Check our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to common questions. The questions and answers are grouped by category of question. If you cannot find an answer to your specific question, send us a message.
- What is the purpose of the SCI?
- Where did the objectives, indicators and development targets in the SCI come from?
- How long has the SCI been around?
- How does the Healthy Development Checklist address development trade-offs?
- What does the SCI website include?
- How do I actually use the SCI?
- How has the SCI been used so far?
- Has the SCI been adapted by other localities?
- What are some of the SCI's limitations?
- What if I want to analyze some issues in more depth?
- How often do you revise the contents of the SCI?
- How often do you revise the data in the SCI?
- Can I request a presentation or meeting to learn about the SCI?
- Do you provide trainings and/or technical assistance on how to use the SCI?
The Sustainable Communities Index (SCI) is a system of over 100 performance indicators to measure our city’s progress towards achieving objectives that reflect a vision of a healthy and equitable city. The goal of the SCI is to make information accessible and understandable, so that a variety of users can use geographically relevant data for policy making, planning, advocacy, research, and education. Highlighting the deficiencies and strengths revealed in the data can catalyze action and prioritize and focus city initiatives that affect our built and social environments.
The content of the SCI is rooted in the the Eastern Neighborhoods Community Health Impact Assessment (ENCHIA) – an eighteen month process designed to analyze how development in several San Francisco neighborhoods would affect attributes of social and physical environments that are most important to health. Facilitated and staffed by SFDPH, ENCHIA was guided by a multi-stakeholder Community Council of over 20 diverse organizations. The Council’s work and products contained a good deal of content on which to build a comprehensive evaluation tool. As a result, the experience and research from the ENCHIA process was synthesized into the Sustainable Communities Index, which contains over 100 indicators to measure progress towards meeting Community Health Objectives, as well as other tools for evaluating development projects, finding policy and design strategies, and uncovering the evidence that links to content in the SCI to health outcomes. For more information on the ENCHIA process, visit the ENCHIA website.
Some SCI Indictors and Healthy Development Checklist Development Targets are borrowed from other indicators processes and criteria tools, such as the Healthy People 2010 objectives and the LEED-ND criteria. The SCI attempts to align with existing metrics and standards so that our data is relevant and useful to a variety of agencies.
As described above, the SCI grew out of the Eastern Neighborhoods Community health Impact Process (ENCHIA), which commenced in November 2004. The SCI website was launched in March 2007 as the Healthy Development Measurement Tool (HDMT), and has undergone a number of instrumental changes as well as re-naming.
Good development and policy making will always represent an optimal balance between competing objectives. Therefore, a user of the Healthy Development Checklist should expect that for any given project, the SCI will reveal particular strengths and weaknesses for a plan. The achievement of one or more Checklist targets alone does not signify good development and the non-achievement of one or more targets does not signal poor development. By providing information about both the positive and negative effects on health objectives, the SCI helps to reveal trade-offs and aids those involved to make more informed choices with full-recognition of those trade-offs.
Several examples of the types of trade-offs one might expect in the evaluation of land use development projects are:
- Mixed-use developments and higher densities are associated with higher noise levels.
- Abiding by LEED or Energy Star standards increases the cost of the housing production.
- Development of green roofs may compete with the use of roofs for solar energy.
- Desegregating schools may conflict with promoting neighborhood-based education.
- Development targets that decrease segregation and promote racial and economic integration can facilitate gentrification.
- Development impact fees or community benefits agreements may raise the cost of development which reduces developer desire or ability to pay for things like affordable housing or green building design.
The Checklist does not provide a means to weigh conflicting priorities and goals, nor does it advocate for or discourage any specific means of evaluating these trade-offs. The optimal use of the Checklist and SCI Indicators will occur in an open and transparent decision-making process with public participation.
The SCI is primarily focused on the Indicators; however, the website also contains other tools that can be useful to different users. The tools include:
- Indicator System - Over 100 indicators of social, environmental and economic conditions that can be used to evaluate baseline conditions and to monitor those conditions prospectively. Data are disaggregated by neighborhood and where possible are mapped spatially to highlight disparities.
- “Healthy Development” Checklist - A downloadable checklist of development targets that can be used to assess whether urban development projects help achieve community health objectives.
- Menu of Policies and Design Strategies - A listing of potential actions that can be taken by project sponsors or policy-makers to achieve development targets in the checklist and advance community health objectives.
These components are organized by seven broad elements that comprise a healthy city and twenty-seven community health objectives that, if achieved, would result in greater and more equitable health assets and resources for San Francisco residents. The SCI also includes an extensive literature base that describes the nexus between the community health objectives and health.
The tools on the SCI website can be used in a number of ways:
- You can examine comprehensively how the City performs across the Objectives to determine what issues might be affecting a certain neighborhood most.
- You can search for data on specific topics, such as food access or urban greening, to determine where investments should be made.
- You can assess vulnerabilities and strengths in a development area to determine what considerations should be made during the design and planning phases.
- You can assess medium to large scale development projects using the Healthy Development Checklist.
- You can search for potential actions that can be taken by project sponsors or policy makers to advance Community Health Objectives.
- You can search the literature base that describes the nexus between the Community Health Objectives and health outcomes.
Please visit our Applications in San Francisco page to access applications reports and findings.
Please visit our Adaptations Elsewhere page to learn more.
The SCI works best as a comprehensive preliminary survey tool – it does not provide for in depth rigorous or scientific forecasting of impacts. However, the SCI may help to identify and prioritize issues to conduct further research on. The SCI does not provide indicators for all outcomes related to health. The focus of the SCI is on environmental, social and economic level factors that affect health at the population level. The SCI does not include traditional behavioral health indicators nor does the SCI assess factors modifiable at the household level such as environmental tobacco smoke exposure. Many concepts in the SCI present challenges to measurement. For example, while many of our indicators try to address issues of access, accessibility is a function of many things such as time, cost, quality, safety, and cultural appropriateness that are not easily measured.
SFDPH maintain a number of health assessment resources that can supplement an use of the SCI. For more information on these tools please visit the website for the Program on Health, Equity, and Sustainability here.
Developing the SCI has been a collective learning process. The SCI is a living tool, and is continually being revised and updated to reflect the state of our knowledge and experience. The SCI will continue to undergo peer review by national experts in the fields of public health, planning, environmental protection, and social indicators. New research findings and newly available technologies for measurement and assessment will be incorporated appropriately into the SCI.
SFDPH staff is committed to one annual comprehensive update to the SCI website, primarily focusing on revising indicators, data and development targets. Major re-organizations to the website also occur during this "update" period. Throughout the year, however, indicators that do not have data associated with them may be updated outside of the annual update.
We welcome feedback on how to improve the SCI.
Please see the Data and Map Methods page.
Of course! We welcome opportunities to discuss the SCI, train interested parties and provide any additional information. Feel free to contact us to discuss this further.
Yes! SFDPH provides at least one full-day SCI training in San Francisco per year. To receive notifications about SCI trainings, please send us a message. Upon request, SFDPH staff can also develop a specialized training depending on your needs. Please note that we prioritize requests from San Francisco institutions and organizations. Furthermore, depending on the level of training and/or technical assistance needed, fees may be assessed to cover the cost of staff time and travel. Please feel free to contact us for more information.
No, you do not need to register and/or login to use the Index. Currently, the login page is available to help us manage the content on the website.