This document has been superseded by our peer-reviewed publication:
Household Accessibility to Heat Refuges: Residential Air Conditioning, Public Cooled Space, and Walkability, Preprint Online 2016 (Final Publication Expected 2017), Andrew Fraser, Mikhail Chester, David Eisenman, David Hondula, Stephanie Pincetl, Paul English, and Emily Bondank, Environment and Planning B, Volume and Issue Forthcoming, doi: 10.1177/0265813516657342.
The publication is available here.
Access to air conditioned space is critical for protecting urban populations from the adverse effects of heat exposure. Yet there remains fairly limited knowledge of penetration of private (home air conditioning) and distribution of public (cooling centers and commercial space) cooled space across cities. Furthermore, the deployment of government-sponsored cooling centers is not based on the location of existing cooling resources (residential air conditioning and air conditioned public space), raising questions of the equitability of access to heat refuges.
Using Los Angeles County, California and Maricopa County, Arizona (whose county seat is Phoenix) we explore the distribution of private and public cooling resources and access inequities at the household level. We do this by evaluating the presence of in-home air conditioning and developing a walking-based accessibility measure to air conditioned public space using a combined cumulative opportunities-gravity approach. We find significant inequities in the distribution of residential air conditioning across both regions which are largely attributable to building age and inter/intra-regional climate differences. There are also regional disparities in walkable access to public cooled space.
At average walking speeds, we find that official cooling centers are only accessible to a small fraction of households (3% in Los Angeles, 2% in Maricopa) while a significantly higher number of households (80% in Los Angeles, 39% in Maricopa) have access to at least one other type of public cooling resource which includes libraries and commercial establishments. Aggregated to a neighborhood level, we find that there are areas within each region where access to cooled space (either public or private) is limited which may increase the health risks associated with heat.