California Homeowners' Association Orders Residents To Add More Green To Lawns Or Face Fines Despite Historic Drought

Tara West

A California homeowner's association is facing backlash after ordering residents of the exclusive Contra Costa enclave to "beautify" their lawns by making them "more green." California is experiencing a historic drought which has left many homeowners with more brown in their lawns than desired. One homeowners' association has apparently had enough of the ugly brown lawns and wants residents to take immediate measures to ensure that they have the proper curbside appeal, no matter the cost. Therefore, the association sent letters to members of the Blackhawk community telling them to make their lawns look better or face fines. However, some are claiming that the move by the homeowners' association may be illegal as regulations put into place during the drought prohibit homeowners' associations from fining individuals for not watering their lawn.

The Daily Mail reports that residents of Blackhawk have been asked by their local homeowners' association to spruce up their lawns despite the state's historic drought situation. With water restrictions in place, many California residents have opted to discontinue the water waste associated with maintaining an emerald lawn in the drought-stricken state. Instead, many residents have come to accept their brown lawns and have given up on the idea of their lush lawns of the past. However, one homeowners' association isn't pleased with the number of residents following water restriction orders, noting that the beauty of the community is suffering.

Therefore, residents in Blackhawk received letters from their homeowners' association asking them to add more green to their lawns. The letter allegedly offered "helpful" advice to the homeowners on how to improve their curbside appeal with a little greenery. One resident says that the letter did not tell people to water their lawns outright; instead, it mentioned drought-resistant plants coupled with tanbark.

"They've recommended you put in tanbark and drought-tolerant plants. They've offered suggestions.... If you don't put in proper landscaping, they're gonna ask you in a nice way to improve it."

— James Fanson (@jfanson) May 8, 2016

Therefore, some have called into question the legality of the homeowners' associations move to encourage green lawns in a time of drought. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti says that if the letter or homeowners' association encourages its residents to use more water, it is breaking the law. Famiglietti says that homeowners' associations are going to have to give up their idea of emerald lawns for a more practical approach as the drought will not end anytime soon. He says that the green lawn should be considered a thing of the past in California and that those wanting a green lawn should "get over it."

"It's illegal. It's a state law right now that homeowners associations cannot fine anyone for refusing to water their grass. This drought, and in fact, last year, may be the end of the green lawn in California... just uses so much water. I think we have to get over it."