Descriptive Title: Proportion of the population within ½ mile from a community center

Geographic Unit of Analysis: Point

Percent of population within 1/2 mile of a community center, by type (2011)
NeighborhoodAny type of community centerCenter serving adults or multiple populationsCenter serving youthCenter serving seniors
Bayview/Hunter's Point 86% 79% 71% 63%
Bernal Heights 100% 98% 30% 38%
Castro/Upper Market 100% 98% 91% 97%
Chinatown 100% 100% 100% 100%
Excelsior 95% 87% 45% 46%
Financial District/South Beach 100% 100% 100% 100%
Glen Park
Golden Gate Park 100% 100% 100% 0%
Haight Ashbury 96% 89% 90% 2%
Hayes Valley
Inner Richmond 95% 88% 67% 79%
Inner Sunset 21% 21% 9% 0%
Lakeshore 48% 44% 0% 6%
Lincoln Park
Lone Mountain/USF
Marina 93% 88% 77% 18%
McLaren Park
Mission 100% 100% 96% 59%
Mission Bay
Nob Hill 98% 97% 94% 96%
Noe Valley 68% 64% 16% 42%
North Beach 100% 100% 23% 100%
Outer Mission 91% 77% 50% 71%
Outer Richmond 89% 86% 0% 82%
Pacific Heights 91% 87% 26% 45%
Potrero Hill 98% 95% 33% 3%
Presidio 27% 27% 0% 3%
Presidio Heights 96% 90% 28% 47%
Russian Hill 91% 76% 30% 91%
San Francisco 85% 77% 47% 55%
Seacliff 37% 1% 0% 36%
South of Market 96% 92% 78% 84%
Treasure Island 32% 0% 32% 0%
Twin Peaks 37% 31% 7% 13%
Visitacion Valley 95% 57% 80% 85%
West of Twin Peaks 90% 70% 2% 41%
Western Addition 100% 99% 59% 82%

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Community centers can foster the development of social networks and social integration by providing places where neighborhood residents interact with each other. The programs and services that take place at community centers can also provide valuable information and skills to residents.

Social networks and social integration are beneficial to health: Healthy People 2010 asserts that the social environment—including interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and others in the community—has a "profound effect on individual health."a For example, social support can buffer people from the negative psychological effects of life stress.b One review of over 100 studies concluded that social support for pregnant women improves fetal growth.c

Other studies have found women who receive social support have healthier babies, fewer complications in pregnancy and birth, and less postpartum depression.d Emile Durkheim's work on suicide showed that the lowest rates of suicide occurred in societies with the highest degrees of social integration.e In Alameda County in 1979, researchers found that men and women who lacked ties to others were 1.9 to 3.1 times more likely to die during the follow-up period than those who had many contacts.f Other studies have linked specific health conditions—such as strokes, death from cardiovascular disease, and the common cold—to having fewer social ties.c,g

Seniors and persons with disabilities are particularly at risk of social isolationh; this risk can be mitigated by the availability of day programs and other services in their communities. Neighborhoods in which residents feel social cohesiveness toward their neighbors (through mutual trust and exchanges of aid) tend to have lower mortality rates compared to neighborhoods that do not have strong social bonds.i

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

The map and table above separate community centers into three different groups based on the populations they serve. The first group serves seniors and/or persons with disabilities. Although seniors and persons with disabilities differ in the services/programs they need or desire, we have combined community centers serving the two populations into one group because there is significant overlap in the centers that serve seniors and those that serve persons with disabilities. The second group of community centers serves youth. The third group includes both centers that serve adults and centers that serve multiple populations (defined as seniors, persons with disabilities, youth, and adults).

In general, northeastern San Francisco and the Mission have better access to community centers compared to central and western San Francisco, particularly the Inner Sunset.  The neighborhoods with the lowest proximity to community centers in general are: Crocker Amazon, Inner Sunset, Presidio, Twin Peaks, and Treasure Island.  The neighborhoods with the highest proximity to community centers are: Castro/Upper Market, Chinatown, Downtown/Civic Center, Financial District, and Nob Hill.  Of the five neighborhoods with the highest percentage of youth under 18 (Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Presidio, Seacliff, and Treasure Island), 0% of the Seacliff and Presidio populations, 32% of the population in  Treasure Island, 71% of the Bayview population and 80% of the Visitacion Valley populations live within  ½ mile of a community center.  Of the five neighborhoods with the highest percentage of seniors over 65 (Chinatown, Seacliff, Presidio Heights, Russian Hill, and the Financial District), less than half of the populations in Seacliff and Presidio Heights live within ½ mile of a community center; whereas more than 90% live within ½ mile of a community center in Chinatown, Russian Hill and the Financial District.


