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City of Los Angeles Requires Ocean Friendly Garden Standards

The governing board of the largest water utility in the country, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), voted 3-2 to change its turf rebate guidelines to require capture of rainwater, build healthy, living soil, and use climate-appropriate plants. These three elements make up what is called the “watershed approach” (it's equivalent to Ocean Friendly Gardens criteria, just without a brand associated with it). Los Angeles is now the first city in the state to require the watershed approach for a landscape rebate program. The Board also changed the requirements to not allow a rebate for artificial turf, joining a growing number of other cities and water agencies.

These new requirements will help meet multiple goals of the L.A. Mayor’s Sustainable City Plan such as preventing polluted runoff, meeting 50% of the water needs with local supply, and reducing greenhouse gases, as well as the Governor’s Executive Order to make water conservation a way of life.

The Surfrider Foundation and Green Gardens Group were leading members within the GreenLA Coalition to push L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz to sponsor the motion to change the rebate requirements. (Andy Shrader, environmental staffer to Councilman Koretz, is a former Surfrider volunteer.) Surfrider worked with staff from LADWP, the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation and the L.A. Mayor’s office, educating and advocating for the stronger standards. Surfrider also educated Board members and lead the charge at the Board meeting for not rebating artificial turf.

The new requirements drew from Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program standards and follow what is becoming known statewide as the “watershed approach.” The watershed approach has 4 elements: build living soil, retain the rain, use climate-appropriate plants, and utilize high-efficiency irrigation devices as needed. The LADWP turf replacement rebate is $1.75 per square foot of lawn and inefficient irrigation converted to the watershed approach. The new guidelines could take effect soon as September 1st.

Next steps include getting the rebate administration contractor up-to-speed on the revisions, as well as working with LADWP on education and outreach, e.g., getting go pictures of OFGs on the LADWP website. The plan is that the revised language will take effect September 1st or soon thereafter. We hope this is the beginning of the move toward the watershed approach statewide.