Example Plans by Topic

Design for Health’s (DFH) Planning Information Sheets link the research summarized in the Key Questions series to strategies for incorporating health into comprehensive plans. Below, we offer a few overall exemplary plans as well as links to some of the plans highlighted in our Information Sheets, organized by health topic. For more information about where certain health topics can be covered within the comprehensive plan, DFH offers a simple matrix to help you find your way.

Good Overall Plans

  • King County, Washington: Comprehensive Plan Updated
    Rather than making a single Health Element, King County interspersed public-health objectives throughout its 2004 plan update, particularly in the chapters on “Urban Communities” and “Transportation.” In addition, it also includes a helpful contextual section discussing the link between physical activity, obesity, and how its planning and design strategies hope to influence some of these health issues. DFH also features King County in its case study section. The current (2008/2010) version of the plan is now online.
  • Fremantle, Western Australia: Physical Activity Plan 
    The City of Fremantle’s Physical Activity Plan for 2005 to 2006 provides a framework and objectives to help the City plan, develop, implement, and evaluate physical-activity programs and services. In addition to the separate plan, it recently developed an assessment tool to help communities address how new development projects will impact physical-activity opportunities. Fremantle is also part of DFH’s Plan case studysection.
  • Boulder, Colorado: Transportation Master Plan 
    Multimodal planning is at the center of Boulder ‘s Transportation Master Plan, which is a supplemental document to the comprehensive plan. The master plan identifies ten multimodal corridors, lists a series of goals for future improvements to the multimodal corridors, and identifies priority improvements for each of the four identified transportation modes that are roads, transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
  • Portland, Oregon: Pedestrian Master Plan
    The City of Portland prepared a pedestrian plan to guide future walking infrastructure improvements and provide guidelines for designing the pedestrian realm. The document is notable for three inter-related elements: it establishes a set of priorities at the city scale; engages the public through various participation methods; and links to the City’s capital improvement budget. It is also significant for recognizing that successful pedestrian environments depend on a variety of factors that include destinations, attention to crossings, relationship with storefronts, and not simply putting in sidewalks where none exist.
  • City of Minneapolis, Minnesota: Storm and Surface Water Management Plan
    This is a policy tool designed to combine management systems for sanitary sewers, storm drains and surface waters. The plan, which must also be approved by the regional governing body and the watershed district, contains sections on trends in water-resource management, categorization of systems, identification of regulatory responsibilities, goals and policies, assessment and inventory of resources, and plan implementation—all of which inform the City on how to balance aging infrastructure and regulatory mandates in order to encourage storm-water infiltration and reduce runoff.
  • The Contra Costa County, California: Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan(CBPP)
    The CBPP is intended to outline bicycle and pedestrian needs for Contra Costa; refine the Authority’s goals and strategies as they apply to bicycling and walking; encourage local efforts to improve the environment for bicycling and walking in the communities of Contra Costa; and spur greater interest in and support for bicycling and walking generally.


  • Boulder, Colorado: Comprehensive Plan
    The City of Boulder prioritizes multimodal planning within the transportation element of their comprehensive plan. It includes language on how to develop and balance an all-mode system that provides transportation choices, services, and facilities for people with mobility impairments, as well as youth, older adults, and low-income persons. This policy accompanies others, such as multimodal strategies, reduction of single-occupancy auto trips, system completion, and neighborhood design and integration.

Air Quality

  • Riverside, California: General Plan
    The City of Riverside, California has an air-quality element within its general plan. Riverside works to improve air quality through various strategies that target trip characteristics and green infrastructure, including: encouraging use of alternative fuels, improving the community’s urban forest, promoting increased use of public transit, and reducing commuting, travel and vehicle-idling times. The element includes a comprehensive table with pollutant effects, federal and state standards, sources, and its health effects.
  • Tahoe, California, Regional Planning Agency (TRPA): Code of Ordinances
    TRPA regulates development and establishes environmental regulations in the Lake Tahoe region. Its Code of Ordinances requires that any new development project that will create a significant increase in daily-vehicle trips at the site, needs to prepare a technical analysis of potential traffic and air-quality impacts. The analysis includes: trip generation rates of the proposed project; impacts on regional vehicle miles traveled (VMT); impacts on regional and sub-regional air quality, and measures necessary to mitigate all traffic and air-quality impacts to a level consistent with environmental thresholds, its Goals and Policies, Regional Transportation Plan, and 1992 Air Quality Plan.
  • Local Air Quality Ordinances
    The general approaches used in most communities is to only allow dry cleaners and other polluting uses in commercial or industrial districts. Sometimes conditional-use permits or special exceptions are required in these districts, but especially in neighborhood commercial or mixed-use districts. This approach allows for a flexible approach to regulation, based on the specific site and operating conditions. In addition to local efforts, several states have regulations related to dry cleaners and other polluting uses. Click here for examples of air-quality ordinances.

Environment and Housing

  • Lowell, Massachusetts: Master Plan
    The City of Lowell mentions brownfields within three elements of its master plan: Unique Waterfront Environments, Economic Growth and Sustainability. In the chapter on sustainability, there is a recommendation to specifically identify opportunities for pilot projects on brownfield sites devoted to sustainable development in order to look at alternative-energy sources that would lead to cost-cutting and efficiency standards. The action steps include altering zoning and land-use designations that were originally for industrial development, offering developer incentives for such projects, and locating additional funding sources. Lowell has implemented many of the action steps included in its plan.

