft of a park or open space. This may seem hard to believe, but nearly one-third of the community is dedicated to open space. The City of Davis worked very closely with the Developers on this project, and was very specific on the types of businesses that will be allowed in this sustainable project. Though the community is still under development, it was quite impressive to walk through the neighborhoods and hear about all of the active design and sustainability features that will eventually be in place – and the reasoning and benefits behind them.
The last stop on our community tour was at the Mutual Housing at Spring Lake neighborhood, the first nationally certified zero net energy rental housing in the nation. This neighborhood offers affordable housing for local agricultural workers and their families who make below the median income for the area. This location is not only affordable, but is the first opportunity within the United States for renters to live in a 100 percent certified zero-net energy home. A zero-net energy (ZNE) building is a building that consumes no net energy, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy (primarily through solar on this site). The energy efficient features address one of the biggest housing related concerns of the community – high utility bills. Health and engagement are cornerstones of community life with multiple educational programs for adults and children available as well as open play areas, a community garden and a large community room for shared events. In addition to walking through the community, our group got to see inside one of the units and the impressive features it contained. Many from our group stopped to take a picture of the energy use meter in the kitchen that helps inform resident’s energy use behavior.– something some had heard of but most had never seen.
A big thank you to the Sacramento coalition and partners for helping to coordinate the meeting and site visit, to all the attendees for taking the time to travel from all over the country to attend, to staff at the various sites for welcoming us in and providing the tours and to all the speakers who came to meet with the group. Everyone’s contributions and enthusiasm helped to make this meeting a great success!
Check out the slideshow below to relive some of the highlights from the Plan4Health Sacramento Regional Meeting. This is the second Plan4Health regional meeting held this summer. To learn more about the site of the first meeting, Baltimore, check out this article from The City Paper.
Pictures courtesy of Plan4Health.