Ocean Friendly Gardens
June 11 2014

Right To Use Climate Appropriate Plants Closer To Becoming Law

by Paul Herzog

California is close to joining Texas in having a law which prevents homeowner associations from restricting residents who want to plant climate-appropriate landscaping instread of turf grass. California Assembly Bill 2104 passed out of its first state Senate committee yesterday and previously passed out of the Assembly 74-1. Surfrider lead an effort to get 10 environmental organizations to sign onto a letter submitted to the bill's author, Assemblyperson Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). The Association of Professional Landscape Designers-California Chapter also submitted a letter.

The bill would protect homeowners in common interest developments (like HOAs) who want to plant climate-appropriate landscaping without fear of being fined by the HOA. This will help to improve water supply, water quality, green waste reduction, flooding, native habitat and more. Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Surfrider's California Policy Manager, joined Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens Program Coordinator in crafting the letter and reaching out to the 11 groups. Stay tuned for the next steps!

Landscaping is the largest single residential water user, consuming 30%-70% of water, depending on where one lives in California. Turf-grass-centric landscapes not only consume a lot of water, but are a source of runoff: from broken sprinklers, sprinklers over-shooting into streets, and compacted soil that doesn’t absorb water. This runoff can pick up pollutants on its way to the ocean. Ocean users are faced with the unacceptable risk of staying out of the water and staying healthy, or enjoy the water and risk getting sick.

Native and climate-appropriate landscaping has multiple benefits and is beautiful. Native plants set down deep roots, helping to tap into water sponged up by healthy soil and sink and clean up polluted water; they can use just 20% of water turf grass demands; they create wildlife habitat and food; and they provide a sense of place. Rebates and resources to replace turf with climate appropriate landscaping, mulch and efficient irrigation are available in many places around the state. In Southern California, Metropolitan Water District (MWD) now offers a turf removal rebate of $2 per square foot (local agencies can add onto it, e.g., Los Angeles added $1). MWD also offers a class that promotes a watershed approach to landscaping and hard surfaces, taught by Surfrider collaborator, G3/Green Gardens Group.