Zoning Out Shade

Is it too hot to walk around the block? Sure, blame global warming, but in many parts of the country there is also a noticeable absence of shade. Why? As Nolan Gray, a city planner in New York, argues one reason is that shade has been zoned out.

…vernacular architecture in the U.S. was often designed around natural climate control. In the humid Southeast, large windows and central corridors encouraged airflow. In the arid Southwest, thick facades and small windows kept cool air inside. In both cases, most houses were packed tightly together to cast shadows over streets, with awnings, balconies, and roof overhangs used to protect indoor spaces from direct sunlight.

These design elements survive and thrive in cities built before air conditioning, like New Orleans, but are conspicuously absent from most modern Sun Belt metros. With houses sitting squat and far back from the street, and most commercial spaces sitting behind a veritable desert of parking, shade in cities like Phoenix and Atlanta is few and far between. 

The irony here is that the cities that most need shade are the least likely to have it…Older, urban cities with mild summers—think Boston—have shade in spades, while our newer Sun Belt cities —think Las Vegas—have virtually no shade at all, resulting in an unhealthy dependence on air conditioning. 

Why did this happen? A big reason is the way we started planning cities in the twentieth century. Beginning in the 1910s, planners declared a war on shade as a means of responding to slum conditions and high-rises. As described by researcher Sonia Hirt, early land-use planners were inspired by the vision of the detached single-family house on a large lot—a development pattern that’s fine for cloudy Massachusetts, but spells trouble for sunny Florida. Assuming no shade as the ideal, the framers of modern zoning set out to design a system of regulations that make many naturally cooling design elements practically illegal.

…In most suburbs, for example, houses are legally prevented from sitting close to the lot line by setbacks, which prevent any shade from being cast on sidewalks or neighboring homes. 

Strict rules surrounding building heights and density cap most suburban buildings at a standard height of 35 feet, well below what could potentially cast a cooling shadow. And shadows from high-rises are treated as an unambiguous evil in planning hearings, even in otherwise dense urban environments like San Francisco.

The criminalization of shade goes beyond land-use regulations; it extends to the way we design public spaces. Despite more and more cities encouraging street trees as a valuable source of shade, many state transportation offices continue to ban them, privileging ease of maintenance over outdoor comfort.

Trees in particular would not only create more shade but also reduce air pollution.


Malignant melanoma.

A visit to the dermatologist will nip that in the bud about 98% of the time. Once it spreads however the chances drop.

As for the post, I'm zoning out as to how Phoenix can have shade, maybe plastic trees? As it is, a lot of people in Phoenix, a city I've lived in, try and recreate Chicago by planting and watering Kentucky bluegrass rather than adopting xeroscapy. AlexT is throwing shade!

As someone who lives in the land of the “xeriscape” and “zeroscape” .. the answer is solar panels. They already put them in our parking lots to shade our cars, and us as we walk in. It's something that can be done at the margin. I guess if they get cheap enough they could cover a sidewalk, even if they only get half a day of sunlight.

I note that no one seem to be putting solar panels up over even the largest open parking areas (sports stadiums, malls, etc.) either as retrofits or for new construction. You see it occasionally in small sites where I think its more a statement of virtue than economics.

It's not standard, although I'd say not exactly rare, for large commercial buildings like warehouses or big box stores. Some of the larger guys (PLD for warehouses, Walmart for big box) have systematic programs to do this).

I would think that if was really financially attractive, someone would lease the parking lots and put up the panels, and lease the rooftop space, as they do commonly for cell sites.

Its not just, or even mostly I think nowadays, the cost of panels. It's the Balance of System, i.e. everything else. BOS costs for structures that will stand up to wind and weather for 30 years are, by observation, high enough that its not systematically attractive.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it ceases being engineering when someone cries "virtue signalling."

California shopping mall adds 9,000-panel solar array

As I note below, it's about ROI, and that can be calculated in a fairly direct way, using up front and maintenance costs, and energy generated.

As I pointed out, that kind of commercial scale retrofit is not a default standard. I think it’s at least a break even when it’s done. I suspect Walmart may have started as more PR than economics, but it’s at least break even now.

