Source: Emily Guerin, “Roofs, streets and trees: How LA is trying to lower its temperature,” KPCC
Los Angeles, Ca (July 11, 2017) – LA is one of just two major cities worldwide with a temperature reduction target (the other is Melbourne). The plan has three primary components: replace roofs with less heat-absorbent roofing materials, repave or repaint city streets to make them more reflective, and plant more trees.
Since 2014, LA has had a “cool roofs” ordinance, which requires anyone building a new roof or replacing more than half of an existing roof to do so with reflective shingles. Mayor Eric Garcetti set a goal of having 10,000 cool roofs installed by the end of 2017. So far the city estimates there are 8,000. LA Department of Water and Power offers rebates of up to 30 cents per square foot.
Because the city is not compelling people to rip out their roofs, and because homeowners do not regularly replace roofs, it’s likely to take a quarter century to shift all the roofs in the city to the new, reflective material.
In late May, the Bureau of Street Services painted one block of Jordan Avenue in Canoga Park with a cool, gray paint. The bureau had previously tested out the paint on the Balboa Sports Complex in the San Fernando Valley to make sure cars wouldn’t skid and people wouldn’t slip, but the Jordan Avenue test was the first application on a street surface in the state.
Since then, the city has painted seven other blocks throughout West and South LA and elsewhere in the Valley. The goal is to paint a block in all 15 council districts by the end of the summer.
LA’s cool pavement program is not as far along as cool roof deployment, because the technology is much less advanced.
“This is very slow moving industry,” said Greg Spotts, assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services. “The materials used today to build and maintain streets are the same ones used in World War Two.”
However, Spotts said cool pavement was likely going to play a major part in LA meeting its temperature goals because the city has control over streets surfaces – unlike rooftops.
For this reason, roofs and trees are likely to be much easier areas in which to make progress, according to Fink.
Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a goal of planting one million trees (he got to 426,000 by March 2014). Mayor Garcetti, who doesn’t share that numerical goal, has re-named the initiative “City Plants.” His administration has planted just over 58,000 trees so far.
David Fink, the director of policy at Climate Resolve, whose organization worked with the city on the cool roofs ordinance, said the mayor’s office could set a target for tree planting and be more strategic about where trees go.
But tree-planting is clearly effective at reducing urban heat. According to a UCLA study, city blocks with more than 30 percent tree cover can be up to five degrees cooler than those with less tree cover.
By lowering summertime temperatures, trees also help reduce energy used by running air conditioners, netting a savings of up to $119 million, according to the US Forest Service.