One homeowners association in California has had it with the “brown is the new green” campaign and is expecting “beautiful landscaping” from its residents once more.
Blackhawk Homeowners Association in Danville issued a letter telling residents that as of June 1, they should keep a healthy lawn or hire a landscaper to replace it with drought-tolerant landscaping.
Although the state is poised to enter a fifth year of drought, the HOA is holding its 9,354 residents responsible for making their properties attractive. To make its point, the association intends to enforce these new expectations with fines and litigation for those who refuse to cooperate.
“It is no accident that Blackhawk is widely viewed as the premier community in the East Bay, and it is the responsibility of all residents to maintain that reputation,” Mark Goldberg, Blackhawk’s community manager, wrote in the letter. “We believe there is no longer any reason that all landscaping in the community cannot flourish as it once did.”
Whether the HOA’s move is legal during the state’s drought emergency is unclear. In 2014, California passed a law preventing homeowners associations from punishing members who simply try to conserve water. The law also prohibits HOAs from requiring members to replace their landscaping during a state or local drought emergency.
Gov. Jerry Brown also issued an executive order in 2014 prohibiting homeowners associations from fining members for brown lawns. The State Water Resources Control Board or any local water supplier can fine an HOA that violates the order up to $500 a day.
However, according to James McCormick, an attorney who specializes in HOA regulations, the organizations can still penalize residents in relation to unsightly vegetation and avoid being fined themselves as long as they don’t bring up water as the problem.
“The nuance (in the law) has to do with the homeowners who are using the statute simply not to maintain their lawns,” McCormick told the San Francisco Chronicle.
For those who have dead lawns or are opting to replace them, the HOA is requiring them to submit an application by May 15 listing what they plan to do to improve their property. Blackhawk also has a landscaping tips tab on its website to provide examples of water-wise landscaping and a list of nurseries that can help.
“I think it’s a great plan,” said Lisa Anderson, a Blackhawk resident quoted in the Chronicle story. “They’re saying you just can’t leave a dead lawn.”