What I was referring to as small sites are, for example, a neighborhood gym near me with about 20 panels. I’ve seen example of covered parking for 20 cars. I’d say virtue signaling rather than economics is a good engineering assessment.

I posted some concrete numbers on ROI for Australia below. That wouldn't be applicable to the whole US of course, but it might indicate that the southwest has similar opportunities.

And as has been my theme here today, costs matter. If those 20 panels are cheap enough, the gym will pay for 'em as they run the air conditioning.

I looked at the data, thanks for the pointer.

I still wonder though, if it’s a 5 year payback, why implementation is not essentially universal. If nothing else, the banks should be going door to door offering win-win loans.

I suppose even with sub-5 year payback it may not be exciting. Opportunity costs can be real or mental.

And of course solar today must compere with solar tomorrow.

Last year "Wood Mackenzie [forecasted] that spot prices for modules could fall from $0.30 per watt-DC to $0.18 per watt-DC in the next five years, a 40 percent drop. And R&D is only part of the equation."

Maybe I'd be stubborn and want that lower price.


Fifteen years ago, the dermatologist found a mole that biopsy tested positive for malignant melanoma. He sent me to a "cancer" surgeon, who removed the rest of the lesion and some surrounding skin. They caught it early and it was cured in that there was a clean margin in the skin and it hadn't spread.

Now, I cover up when outdoors and see the dermatologist every six months.

which prevent any shade from being cast on sidewalks

Nobody cares about that, they're on the street, in cars, soon-to-be self-driving cars. The normal Americano starts the air-conditioned car before he leaves the air-conditioned house to journey to the air-conditioned work place or shopping center. His only exposure to the vicious elements is the scurry from the cool auto across the baking parking lot to the frigid office building. This has only been the case since the late 60s when AC began to be common place in the US. And that's just the way people want it. An ambient temperature any higher than 78 degrees F is pure torture.

(Glances at thermostat, prepares self to go bike riding in the heat for daily exercise, looks at poster.)

Um, okay.

You must be riding your bike on the sidewalk, right?

Anything to discourage bicyclists from getting on the road and clogging traffic is a good thing.

One of the pleasures of bike riding, albeit minor, is interfering with cars I have to admit.

I freely admit to doing all sorts of subtle things to cause cars to slow down or be generally annoyed.

I’m sure some of it is due to the “sunlight is the best disinfectant” myth.

A simple solution acceptable to the aesthetes is to plant more trees.

Captain President Bolsonaro believes that sunshine is the best disinfectant. That is why he tore down the slums and arrested 100,000 drug dealing scum.

more fake news from nbc
we reckon it is not" too hot for ice cream"

They are called favelas, not slums, and Thiago's favela gets bigger, dirtier, and more crime-ridden every day.

I'm writing this while visiting Bologna, which must be one of the best cities in terms of shade, thanks to 40km of arched colonnades or porticoes in the city center.

I'm myself no expert on the subject, but this source https://www.emiliaromagnaturismo.com/en/art-cities/stroll-through-bologna-40-km-porticos.html claims that they became an official city planning policy:

"While other cities had banned the portico, in Bologna it became compulsory as a public space. The 1288 Statutes established that all new houses should have a portico and set out the minimum measures, for example the height should be 7 feet (about 2.70 m) in order to allow the passage of a man riding his horse."

Unlike the empty portico in the picture of that article, they are in reality lively places, people strolling and sitting at cafe and restaurant tebles under them. And they make for such an enjoyable city experience, even in hot weather.

It may be very difficult or impossible for most cities to start copying in any significant scale what Bologna started centuries ago, but perhaps it serves as one example to inspire our imagination.

I call Bologna!

7ft minimum? Did they ride Shetland ponies?

So, 1288 gov'mnt regulation made you cooler.

Don't tell Alex.

One of the reasons advanced for the Bologna porticoes was that the space above them was student housing (ie medieval fill-ins)

'A big reason is the way we started planning cities in the twentieth century.'

It is so rare to read such harsh criticism of Til Hazel here, but no question, he has earned it, particularly when looking at what happened in NoVa.

