Strategic Shade Part Of Phoenix’s Urban Heat Initiatives

Published: Monday, May 13, 2019 - 1:06pm
City of Phoenix
Arizona State University students designed shade canopies, art panels and a logo for the Melrose District.

As we enter the summer season, Phoenix is updating its plans to address urban heat. During a presentation to the City Council, staff shared information from the National Weather Service that said Phoenix is up to 21 degrees hotter in the summer than in rural areas.

Planting more trees and adding shade structures sounds like an easy way to reduce heat. But Phoenix’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mark Hartman told the council last month that’s not what they’ve heard from businesses.

“They actually said, ‘Well, you actually make it quite difficult for us to create shade. We need revocable permits and we need a lot of - it’s a lot of variances and things we need to do when we actually just want to provide shade over the sidewalk, over the right of way,'" he said.

He said the city will look at ways to make it easier for businesses to increase shade as part of a comprehensive urban heat mitigation and adaptation plan. The plan was among three initiatives the council approved using existing budgets and programs.

The second initiative is a pilot of a heat-readiness certification that came from Phoenix’s participation in Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge in 2018. The idea is that Phoenix will create a HeatReady program (similar to programs for storms) that will enable the city to holistically identify, prepare for, mitigate, track and respond to the dangers of urban heat. Phoenix plans to share its HeatReady program so cities across the country can replicate.

Michael Hammett, chief service officer, said the city received $100,000 from Bloomberg Philanthropies and tested about 15 interventions which involved more than 30 business representatives, 300 residents and 17 city departments. He said one intervention called “We’re Cool” focused on increasing awareness about cooling centers for residents in need.

“We were able to increase outreach by 60 percent,” Hammett said.

The third initiative is a Walk Shed tool to identify ideal locations for cool corridors. Hartman told council members about research done by Harvard students in Phoenix last year.

“And it was looking at creating-looking at where people are walking in neighborhoods,” he said. “So, zero car households-where they go to, the bus stops, the schools, the shopping centers they walk to and are out on the streets on. And actually taking data and building on a GIS locate of where the walk sheds are that people are walking.”

Hartman said Arizona State University will use the model and conduct analysis to strategically identify areas most in need of trees and shade structures.

A study conducted by ASU identified two neighborhoods in Phoenix just two miles apart that experienced a 13 degree difference in average surface temperature during peak summer hours. The hotter neighborhood had more open land and parking lots and fewer trees.

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