Food Access

  • San Francisco, California: Sustainability Plan
    The plan, prepared by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, provides goals, long- and short-term objectives, and actions related to the local-food system, education about sustainable food systems, regional sustainable agriculture, food production in the city, and food access.

Mental Health

  • Batavia, Illinois: Comprehensive Plan
    Batavia is a small western suburb of Chicago with a population of 26,000. It has an urban-design element within its comprehensive plan that looks at landscaping, design review, downtown character, and community spaces. One goal is to “use landscaping to soften new development, screen unattractive elements, minimize heat gain, and to provide relief from urbanization.” Policies include planting large trees to buffer parking lots and unattractive uses, and requiring developers to focus on vegetation and shade when designing outdoor spaces.
  • Sydney, Australia: Street Tree Master Plan
    Sydney’s tree master plan features key objectives, policy recommendations, the benefits of trees, and technical guidelines for three areas: its central business district, its suburban communities (inner-city residential areas), and their large industrial blocks. The plan includes provisions intended to reinforce and enhance the special characteristics of the three primary areas, using distinct street-tree planting strategies, and to establish green-city corridors by providing high-quality street trees.


  • San Diego, CA: Noise Element
    The city of San Diego was singled out in the American Planning Association’s 2012 Healthy Planning Report for creating “robust public health policy” in the topic area of noise. The plan calls for spatial buffers to separate residential or noise-sensitive areas from those with high levels of noise exposure and for future plans to consider land use in terms of anticipated noise exposure. An acoustical study is called for if Community Noise Equivalent Levels (CNEL- averaged sound levels with greater weight given to nighttime noise) are expected to exceed or equal 60 decibels in Noise Sensitive Land Uses (NSLUs). If such findings are confirmed, adjustments are required until exterior noises fall below 60 dB, and indoor noise below 45 dB. *All land-use plans in California are legally required to consider noise levels.

Physical Activity

  • Salt Lake City, Utah: Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan
    This plan showcases a strong planning tool to facilitate the continued and orderly development of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and includes implementation strategies. The plan is also sensitive to the regulatory environment, including improvements to the zoning code to consider, such as: having codes for all street patterns that consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, addressing the negative impacts of minimum parking requirements on the pedestrian environment, and providing for infrastructure improvements (e.g., bulb-outs, street crossings) that address various safety considerations.
  • Kansas City, Missouri: Walkability Plan
    The Kansas City plan is a comprehensive and innovative effort to determine pedestrian needs and demand, evaluate the pedestrian network and create new approaches to implement pedestrian-related facilities. Based on the concept of Pedestrian Level of Service Analysis, it presents a method that neighborhoods can use to conduct an evaluation of their pedestrian systems. Particularly notable is that the audit can be used by neighborhoods to communicate needs to city planning offices. The plan then recommends standards for different area types within the city and provides suggestions for prioritizing the areas with higher levels of pedestrian demand.


  • West Palm Beach, Florida: Comprehensive Plan
    West Palm Beach has implemented a citywide traffic-calming program with a variety of treatments used in different settings. The Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan provides the policy basis for the traffic-calming improvements by identifying a number of traffic-calming efforts, including: vertical changes in the street (e.g., speed humps, speed tables, raised intersections), lateral changes in the street (e.g., chicanes, offset intersections, lateral shifts), constrictions (e.g., narrowings, pinch points, islands), narrow pavement widths (e.g., medians, edge treatments), entrance features, traffic circles, and small corner radii and related streetscapes (e.g., surface textures, edge treatments and colors, landscaping, street trees and furniture).
  • Tempe, Arizona: Urban Design Ordinance
    The City of Tempe has incorporated CPTED/SafeScape principles into its urban-design ordinance within the Zoning and Development Code. The section on development standards includes a chapter entitled, “Landscape and Walls,” and provides design standards for landscape treatments with a stated purpose to create defensible spaces that also allow for natural surveillance.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: Complete Streets Manual
    The Louisville manual is a comprehensive policy document. “Complete Streets” means routinely providing accommodation on all new and reconstructed roadways for ALL users: bicyclists, pedestrians, motorists, transit users, and people with disabilities. The goal of this policy is to develop a multi-modal network that manages the demand for travel and improves the efficiency of the community’s transportation system

Social Capital

  • Madison, Wisconsin: Comprehensive Plan
    In its comprehensive plan, the City of Madison includes objectives that support “compact, mixed-use activity (“town”) centers as “urban” alternatives to conventional suburban style, single-use, low-density office and research parks.” The plan includes a number of policies to support this objective, including, but not limited to: preparing detailed neighborhood development plans that include location criteria and design standards for mixed-use activity centers; adopting land-development regulations that foster the development of compact, mixed uses; and mixed-use areas should be uniquely designed, easily discernible urban places.

Water Quality

  • San Antonio, Texas: Development Code 
    The City of San Antonio discusses pervious surfaces within the plan-implementation methods by including it within its parking and storage standards (Article 5, Division 6). In its code, it states that vehicle-parking areas can exceed the maximum number of spaces permitted if the additional spaces are designed using pervious pavement. It further identifies what kind of permeability rating the surface must have, as well as the necessary soil and slope conditions. It also includes maintenance standards by requiring the pavement to be “vacuum swept” and washed with a high-pressure hose at least four times a year.

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