'Cause shade never made anybody less gay
So oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
You need to calm down, you're being too loud

Some places trees shoot up like weeds, in some they grow very slowly, and when you plant a tree you are gifting preferential utils to a future generation (of this you can be sure - ever notice how, in an anvil-like parking lot, if there is even one puny crepe myrtle, cars will cluster around it first? Ever notice where construction workers building houses will, without exception, eat their lunches, take their brief leisure?).

And so you're really destroying something, in that slow-growing place, when you cut down old shade-giving trees.

I live in such a place. It's easy to understand why we enacted a heritage tree ordinance, hardly stringent, here where trees don't just ... grow on trees, so to speak. Where we've been on one long mostly-boom. Where developers often fulfill tree-planting requirements by trapping wretched little trees in squares of dirt four feet by four surrounded by asphalt, and those rarely amount to anything before the development is razed and something new takes its place.

Harder to understand why the governor's first order of business was to attempt to undo this ordinance, a purely local matter, surely. But then our governor seems like he could have been a satisfactory centralizing collectivist, had his times called for it.

And funnily enough, he has an ally in our most vocal urbanists. Where once urbanists concerned themselves with civic amenities like trees, ameliorating an often harsh environment, they must now oppose, automatically, anything that smacks of bourgeois aesthetics - whether zoning or tree ordinances or public interest in architecture. The goal is radical transformation, of the population. The built environment has almost become the abstraction.

Joe Straus. You'll not have heard of him. A skilled politician of the behind-the-scenes type. Not a demagogue - in fact, not enough of one: he saw that a man like himself was not wanted, and gracefully retired from the field. But first he deftly saved our tree ordinance.

National GOP: please draft Joe Straus. Maybe he's the sort of man that has to be asked.

Wow. I think this is the first time I've seem old timey style American politics on the internet.

Touche. Politics: the one taboo subject no less here than everywhere ;-)? I have only the vaguest notion what this website is. I like to imagine someone bored and idle, in an airport say, listlessly reading an MR comments thread he'd never otherwise glance at ... thus I whispered a name into the void. (Also, Void: I'm not a big fan of Euclidean zoning, for the record, though I'm perhaps even less of a fan of most of its current opponents.)

I assume it's the same feeling that motivates others to vote: beyond the narcissism, a kind of womanish superstition.

Well said Peri. Sadly this is too accurate: “Where developers often fulfill tree-planting requirements by trapping wretched little trees in squares of dirt four feet by four surrounded by asphalt, and those rarely amount to anything before the development is razed and something new takes its place.”

Beautifully written! I agree 100%!

Where I live in hot Central California, the parking spaces next to trees go first. No matter how ugly or drippy this doesn't change. Yet so few trees are planted. I asked my landscape architect friend and she said they have to meet parking space requirements and cannot afford the lost spaces. The temp above those asphalt parking lots and on the sidewalks adjacent to them hovers in the 90-100°F range from May to November.

We need more trees and an alternative to asphalt.

I was once told by a developer's attorney they didn't want anything blocking the signs on the facades, as if Americans were too dumb to know a Walmart when they see one. And I think I've seen an alternate explanation that trees equate to fancy, and then you lose your target consumers. If that is true, we are all lost.

I dunno about trees=fancy ...

Unshaded roofs may be in demand as rooftop becomes more common in the US. Here in Australia around 20% of all homes have at least a small rooftop PV system now. Note that's not just 20% of stand alone houses, but all homes including apartments. Good quality systems are being installed here for less than $1 US per watt, before subsidy or tax.

Residential solar (typically 5-10 KW) is the least economical option, vs. commercial or industrial scale. Curious if you see equivalent implementation rates there on warehouses or other large commercial rooftops (i.e. 1 MW range) or 20+MW industrial scale ground mounts.

I much prefer commercial scale solar. But on the other hand, if the panels get cheap enough (lift that tariff!) it doesn't really matter. Lots of things can be inefficient per installation but efficient at scale. You can have ROI if the R beats the I.

"You can have ROI if the R beats the I."

Wow! You must be an economic genius!

"Lots of things can be inefficient per installation but efficient at scale."

