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How one LA neighborhood is guarding against deadly heat – Press Telegram

By Todd Woody | Bloomberg

As temperatures soar into the triple digits on a blue-sky July day in the Los Angeles community of Pacoima, families escape the heat at a local park. Many of the houses in the surrounding area lack air conditioning, and the few palm trees in the neighborhood offer little shelter from the sun. The streets are scorching, with the asphalt radiating 127° Fahrenheit of heat at noon, according to a temperature reading. An hour later, it rises to 141.8°.

“It’s super hot here,” says Jeniffer Ramirez, who lives across the street from Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial Park. “We used to have an autumn, a spring, a winter. Now it’s like summer all year round and it doesn’t get cold until after midnight.”

It’s so sweltering that Ramirez won’t start selling slushies and nachos from the multicolored food truck parked in his driveway until later in the day. “If I take it out right now in this heat, my generator will blow,” she says.

However, relief is coming from a work crew spraying a gray-blue material on the street in front of his house. The acrylic epoxy coating made by roofing giant GAF reflects infrared solar radiation that would normally be absorbed by asphalt. After adding a second layer, the pavement will be gray, in contrast to the current black. The coating is applied to nearly 1 million square feet of roads, playgrounds and parking lots in a 10-block area around the park. About 7,300 people live within half a mile.

Melanie Torres and Gabriel Carrillo, both of the Pacoima Beautiful organization, walk Tuesday, July 19, 2022, on a reflective pavement coating applied to a street, a school parking lot in Pacoima, California. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg

The first-of-its-kind project aims to lower ambient air temperatures in Pacoima, a lower-income, mostly Latino community, as climate-induced heat waves become more frequent and intense in Southern California. A 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that using these coatings in two Los Angeles neighborhoods decreased pavement temperatures by up to 10°C. That’s important, as heat absorbed by roads and other surfaces during the day is released at night, keeping temperatures high.

“Pacoima is one of the hottest parts of LA County and it hasn’t gotten the kind of investment that a lot of other communities have,” says Jeff Terry, vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability at GAF, which is funding the project. “One of the challenges of urban heating is that it does not stop at night. Hopefully this place will be a little more livable for the residents.”

Over the next two years, a monitoring program will collect data to quantify temperature changes in the neighborhood that can be used to design cool pavement projects in other communities.

Terry says a second phase of GAF’s “cool community” experiment may include installing solar reflective roof tiles in the neighborhood to reduce temperatures in residents’ homes. GAF assures that the final cost of the Pacoima project has not yet been determined.

Heat maps released this month by the University of California, Los Angeles show that during days of extreme temperatures between 2009 and 2018, Pacoima residents made 19,009 excess emergency room visits. That’s more than seven times the number of Santa Monica, a community of similar size in Los Angeles County.

Pacoima is in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by mountains and away from the refreshing ocean breezes of Santa Monica. Birthplace of 1950s rocker Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba”), it’s ringed by freeways and home to a municipal airport and industrial facilities, all of which experts say turn up the heat.

“I moved here about three years ago and just within these three years, I’ve noticed that it gets hotter earlier and lasts longer,” says Gabriel Carrillo, community organizer for Pacoima Beautiful, an environmental justice organization he works with. GAF in the fresh pavement program.

A worker checks the surface temperature of a street with no reflective pavement coating, bottom left, and a portion that has been coated, bottom right. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg
A worker checks the surface temperature of a street with no reflective pavement coating, bottom left, and a portion that has been coated, bottom right. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg

David Eisenman, professor of medicine and public health and director of UCLA’s Center for Public Health and Disasters, says equity rather than environment explains such disparities in heat-related health effects. “It wouldn’t be a big deal if Pacoima was a leafier, shadier, wealthier community,” he says. “Those communities can protect themselves because the streets are shaded, so they don’t accumulate as much heat or emit as much heat at night, and houses are more often air-conditioned.”

“You will find a difference of three or four times between neighborhoods like Pacoima and richer and greener neighbors in the same climate zone,” he adds.

Pacoima, for example, has three times more emergency room visits on hot days than Granada Hills, a more affluent and slightly smaller community just six miles away, the heat maps show.

“Anything you can do to lower the temperature in the neighborhood has the potential to really benefit people’s health,” Eisenman says, noting that cool pavement projects need to be done alongside other efforts to reduce urban heat, such as plant trees in the streets.

Los Angeles has already applied solar-reflective coatings to neighborhood streets, but the Pacoima initiative is the first to extend the use of such materials to the “hardscape” of a school and park, according to Greg Spotts, executive director and chief sustainability officer of StreetsLA . , a division of the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

“Often, in underserved communities, there are more landscapes and fewer trees on both public land and private property,” says Spotts. “There’s a really interesting opportunity here to evaluate whether we can have a greater neighborhood cooling effect if we’re putting solar reflective coating on streets and large areas of off-street landscaping.”

When the resurfacing project is finished later this summer, residents will be able to step out of their homes and walk or bike with their children along cool streets to the neighborhood elementary school, where a large playground will have a mural painted by an artist local in solar reflective colors. After school, kids can walk across the street to the park and play on a cool basketball court lined in Los Angeles Dodgers blue. The school and park parking lots will also be treated with GAF’s StreetBond solar reflective coating.

“Pacoima parents walk a lot and often take their kids to elementary school, so having a pavement like this is exciting for our families,” says Melanie Torres, a community organizer with Pacoima Beautiful. “Most of the time in Pacoima we feel heard or simply forgotten.”

How one LA neighborhood is guarding against deadly heat – Press Telegram Source link How one LA neighborhood is guarding against deadly heat – Press Telegram

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