Illegal not to have a lawn?

I heard on NPR (on KCRW) this morning that the Palmdale (CA) city council has passed an ordinance that requires all homeowners to install and maintain a lawn in their front yards. Failure to comply will result in a $500 fine, and possibly a lein on the house to pay for city workers to come in and install a lawn. I looked in the Antelope Valley Press online but I did not see the story in it. For those of you who don’t live in Southern California, Palmdale is in the extreme western edge of the Mojave Desert.

If this is true, I see some problems with the ordinance. For one thing, I don’t think that a city should be able to require people to maintain a lawn. What if the person wants a rock garden or a fish pond? For another thing, Palmdale is in the desert. Water ain’t exactly cheap, but the city council wants to make people spend money to support plants they may not want. There’s a reason why the desert is not covered in lush greenery. It’s a desert, that’s why!

I think this ordinance is wrong. (And no, I don’t live in Palmdale; but I did live in Lancaster for 11 years.)

Same thing’s happening in Pasco, WA.

Way fucked up.

sigh … so much for holding title in allodium…

Well, I guess if people don’t consider being forced to join the army to be a violation of constitutional liberties, I don’t see why they’d see anything wrong with being forced to maintain a lawn. Of course, there aren’t any national security reasons for having lawns.

Good effort, but the analogy doesn’t even come close to holding (ahem) water, The Ryan. People are drafted during wartime when there is a need for soldiers. People are forced to maintain lawns during drought, when there is a need for . . . water conservation. Go fig.

You also have to figure that the fact that lawns are expensive to maintain may be part of the reason for the law. But this sort of thing is nothing new. My uncle recently built a house in Santa Barbara. The city regulations extended as far as mandating little iron grate thingies for the windows, which frankly detract from the appearance. Here in Boston, neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill and Back Bay have associations that will veto any changes that can be seen from the street. On the other hand, houses there don’t generally have lawns.

Do these city laws actually say that you must maintain a lawn, with grass of a certain type cut to a certain height – or do they just say that you have to maintain some kind of pleasant-looking front yard? Would a well-manicured Japanese rock garden do, for example? How about Astroturf?

Trying to have a nice green lawn in a desert seems, well, kinda dumb. Compelling people by law to have nice green lawns in a desert seems insane. If people (or governments) want nice green lawns, shouldn’t they live in an area where nice green grass is, like, normal?

I suggest that the local homeowners steal all the sod surrounding the local govenmental buildings and distibute an even amout to each house. If I lived in an area that required something stupid like window grates or whatever I would take them off, then put them back when I got a warning. Then I’d do it over again. If I was forced to pay any fines I would pay them with a big sack of unrolled pennies.

Can you tell I’ve been awake a little too long? Can you tell I’m in a very anti-authority mood?

Does it say how big the lawn must be?

If not, you could easily grow a little clump of turf in an eight-inch pot and produce this if proof were needed, then you could do what you like with your garden.

I live in the UK BTW and I’m not particularly fond of non-functional lawns; I have one in my back garden for the kids to run about on, but my front garden is a lawn-free woodland thing with a shredded bark path, I get much more enjoyment strolling amongst the plants in the front garden than I do walking on the grass out back.

While I am definitely a pro-lawn guy, I can still appreciate natural alternatives such as hedges/japanses gardens/ground-hugging plantings, etc. (at least if it’s done right and the plantings unlikely to spread to adjacent neighbours who don’t want it in their yard).
But here in my little village on Long Island, people are much more likely (if replacing front lawns) to just concrete or gravel over the entire front yard, giving it that beautiful ‘Body repair shop plopped down in a residental area’ look. And that’s the problem right there.
People who pour a concrete yard and then paint it green will be dealt with harshly in the coming revolution.

While I agree that a concrete front yard is ugly, I don’t think a city should have the power to require one type of landscaping or another.

Personally, I would rather have a lawn in front of my house than sand and tumbleweeds. But the desert has a beauty of its own if a person is willing to appreciate it. I think that if you don’t like the desert, then you shouldn’t live there. (Case in point: I hate L.A., so I’ll be moving out at the earliest opportunity.)

When I moved to Lancaster, about seven miles north of Palmdale, the back yard was raw desert. I’d have to go and pick the tumbleweeds after school. Eventually we had a lush green lawn with a low retaining wall behind which were strawberries and peach trees. The next-door neighbour’s yard – front and back – was still in its natural state. Never caused any of the neighbours any heartburn. The guy’s house was still as it was built, with the carpetless tile floor and cheesy hanging lamp in the dining room. The owner didn’t live there. He just came down once a month or so. If Lancaster passes a similar orndinance, this would put an economic hardship on the owner. He’d have to install a lawn and make more frequent trips to his little-used house to maintain it.

