Elisabeth Haub Law School of Law
Pace University
Land Use Law Center
Supervisor: John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor
Blog No. 39 of the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project
Editor: Brooke Mercaldi
Contributing Author: Bailey Andree [*]


Gaining Ground on Four Catastrophes: How to Find and Use Strategies to Protect Human Health


The Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project has spanned two years and produced 39 blogs. Our team of over fifty students at the Land Use Law Center has created a substantial body of work in response to the threats of COVID-19, racial inequity, housing insecurity, and climate change. Members of this team have entered over 140 case studies on the Center’s Gaining Ground Database, which are listed under the Healthy Communities Topic. These case studies demonstrate effective land use strategies that municipalities are using to confront these four catastrophes in all regions of the country. Students discovered, analyzed, and wrote about these cases, focusing on strategies that positively impact public health through land use. They added abstracts of those case studies to Gaining Ground, where practitioners, advocates, and stakeholders can find the strategies and adapt them to conditions in their own municipalities.


Here is a sample case study abstract:

Raleigh, North Carolina created a guidebook, which is split into five sections: 1) introduction; 2) design principles; 3) station area; 4) policy toolkit; and 5) action plan. The introduction discusses why it is important to plan development around transit and what the goals are for growth and affordability. Sections two through five are aimed at how to achieve these goals. Specifically, the document suggests using zoning to advance equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) through a TOD overlay zone. Complete streets, density changes, and use changes are also advanced.


Here is another:

Seattle, Washington recently enacted zoning legislation that removes significant barriers to Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) development in order to address the city’s housing crisis. The new code removes off-street parking and owner occupancy requirements while also streamlining the approval process for ADU development. Seattle also created a user-friendly website to simplify the process for its residents, connecting homeowners considering ADUs to members of the design and construction community, even addressing the high cost of ADU development through access to low-interest financing.


There are many fascinating subtopics within the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project. Our students have expanded the initial scope of the project – big-picture COVID-19, racial inequity, housing insecurity, and climate change issues – to include nuanced problems and solutions far beyond what we saw in the beginning. Now this project includes, among other things, equitable transit-oriented development, poison pills in accessory dwelling unit development, hazard mitigation planning, healthy buildings, placemaking, equity in comprehensive plans, health and racial impact studies, resilience, food deserts and swamps, social determinants of health, and more.


Our students have written many research reports on topics ranging from statewide housing initiatives to anti-displacement, and they have expanded the Land Use Law Center’s social media presence substantially. Seven students spoke on the project as panelists at the Alfred B. DelBello Land Use Conference in December 2021.


This project would have no significance without the work of the students. In addition to the dozens of volunteers involved over the course of the project:


Fifteen students have written blogs: Gabriella Mickel, Jillian Aicher, Emily Lively, Gina Hervey, Rhea Mallett, Chris Makowski, Jessica Roberts, Robert O’Connor, Jonathon Duffy, William West, Abigail Dove, Colt Watkiss, Bailey Andree, Jaclyn McBain, Michael Ohora


Four students have been editors: Jessica Roberts, Brooke Mercaldi, Jillian Aicher, Colt Watkiss


Four students are being published in national journals: Bailey Andree, Rhea Mallett, Gabriella Mickel, William West


To all of these students, thank you for your immense contributions. We would not have made such bounds in this research without you. Thank you also to our editors, particularly Jessica Roberts and Brooke Mercaldi, for overseeing all of these blogs. Thank you to Professor John Nolon for starting this project and overseeing the ever-expanding list of involved students.


The forthcoming blog will summarize the many lessons we have learned through this project. While this leg of the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project is coming to a close, there is more to come. A group of students is continuing this research through the lens of resilience and public health – stay tuned for the next chapter!


[*] Bailey Andree is a second-year student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law and Research Assistant to Distinguished Professor John Nolon.

Brooke Mercaldi is a second-year student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law and Land Use Scholar in the Land Use Law Center.


The previous blogs in the series are listed here:

  1. Reframing Sustainability: Introducing the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project
  2. Planning for Public Health: A New Beginning for Land Use Law
  3. The Role of Density in Combatting Climate Change and COVID-19
  4. Novel Coronavirus Claims Implicate Age-Old Property Rights Questions
  5. State & Local COVID-related Emergency Powers: Individual Rights
  6. COVID-Related Land Use Regulations and Judicial Deference
  7. Mediation of Eviction Disputes May Hold the Key to the Survival of Small Businesses
  8. Using Zoning to Help Eliminate Food Deserts: A Few Steps Forward
  9. Urban Heat Islands and Equity
  10. Urban Heat Island and Equity: What Can Local Governments Do?
  11. The Recovery Lease: Preventing Evictions of Commercial Tenants During the Pandemic
  12. The Role of Hazard Mitigation Planning in Promoting Public Health and Resilience
  13. Hazard Mitigation Planning: A Case Study
  14. Complete Streets: Protecting Public Health
  15. Zoning and Lease Mediation as a Way to Retain Critical Small Businesses
  16. Segregation by Law and the Racial Inequity Pandemic
  17. Combating Food Swamps to Improve Equity and Public Health
  18. The Pandemic Plan for Healthy Buildings
  19. Remediating Distressed Properties to Improve Public Health
  20. Housing, a Crucial Determinant of Health
  21. ADU Introduction
  22. NIMBY Restrictions to Poison the Prospects of Accessory Dwelling Units to Address Housing Insecurity
  23. Zoning to Fill the Missing Middle Housing Gap
  24. Old Tools to Fight Housing Insecurity: Adaptive Reuse and Infill Development
  25. Racial Impact Analyses
  26. A New Era of Equity-Based Comprehensive Planning…Finally
  27. Equity-Based Comprehensive Plans: Land Use Policies to Correct Past Disparities
  28. Reversing the Legacy of Redlining: Reducing Exposure to Toxins and Pollutants Through Land Use Law Reform
  29. Addressing the Four Pandemics – A Case Study
  30. Health Impact Assessments: A New Tool for Analyzing Land Use Plans, Zone Changes, and Development Projects
  31. Putting the “e” in TOD
  32. The Four Pandemics Explained and Addressed by Land Use Law and Policy
  33. Gentrification: Remedies and Consequences
  34. What is Climate Gentrification and Why is it Different?
  35. Using Supportive Housing to Address Homelessness
  36. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 1
  37. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 2
  38. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 3


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