Do Tall Cities Require the Regulation of Sunlight?

Planners, lawyers and homeowners have been arguing the question of "solar rights" for two millennia. A recent article presents a primer on the historic and contemporary importance of the debate.

Henry Grabar distills the problem of sunlight in cities into a series of problematic questions: "As American cities grow taller and denser — and most everyone agrees that they must — natural light becomes a more precious commodity. Does that mean it should be regulated like one? Or would preserving current sun patterns — so-called “solar rights” — grind real estate development to a halt? Put simply: Should Americans, in their homes and in their cities, have a right to light?"

Grabar's exploration of the issue includes many historic examples of how cities planned (and litigated) for and around sunlight, as well as contemporary examples of cities struggling to balance growth with quality of life concerns. Here's a particularly difficult example: "In Sunnyvale, Calif., one neighbor sued another over a crop of redwood trees that were casting shadows on his solar panels. Under the state’s 1978 solar rights law, he won — the neighbors had to trim their trees to let more sun through to his panels."

Full Story: Welcome to the permanent dusk: Sunlight in cities is an endangered species

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