This indicator does not represent an exhaustive list of community centers: there are additional community centers in San Francisco. Given the subjective nature of what is considered a community center, we developed specific criteria for inclusion on the list of community centers used for this indicator. Facilities included on our list meet the following criteria:

  • The center is a non-changing physical location where services/programs take place.
  • The primary function of the center is the provision of services/programs for community members.
  • The center is not-for-profit.
  • The center offers services/programs for which participation is free or of nominal cost (not including scholarship programs).
  • The center is listed on the aforementioned data sources.

Centers may be run by community members, community organizations, regional or national organizations, religious or faith-based organizations, or governmental agencies.

Our criteria reflect a broad interpretation of what constitutes a community center. A list using different criteria could exclude some of the centers included here. This indicator includes:

  • Community/neighborhood facilities with multiple uses
  • Culturally specific organization centers
  • Arts and cultural centers
  • Recreation centers
  • San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department clubhouses
  • Training & employment centers
  • Resource centers
  • Adult day & adult day health centers
  • Senior centers
  • Centers providing services to specific populations (e.g. homeless persons, seniors, persons with disabilities, immigrants, families, youth, children)

The following types of programs and facilities are NOT included in our list of community centers. A more comprehensive list, or a list using different criteria, could potentially include some or all of the facilities/programs listed as "not included" below.

  • Programs/centers for workers in specific occupations
  • Organizations whose addresses represent administrative offices, with services/programs taking place elsewhere in the community
  • Facilities whose primary use is something other than a community center (e.g. schools, museums, churches, performance venues, clinics)
  • Residential facilities whose services/programs are for facility residents
  • Shelters
  • Recreation facilities that offer no programming (e.g. playgrounds)
  • Athletic fields and facilities (including pools, golf courses)
  • Legal assistance agencies


The table shows the proportion of the total population of each neighborhood living within ½ mile of each type of community center. It does not provide information about the specific proportion of seniors, persons with disabilities, youth, or adults who live near each type of community center. More information about where youth and seniors live in San Francisco is available here.

One half mile is considered ten minutes walking distance. However, geographic proximity does not guarantee access. For example, topographical and transportation features, such steep hills or major highways or roads, and socio-cultural issues, such as violence and gang lines, may inhibit pedestrian access to community centers.

Neighborhood social cohesion is not a time-static concept; movement of residents, organizations, and businesses into and out of a neighborhood can impact the social dynamics among neighbors and other components of social cohesion. While this indicator provides a snapshot of one aspect of social cohesion, it does not provide any information about long-term trends.

The number of community centers is one among many possible indicators of social cohesion within a neighborhood. Taken alone, the existence of community centers does not necessarily mean that a neighborhood is socially cohesive. Similarly, it is possible for a neighborhood to be socially cohesive even if there are no community centers there.

In general, neighborhood-level indicators may obscure ethnic, class, or other differences among the neighborhood population. For example, community centers may indicate good social cohesion among some groups, but others may not be able to participate or may choose not to participate for a variety of reasons, such as the language(s) spoken, time of day, cultural or religious preferences, or physical accessibility. Thus social cohesion may be advanced for some groups while others may feel excluded.

Data Source

The list of community centers was compiled from the following primary sources. All online information was accessed in Fall 2011.

Staff also searched the websites of community centers on the list for mention of other centers that might meet the criteria for inclusion on the list. Finally, we used the Google search engine to search for other community centers in San Francisco, using the key words "community center," "cultural center," "neighborhood center," "recreation center," and "resource center." Whenever possible, we visited the included centers' websites or contacted the centers by phone to verify their location and that they met the criteria for inclusion in the list.

Map and table created by San Francisco Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section using ArcGIS software.

Table data is presented by planning neighborhood.

Detailed information regarding census data, geographic units of analysis, their definitions, and their boundaries can be found at the following links:

Interactive boundaries map

  1. Healthy People 2010, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:
  2. Cohen S, Underwood LG, Gottlieb BH, eds. 2000. Social Support Measurement and Intervention: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. Kawachi I, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. 1999. A Prospective study of social networks in relation to total mortality and cardiovascular disease incidence in men in the United States. Pp. 184-194 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.
  4. Berkman LF. 1999. The Role of social relations in health promotion. Pp. 172-183 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.
  5. Berkman LF, Kawachi I. 2000. A Historical Framework for Social Epidemiology. Chapter 1 in Social Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. Berkman LF, Syme SL. 1979. Social networks, host resistance and mortality: a nine-year follow up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology 109:186-204.
  7. Cohen C, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM. 1997. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA 277(24):1940-1944.
  8. San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services. 2006. Community Needs Assessment. Available at:
  9. Lochner KA, Kawachi I, Brennan RT, Buka SL. Social capital and neighborhood mortality rates in Chicago. Social Science & Medicine. 2003;56(8):1797-1805.