I understand that the city wants to give visitors a good impression. IMO Palmdale has always had a bit of an inferiority complex. It wants to shed its image as a desert town where people live as they like, and make itself over into a classier place. There was a lot of building going on in the 1980s and many people moved up from L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. These people moved there because housing was cheap. Most of the older houses had lawns, but many didn’t. People just didn’t care if they had a lawn or not. Although the Antelope Valley is something of a “boom town”, there are still a lot of people there who aren’t exactly “comfortably well off”. I think that it is unfair of the Palmdale City Council to impose the economic hardship of installing a lawn and maintaining it.

More than that, I think it is a violation of a person’s freedom of choice. Why should another person’s aesthetic tastes be imposed on someone else? Whether something is attractive is a matter of opinion. Would a city council have the power to impose Christianity on a Muslim because they think it’s better in some way? Of course not. It’s a matter of opinion.

The Pasco, WA situation, at least, involves the planting strips in the public right-of-way, between the sidewalk and the street, and they do require “lawn.” They claim it’s for drainage purposes as well as aesthetics.

'Course, there’s no easy way to get below-ground irrigation to the strips, so the residents would have to water with a hose if they want to keep the grass alive. Manny peoples are staging a passive resistance by allowing grass to be put in and then not watering it at all.

Johnny L.A., it sound like Palmdale needs to look into

A quote from this site;
“Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping which uses drought-tolerant plants instead of water thirsty grasses to create a visually attractive landscape. The term is derived from the Greek word xeros, meaning dry. Xeriscaping reduces outdoor water use by 30 to 80 percent and requires less maintenance than a traditional turf landscape.”

This makes a whole lot more sense to me for a city located on a desert than forcing all the citizens to plant and maintain (at their own expense) a monoculture lawn that is completely foreign and at odds with the local climate. When I have my own house, I would like to xeriscape instead of using a lawn (my plants would be cold- and drought-tolerant rather than heat- and drought- tolerant, of course :)).

“The analogy”? I never made an analogy. I simply said that people’s views on one issue makes me think that they will have a certain view on another issue. And BTW, the last draft occurred when this country was not at war and did not need soldiers (unless by “need” you mean “want”).

Very long ago, I went with my grandmother to visit my great grandmother and (old maid) great aunt. We were in Ohio and they lived in Pasadena, CA. They were both health nuts before that was the thing to do. Anyway, their whole front yard was planted in strawberries. They did have a hedge that hid it from passers-by.

Oh. I see. Sorry, your first post was so far off-topic, I assumed it was a joke.

I can’t find a copy of any lawn ordnances on the net so I’m not going to comment on it, but it would be better if you sited it on the net for us for comment Johnny L.A. Im sure they have a valid reason.

I just left the City of Palmdale website ( ), where I was allowed to look at a bunch of annotated City Council Agendas (Agendae?) The ordinance in question had been proposed on February 21, 2001, and voted in (4-1-0-0) on May 9, 2001. I found the text of the ordinance (ordinances, actually, because they reported 1176 and 1177 in the same .pdf file), and discovered the following:

  1. The text discusses clarifying the definition of the term landscaping, and also proposes the adoption of a definition of the term xeriscape.
  2. The reason given for the requirement is the maintenance of property values.
  3. The text makes reference to a Plant List that property owners may use in complying with the requirement.
  4. What is required is the “installation and appropriate maintenance of front and side landscaping on single family residence properties.”
  5. The document I was able to call up did not contain the Plant List, or the list of applicable definitions.
  6. The text told me that all attachments to the ordinance (presumably, the aforementioned Plant List and definitions) could be obtained in hard copy form at the Planning Office.

My conclusions, and I freely admit that they are extrapolations, are that lawns are not mandated, and that xeriscapes, within the parameters of the city’s codes, represent adequate compliance with the ordinance.

Sadly, the Morning Edition people seem to not be above a little muddying of the facts for the sake of an ironic bumper between the real stories and the station breaks. I’m disillusioned.

P.S. handy, for lawn ordnances, you might check ebay under “mortars and howitzers, surplus”. :smiley:

handy: I did look for the text, but I didn’t find it. I just heard it on the radio.