Philadelphia Releases New Community Heat-Relief Plan

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MAYOR Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney and City officials representing several departments joined community partners in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park neighborhood today to celebrate the release of the City’s first-ever Community Heat Relief Plan.

“Though not always obvious, surface temperature varies throughout the city. The hottest neighborhoods tend to be predominantly low income Black and Latinx communities. Extreme heat is not just an environmental issue, but it is an issue of equity and social justice as well,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I thank everyone who worked on the Heat Relief Plan, we remain committed to working towards a future in which our communities are more equitable, and therefore, more resilient to our changing climate.”

The Beat the Heat pilot project began in summer 2018 as a collaboration between City agencies and Hunting Park organizations, residents, and community groups, including Esperanza, Hunting Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee, Hunting Park United, Lenfest Center, and North10 Philadelphia. The purpose of the project is to understand how residents of Hunting Park are coping with extreme heat, the tools they need to better cope, and the changes they would like to see in their community to make it cooler now and in the future.

“Hunting Park has a large population of children and one of the highest rates of asthma in the city, a combination that places the population at a higher risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The Beat the Heat Initiative is the latest in a series of strategies that originated with Esperanza’s 10-year neighborhood plan, completed in 2012, to protect and enhance the environment for residents,” said David Ortiz, VP of housing & economic development at Esperanza. “Esperanza has sponsored yard-tree giveaways and has planted sidewalk trees that help to reduce heat, lower utility bills, and create healthier outcomes for residents.”

During the event, residents got a first look at the Hunting Park Community Heat Relief Plan while enjoying pastries and smoothies from local businesses, information tables, and giveaways. The Hunting Park Community Heat Relief Plan was informed by over 500 community surveys collected in both Spanish and English, a cross-departmental City working group (the City Heat Team), 30 community partners, and five Community Heat Ambassadors.

Recommendations from the plan are grouped into three priority areas:
1. staying cool and safe at home,
2. staying cool and safe in public spaces, and
3. greening and tree planting.

The plan also includes a toolkit designed to support other communities to further understand heat vulnerability in their communities. Moving forward, the Office of Sustainability, the City Heat Team, and Hunting Park community partners are committed to continuing to address high heat and heat disparities both in Hunting Park and citywide. Next steps include projects like green stormwater infrastructure, coordinated tree plantings, changing city policies, addressing language barriers, and launching a Hunting Park Heat Relief Network.

“We look forward to seeing how this plan improves areas throughout Philadelphia, particularly more vulnerable neighborhoods,” said Melissa Long, deputy director at the Division of Housing & Community Development. “This plan will help provide the tools necessary to understand heat disparities and overcome heat-related issues.”

To learn more about the project, visit www.phila.gov/green.

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