That reminds me of the old "we are losing money on every sale but we will make it up on volume" I used to actually hear until the company went out of business!

All that said, I like your idea because it fits in with the sjw and global warming memes.

But first things first. We must end inequality for people of color, transfer power to the LGBQT community, and open the borders first. Then we can put solar on top of every roof and hat by implementing a just reallocation of resources.

First things first!

None of that actually made sense.

Though it was a nice demonstration of partisan madness to go from "cheap solar cells make ROI easier to achieve" to some crazy stuff about "the LGBQT community."

You might have some interesting bundling of ideas going on in your head.

Yeah, I shoulda left the LGBQT thing out, but that is constantly conjoined with other leftist memes.

Since you always carry water for the left, it was not surprising that you jump into the conversation with solar.

In other words, you accuse me of doing exactly what you did. Nice move!

Maybe people who think a photoelectric device has a politics, or a sexuality, are the ones actually confused?

That was a a weird mashup of Sailer blog themes.

I did like the idea of a solar hat. Sounds like it should have that red "As Seen On TV!" logo on the box

For what it's worth, here is some information on payback period and rate of return for commercial solar in Australia:

Payback periods for commercial-scale solar PV systems: State by state

Work that solar meme!

You have your opening to get your platform out there!

What, you still worried that solar is too communist .. or too gay?

Too PC.

Gay is ok, so don't worry.

It would be sad if any property managers thought that way, rather than trusting the data.

But people are human. Just as some lefties jumped the gun and used solar before it was really economic, there are probably some righties now who are slow to accept that ROI.

Because to put that money in their pocket would be to align with the left.

If solar were a good deal everyone would buy it, but it ain't.

Rich people put solar on their roofs because they get tax breaks and rebates and can sell power back into the grid for outrageous prices. As a result, por people pay high prices for electricity, especially in CA with the highest rated in the nation.

Ironically, in my community, rich people cut down mature trees to increase insolation. They even cut down riparian trees illegally to get more light on their heavily subsidized panels.

Free money, but for liberals ( or the open minded) only.


Engineer, here residential homes and small businesses pay the most for grid electricity. Large commercial businesses pay less, while large industry pays low rates.

Also, the "many small" approach of putting solar on residential roofs has been effective at getting costs down.

so what dies it mean to "own" private property/real-estate if local politicians can impose arbitrary rules (zoning) on its use at any time?

Real Estate "owners" also must eternally pay rent (property taxes) to local politicians or have their property summarily seized by those politicians.

(NYC Mayor DeBlasio has openly stated that he would ultimately like to control/approve every real estate transaction in NYC -- thus being able to reject any new buyers that do not meet his approval and allowing him to choose the specific use of every real estate plot/tract in the City)

All the great thieving murdered in history have been leftist statists - Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, ..., Chavez, Maduro ...

I suppose the current future thieves might include the "gang of four", DeBlasio, ...

Build houses with one, maybe two, floors but with roofs up at 35 feet?

15 to 25 foot ceilings because shade cooling offsets heatting large volumes in cold winters?

New Hampshire zoning to keep out kids of working class families zones for lots of shade. What else do you do with a 2 acre lot minimum, but not cut all the trees, or let the former pasture natually produce trees by not mowing.

And in the old towns I've lived in with big set backs, the front has plenty of room for two big trees on either side of the walk to the front door, in addition to trees between the mandated sidewalk setback from the street by 3-5 feet.

The trees were lost due to dutch elm disease, and other trees never seemed to offer the high benefit and low cost of american elm, ie, fast growth, tolerance of city environment, balance between height and spread.

"Fruit trees" have been used, but they must just be male to prevent the mess of fruit droppings, but they are costly to maintain.

I remember american chestnuts, but blight killed most in a decade when it hit an area.

I like oak, but the ones I didn't have cut that were less than roof height when I bought my house on former pasture now tower over the house. Might be 60-70 years old by now.

Note, New England was effectively clear cut by 1880, between selling timber for export

...and farming, but today its covered by 80% or more trees, not forest because houses and businesses are in among the trees. Nature will grow diverse trees if you let it and the local climate allows trees to thrive.

