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Jason Corburn

Jason Corburn is Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. He is the author of Street Science: Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice, winner of the 2007 Paul Davidoff award given by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

Titles by This Author

People, Places, and the Politics of Urban Planning

In distressed urban neighborhoods where residential segregation concentrates poverty, liquor stores outnumber supermarkets, toxic sites are next to playgrounds, and more money is spent on prisons than schools, residents also suffer disproportionately from disease and premature death. Recognizing that city environments and the planning processes that shape them are powerful determinants of population health, urban planners today are beginning to take on the added challenge of revitalizing neglected urban neighborhoods in ways that improve health and promote greater equity. In Toward the Healthy City, Jason Corburn argues that city planning must return to its roots in public health and social justice. The first book to provide a detailed account of how city planning and public health practices can reconnect to address health disparities, Toward the Healthy City offers a new decision-making framework called “healthy city planning” that reframes traditional planning and development issues and offers a new scientific evidence base for participatory action, coalition building, and ongoing monitoring. To show healthy city planning in action, Corburn examines collaborations between government agencies and community coalitions in the San Francisco Bay area, including efforts to link environmental justice, residents’ chronic illnesses, housing and real estate development projects, and planning processes with public health. Initiatives like these, Corburn points out, go well beyond recent attempts by urban planners to promote public health by changing the design of cities to encourage physical activity. Corburn argues for a broader conception of healthy urban governance that addresses the root causes of health inequities.

Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice

When environmental health problems arise in a community, policymakers must be able to reconcile the first-hand experience of local residents with recommendations by scientists. In this highly original look at environmental health policymaking, Jason Corburn shows the ways that local knowledge can be combined with professional techniques to achieve better solutions for environmental health problems. He traces the efforts of a low-income community in Brooklyn to deal with environmental health problems in its midst and offers a framework for understanding "street science" -- decision making that draws on community knowledge and contributes to environmental justice.Like many other low-income urban communities, the Greenpoint/Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn suffers more than its share of environmental problems, with a concentration of polluting facilities and elevated levels of localized air pollutants. Corburn looks at four instances of street science in Greenpoint/Williamsburg, where community members and professionals combined forces to address the risks from subsistence fishing from the polluted East River, the asthma epidemic in the Latino community, childhood lead poisoning, and local sources of air pollution. These episodes highlight both the successes and the limits of street science and demonstrate ways residents can establish their own credibility when working with scientists. Street science, Corburn argues, does not devalue science; it revalues other kinds of information and democratizes the inquiry and decision making processes.