The Weird Thing Los Angeles Is Doing To Its Roads

California is on a roll with its climate-forward initiatives. The state is now outfitting Los Angeles roads with solar-reflective paint.

By Kristi Eckert | Published

solar-reflective los angeles

California has been taking a visible and proactive stance in the fight to combat climate change. The state announced that it will no longer sell any new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. However, it’s making maneuvers at the city level, too. In Los Angeles, about 1 million square feet of the city’s roads and surfaces have been painted with solar-reflective paint. 

It’s no secret that Los Angeles is one of the most densely populated and heavily polluted cities in the entire United States. It is infamous for the veil of smog that unceasingly hovers over the city skyline. Additionally, because Los Angeles is a city, it inherently suffers from something called the “urban heat island effect.” In a nutshell, this effect essentially causes the city to be measurably warmer compared to less urban areas. Thus it makes sense why the state would make it a priority in its efforts to transition to more sustainable and climate-proactive practices. The solar-reflective paint helps to cool the city’s paved roads and surfaces by approximately 10 degrees. 

Considering that the state has been plagued by bouts of intense heat lately, 10 degrees cooler pavement can really make a difference when it comes to that kind of extreme weather.  The solar-reflective paint project in Los Angeles is being made possible by the GAF Cool Community Project. GAF explained that the paint works to reflect infrared light. Since it is able to reflect that light, it absorbs less. This in turn keeps surfaces cooler. 

Many of the solar-reflective painted surfaces in Los Angeles are not easily discernible from that of a typical road. This is because the roads and other paved areas have been painted a light grey. That being said, GAF did get creative in a few places. An artist was commissioned in the Los Angeles community of Pacoima, where the painting is currently underway. Residents there now enjoy a basketball court, playground, and parking lot that were artfully painted with murals and other abstract designs. 

The solar-reflective project that is taking place in Pacoima is serving as an experiment for the city as a whole. The city plans to monitor Pacoima and the effects that the solar-reflective paint has on the area. However, considering that that area of the city has already cooled by a noticeable amount, it’s safe to say the experiment will almost certainly yield favorable results. 

Other initiatives are also taking place city-wide in an effort to combat the climate change-induced uncomfortably high temperatures and provide residents with some relief. Some areas of Los Angeles have adopted tree planting initiatives. Planting trees not only benefit air quality but also provides more places to seek shade when the sun is incessantly beating down. LA isn’t the only city taking an active role in dealing with rising temperatures. Similar to Los Angeles, Dallas has also implemented a tree-planting initiative. New York City has been painting roads and surfaces in and around its 5 boroughs white for years in an effort to reduce the amount of heat the concrete absorbs.