...and farming, but today it's covered by 80% or more trees, not forest because houses and businesses are in among the trees. Nature will grow diverse trees if you let it and the local climate allows trees to thrive.

It seems to me that city planners, and everyone else, have few degrees of freedom in established cities. There are use patterns in place and expectations that might allow a few more trees here or there, but no overhaul is possible.

America, for it's power and wealth and open space is remarkably free of experimental or new cities that might test new boundaries. But I guess that's the path dependency. At this point we have enough cities, and net migrations (certainly as percent of total population) are toward the established mega-cities.

Someone was just saying that Buffalo NY is in largely the same geographical and climatic position as Toronto, but Toronto grows, and Buffalo shrinks. (I suppose Montreal would be a better northern growth example.)

So it is what it is, unless someone can break free a few billion from a "visionary billionaire" to try a new city plan.

American went ALL IN on the Courbusier post war planning paradigm.

Sidewalks are for the dirty and poor. Sweep away the ghettos. Create cities based on highways. Street life is disgusting and should be obliterated by super blocks.

A noxious mix of redlining, heavily racist zoning policy and out and out segregated public housing areas for blacks is why there is a poor black ghettos in every major American city....

This stupid planning ideology infected every single major American city.

So when everyone wonders why is this country so freaking ugly when it’s so wealthy? Blame the planners!!

Possibly, but certainly before my time. Now we have those cities to deal with.

It's also fair to note that every culture in the world that could have a "people's car" chose one. Be that a Ford, VW, Fiat, or Mitsubishi.

Here in Singapore the government has built open roofing over hundreds of KMs of footpaths/sidewalks.

Singaporean Exceptionalism.

Re: "Is it too hot to walk around the block? Sure, blame global warming, but in many parts of the country there is also a noticeable absence of shade."

Nevertheless, you might need zoning regulation to create green spaces in cities, gov'mt regulation to reduce the surface area for parking lots, and require them to go underground or multistory, or heaven forbid, to use subway or bus transportation.

I was waiting for Alex to blame global warming

On zoning,

And it finally happened.

By the way, the person on whose property the tree resided, probably knocked it down to put in an outside sidewalk cafe in front of his building and petitioned the zoning board to have it there.

My bet is that the owner was not a tree-hugger.

They just took down a couple trees in a nearby parking strip. On the one hand that's sad, but on the other, the tree did have sharp seed pods that made me jump and say "ouch" when I was barefoot.

I think they took them down because this was the second time they had to replace root-lifted sidewalk.

When might we expect COMPULSORY thermostat settings (84 F. summer, 62 F. winter) issued by our tech tyrants and celebrated by all of our dutiful tech cheerleaders?

How many skyscrapers MUST be retrofitted with windows that open?

(In what decade does "underground living" take off? Just think of all the backhoes we'll need . . . meanwhile, some clever production company can treat us to a 21st century take on Kerouac's The Subterraneans.)

It took off this decade, in the basements of wealthy Londoners.

Oh good: NOW let's have rising sea levels so the Thames can seep far and wide--maybe wealthy Londoners can actually float underwater.

Well, the folks got what they wanted, cheap housing, far from the urban center, a cul-de-sac and a pool, and freeways to get to and from where they work and shop. But don't blame the baby boomers, who are blamed for most everything ugly about America, as they didn't create the burbs, they grew up there. I have spent most of my adult life in a sunbelt city, a city with a long and colorful history. When I moved there the trend was to move to the burbs, the greatest generation leading the way; indeed, I (a baby boomer) was able to purchase a home near the urban core for almost nothing because white flight was all the rage. Living in the burbs back then wasn't so bad because there wasn't that much traffic.

Fast forward forty some years and the burbs are Hell on
Earth, the commute hours each way. And what about that home I purchased and others like it? They now cost in the millions, the baby boomer "pioneers" now sitting on gold mines that, unfortunately, few newcomers can afford, certainly not the millennials who are the city's future and actually prefer the city core. The city has no transit, the expressways are parking lots, the heat is unbearable and lasts nine to ten months out of the year, and people continue to move there. Why? The city actually sells the weather as something desirable, even though one doesn't venture outside for those nine to ten months.

