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Baldwin Park Adopts One of the Strongest Complete Street Policies in the Nation

Case Story

Summary

The City of Baldwin Park, once known for having the highest incidence of obesity in the central San Gabriel Valley region, now has one of strongest complete street policies in the nation. The policy is aimed at creating a safe and efficient transportation system that promotes health and mobility for all of Baldwin Park’s residents and visitors. Baldwin Park’s Complete Streets policy creates standards and design criteria that are part of a larger initiative to create a healthier, more active community.

Program Highlights

  • Baldwin Park is the first city in Southern California to pass such a stringent complete streets policy. It is considered the most progressive in the nation by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
  • The Complete Streets Policy emphasizes street connectivity, accommodates various transportation uses on streets and requires all new developments within the city limits to comply with complete streets policies. The policy also ensures that all new designs integrate natural local features, harmonize with adjacent land uses and are designed with a strong sense of place, unique to Baldwin Park.
  • The city policy guided a plan to make five major corridors safe for all users. In addition, the city created a new street design manual to make such changes easier in every upcoming project.
  • The policy helped the city gain access to $1.2 million in Safe Routes to School grants and other funding.
  • Baldwin Park officials received input from more than 300 residents and teen advocates, Baldwin Park Unified School District, California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), Ryan Snyder and Associates and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s RENEW initiative before creating the policy.

Healthy Neighborhood Connection

Designing complete streets helps people be active. One study  found that 43 percent of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes from home met recommended physical activity levels, as opposed to 27 percent of people without safe, walkable places. Strong complete streets policies integrate diverse street uses into street design enabling walking, biking and public transit use. The policies attract economic and cultural vitality by featuring pedestrian designs such as benches, shade and mixed-use commercial and residential development.

Lessons Learned

  • You must build strong partnerships. Partnering with the school district and working closely with the public works department is the key to program success.
  • Don’t be afraid to engage your community and other stakeholders. The most successful policies are those that incorporate the thoughts and opinions of a broad group of stakeholders: transportation planners and engineers, elected officials, transit agencies, public health departments, schools and members of the community.
  • Continue to engage and outreach even though change cannot be instituted overnight.

The Rest of the Story…

The City of Baldwin Park has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the California. In 2010, a study  by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that almost half of the children (46.7 percent) in Baldwin Park were obese. The city responded with a multipronged approach to improve the health of Baldwin Park residents.

One response was the adoption of one of the strongest complete streets policies in the country.The Baldwin Park Complete Streets Policy was approved in July 2011 with the purpose of creating a safe and efficient transportation system that promotes health and mobility by providing high quality pedestrian, bicycling and transit access to all destinations throughout the city.

The Complete Streets Policy emphasizes street connectivity, accommodates various transportation uses on streets and requires all new developments within the city limits to comply with complete streets policies. It also ensures that all new designs are context sensitive, integrate natural local features, harmonize with adjacent land uses and are designed with a strong sense of place, unique to Baldwin Park. Baldwin Park’s Complete Streets Policy was a collaborative project that utilized extensive public engagement, seeking input from over 300 residents and teen health advocates.

The city worked closely with the Baldwin Park Resident Advisory Committee, Baldwin Park Unified School District, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Ryan Snyder and Associates (a transportation planning consultant firm) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s RENEW LA County initiative to develop the policy.
Prior to adopting the policy, the city had already emerged as a leader in active living and healthy eating policies and programs in response to its high obesity rate.

In order to reshape the food and physical activity environment to reduce disparities in obesity and improve children’s health the city has:

  •  Adopted innovative nutrition guideline policies.
  • Placed a moratorium on drive-thrus in downtown Baldwin Park.
  • Engaged the public in programs to improve healthy choices in corner stores.

In 2005, Baldwin Park was chosen as one of six communities across California to participate in a program called Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC). This program is funded through The California Endowment and the Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit program. Baldwin Park worked with the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) to carry out HEAC programs and policies, which included grassroots collaboration among residents, youth, non-profits, the school district and the city. 

Baldwin Park also participates in the Healthy Eating Active Living Campaign (HEAL), a partnership of the League of California Cities and CCPHA, (HEAL cities adopt a resolution to support policies and practices that encourage physical activity and nutritious eating). 
Residents and policy-makers have shown their commitment for combating the city’s obesity problem by enacting strong policies, collaborating with other agencies and funders and engaging community members. While Baldwin Park continues to struggle with obesity and health issues, its efforts are changing the culture of the community and serve as a model for other communities across the nation.

Resources

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Interview with Sal Lopez, Associate Planner

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