SHADE IN THE SUN-BAKED CITY
Los Angeles gets an average of 284 sunny days a year, an abundance of sunlight fundamental to the city’s identity and lifestyle. Sunlight is treated as an absolute positive but the reality is that, after a while, so much sun can feel less like a blessing and more like a brutality. This is due, in part, to the subtle war this city has waged against shade.
When roads required expanding, the iconic palm tree replaced shade-producing trees because its root system required less room and did not interfere with sewer or water mains. When law enforcement became concerned with homelessness, gay-cruising, and drug-dealing in the shaded areas of parks – giving rise to the term “shady” behavior – shade-producing trees were ripped up in order to render parks “see-through.” And when the city put the financial responsibility for trimming and otherwise maintaining trees in residential neighborhoods on residents, it functionally disincentivized shade for all but the wealthiest neighborhoods. The result is radical shade inequality wherein a rich neighborhood like Bel Air boasts 53% canopy cover while lower-income South LA can claim only 10%.
This series of photos looks at the many ingenious ways residents of Los Angeles seek out or produce shade in a city that has done little to provide it.