Several years back several city leaders promoted the development of transit to make life bearable for the people who live there, especially the people who live in the burbs, whether by choice or because they cannot afford housing in the core. Something surprising happened: the folks living in the burbs, led by a young woman who lived in the burbs and was married to an engineer whose prosperity depended on continued development of the burbs, rose up against transit and defeated the effort, the young woman rising in the political ranks as something of a hero to the people who live in the burbs and who took great offense to the idea that the burbs are Hell on Earth. Tabarrok may "blame" city planners for the burbs and the absence of shade, but the people who live there do so by choice, are happy with their dreadful existence, and will go to great lengths to prevent "progress" that might change the development pattern of the city. People get what they want, not what "planners" tell them what they want.

We have 100+ million more people in the country than we did 40 years ago. That has had an adverse impact on a lot of things, not the least being housing and traffic.

Exactly right.

The libertarian religion may find it necessary to blame all evil on government - no trees, too many trees, the wrong kind of trees, etc.

But a lot of this is developers. It's much easier to subdivide and build on treeless land, so they take down trees and reduce building costs and give people what they want - stand-alone houses on reasonable-size lots - at lower prices than if trees came in the deal.

You know, the market.

My great uncle was a pioneer in landscape architecture, having studied under the second most famous landscape architect ever and taught with him at the first college of landscape architecture. Today, we think of "landscape architecture" as what rich people do with their yards. That was definitely not the original purpose; rather, landscape architecture was essentially city planning, including the trees and gardens and parks and other public spaces that make a city livable. My great uncle spent the bulk of his career as the landscape architect for a western city, his name still identified with the many public spaces he "planned". Indeed, that city is famous for the beautiful gardens he "planned". That a city would actually hire a landscape architect today is absurd, a luxury cities cannot afford. We can thank parsimonious libertarians for the ugly, mostly sunbelt, cities today.

"the second most famous landscape architect ever"

Le Notre?
Capability Brown?

"the burbs are Hell on Earth, the commute hours each way. And what about that home I purchased and others like it? They now cost in the millions" Is this some kind of riff on 'nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded'?

The suburbs exist and thrive because that's what a lot of people like. I live in one, and my wife's work is 8 min from home, while I work from home or drive 15 min to the airport. Everything I need is within 10 min for the most part. BTW, from google earth, you can barely see the house for the trees, and lot size is about 75x200 ft on average. Nice place to live.

When elites talk about suburbs, they don't mean your kind of suburb. They mean the kind of suburb where lower middle class people live. God forbid they have a nice house and safety and decent schools

My entire comment was that people live in the burbs because they want to live there, not because "planners" want them to live there. Duh. The burbs are still Hell on Earth, but lots of folks will end up in Hell anyway so they might as well spend time here getting used to it.

"Despite more and more cities encouraging street trees as a valuable source of shade, many state transportation offices continue to ban them, privileging ease of maintenance over outdoor comfort."

Living in a city that encourages street trees I can tell you that it rarely works. I don't know why. I'm not an arborist, but they have tried and tried and tried all different ways and means, from elevated boxes to contain the trees, to in-ground watering, to grates to keep out trash, to wrapping them up in the winter. It doesn't work. The average lifespan of a "street treet" in an urban area of a city is three years. Then it's dead.
Most of the time all those short, underdeveloped, half dead trees do is block precious sidewalk space.

All pieties to the contrary, cleared power line right-of-ways are far more important to most Americans than trees of any description: trees pose hazards to the health of power distribution grids, and sub-polar AC is far preferred to any mild heat relief that could come from shade.

It may be easier to plant a tree (a one-time event) than to maintain it once it's been planted. And especially after transplantation, that tree will need to be watered, and pruned if parts of it die, and these are not one-time events.

I can't count the number of street trees I've seen planted with subsequently have their leaves curl from lack of water, and then turn brown and dead.

Perhaps it's someone's job to plant trees, but no one's job to look after the trees after they've been planted?

