California city weighs banning front-yard grass altogether

Many Californians have swapped out their lush lawns for xeriscapes. Photo: gsd.harvard.comMany Californians have swapped out their lush lawns for xeriscapes.

One California city is planning to update its landscaping ordinance by banning grass in front yards in an attempt to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s turf reduction requirement.

The Paso Robles City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday in favor of the ban, which has possible exceptions that allow homeowners to add turf if the proper documents are submitted. Another council vote will be necessary to finalize the ordinance.

California’s new requirements limit the amount of grass to 25 percent of the total landscape area of new residential construction, but the city is attempting to go further by limiting turf to backyards.

“We want to see people get rid of decorative turf and get away from the concept that the only idea of pretty is this mat of green,” city water manager Christopher Alakel told The Tribune, a San Luis Obispo publication. “But we understand that grass serves multiple purposes, such as for sports and kids and pets and that sort of thing. So we’re not expecting people to put rocks in their backyard.”

The state’s new turf regulations take effect Jan. 1 and allow property owners to add turf to the front yard provided they submit documentation and water-use studies to justify the inclusion of turf.

Paso Robles officials believe it is simpler to eliminate the usage of grass entirely and conserve water.

“Nobody is putting in grass anymore, people are tearing it out,” Alakel said. “We can’t churn out the rebates fast enough.”

The Tribune reports that since 2010, the city has issued more than 890 turf-removal rebates, with 150 of those coming since this past July alone. Rebate amounts ranged from $100 to $500. Between now and June 2016, the city expects to issue rebates totaling about $44,000, according to water conservation and resources program manager Kirk Gonzalez.

The City Council must adopt an ordinance consistent with the new state requirements by January.

“We were trying to make it easier for the developer community and try to develop a new way of thinking for Paso,” Alakel told the newspaper.

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