June 25, 2013

By Jordan Kranzler

At the annual Conference of Mayors in Las Vegas, Mayor Ed Lee brought user-friendly government one step closer to San Franciscans by announcing the creation of Neighborhood Score, developed through a public-private partnership with Appallicious, the civic startup known for creating the successful Rec and Park app.

Neighborhood Score rates San Francisco neighborhoods, streets, and even city blocks based on a host of factors that affect neighborhood health, such as economic opportunity, crime rates, and air quality. These open data sets are obtained from federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private feeds – a surefire example of government 2.0.

How Neighborhood Score Works

Appallicious uses 23 neighborhood score indicators to evaluate an area. These include, but are not limited to, the traffic density, number of trees per acre, number of jobs per acre, and fine particulate matter concentration (air quality) – all necessary factors to determine community health. These indicators are then arranged into seven elements: Community, Economy, Education, Environment, Housing, Public Realm, and Transportation. Each location that the app rates gets a score out of 100 for each of these elements, as well as a cumulative Neighborhood Score that is then shown on a heat map.

What Neighborhood Score means for San Franciscans

Neighborhood Score employs open data to let citizens access critical information about the health and safety of their area from the palm of their hands – an obvious win for open data and gov 2.0. By knowing more, San Franciscans can have a better shot at influencing elected leaders to effect change. Said Appallicious co-founder Yo Yoshida, “Neighborhood Score makes it easy to see which neighborhoods are thriving, and how elected officials can better serve target areas that need improvement or more resources. The application will also help increase accountability by allowing residents and local leaders to see how programs are performing and resources are being utilized in their neighborhood.”

The app also helps prospective renters and home owners by giving them a better sense of the neighborhood they might live in and providing other options of healthy, safe areas.

A quick look at the app as it launches also shows a visual representation of what most San Franciscans already understand – there is a stark divide between the economically-thriving neighborhoods (helped along by startups like Appallicious) and the central city and south east neighborhoods in San Francisco, still left behind.

Not Just for San Francisco

Appallicious has stated that Neighborhood Score can easily be fit for any US city, taking only a matter of weeks to create. This means that this kind of technology innovation can easily spread outside of San Francisco and become present in many US cities.