Interesting companion piece to the MR link a few months ago complaining that poor and minority neighbothoods are under-treed

Joyce Kilmer - 1886-1918

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Unfortunately, some 20 hectares of forest (globally) have had to be harvested over the past century to keep this work in print.

As bad or worse, some 2000 hectares of forest have had to be mown down globally since c. 1989 to help keep data transmission lines functioning to give this work space on the internet.

A pity that you have only chosen to add to the above........ Your silence would have justified your comment more.

Even Technogenic Climate Change permits risible responses, even though I've not seen any metrics proposed for "Risibility Quotients". ("Planetary biocide", I concede, would possess a very high RQ score.)

I can tell you that the pre-air conditioning homes of the South aren't "cool and comfortable", even when shaded by other structures, in June-September. What you have today are people who are just not acclimated to spending a Summer without air conditioning.

When I was teenager, my bedroom was unconnected to the central air section of the house. The first Summer I spent in it (1983) was the hardest, even though it was probably the least hot Summer of the entire time until I left home in 1988. I got to used to it, though, and it wasn't a problem after that first one. When I finally bought a home in CT in 1998, I didn't get one with central air, nor did I get a window unit. Again, the first Summer was the only one I really, really missed central air- after that I got used to it again. Of course, at that time, I had only myself to please with the choice. I might well be very atypical in this regard today.

It is not just zoning. Preferences play a large part too. I live in an 1890s Victorian house that has large porches on the East and West sides of the house, creating shade for the inside, as well as very large trees in the back that largely shade the back yard. I also have central air, but but the shade makes that very inexpensive to operate. That said, well-shaded, historic houses are in much less demand from the current generation, making them quite inexpensive (esp. per sq foot) to buy. Meanwhile, in the suburban developments, people do not have large shade-giving front porches, and they instead choose to build houses with uncovered, no-shade decks.

Trees tear up roads and sidewalks. They fill gutters and drains with leaves. Trees block the field of view, making streets more dangerous.

Just saying.

Not to mention...nobody maintains/trims the darn things. Eventually, you're having to duck under each one.

Where I live, the city demands that you provide shade. If you cut a tree down, you are required to plant a new one (on your single family plot). I'm in the deep South, and we have shade, and people are out walking and jogging all the time. Some of the trees in this neighborhood are old and very beautiful. Just make sure you've got a few thousand $ on hand to trim your trees and fix your house if one falls in a storm.

Lots of shade and trees here in the PNW

Was in Berlin when it hit 39 degrees centigrade and commented how lucky Berlin was to have so many trees. As a Londoner, I suspect we'll need to return to Victorian levels of greening to avoid roasting through climate change.

But ideology aside, here's some nice data on trees in London: https://maps.london.gov.uk/trees/

I made this point to a lot of urban planners in Adelaide a decade ago.

FYI, Adelaide has a climate like southern Spain or Greece, with very hot and sunny summers, and even winter remains sunny. But planning laws required setbacks everywhere, and councils seemed allergic to planting big shady trees unless there was a hundred years of history of trees in that particular suburb.

It drove me nuts. Summer in Adelaide is a lesson in dodging the sun at every opportunity. And with the hole in the ozone layer over the south pole, the sun can be painful in the summer even for only a few minutes. And yet you would hear about Arab markets and towns which deliberately created narrow walkways with tall sides to keep out the sun, and even deliberately create wind tunnels to circulate air (which is a big no no for planners). Or Spanish cities which built large courtyard gardens to escape the heat.

And this situation doesn't get fixed either. The city did a major upgrade of the primary shopping mall in the centre of the city only five years ago, and as part of the process, took out many large trees and replaced them with smaller ones. When the urban planners who are engaged to do the design work on these projects come from other cities and adopt a relatively uniform design language, they also probably don't really deep down appreciate those local issues either.

"Older, urban cities with mild summers—think Boston—have shade in spades, while our newer Sun Belt cities —think Las Vegas—have virtually no shade at all, resulting in an unhealthy dependence on air conditioning. "

Amazing that it isn't mentioned that Boston sits in a thick, deciduous forest whereas Las Vegas sits in the Mojave desert. I wonder if that has something to do with lack of shade?

Certainly, zoning regulations don't help, but c'mon...

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