San Diego HOAs and New Law Allowing Artificial Turf, June 2010
Many HOAs are reluctant to allow the installation of artificial turf even though it would cut water use and maintenance costs.
Homeowners calculate that by landscaping a small yard with artificial turf, they could save enough water annually to take a five-minute shower daily for about six years. However, many HOAs do not allow the installation of artificial turf in San Diego.
According to California state water officials and water districts in San Diego County many HOAs have moved aggressively to reduce water consumption by planting drought-resistant vegetation or watering their lawns less often, but many others resist such changes because they want to preserve a certain look for their community’s landscaping. Opposition to the reduction of water usage usually comes from an HOA board or certain residents in a complex.
California Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, has introducted Assembly Bill 1793 to require homeowners associations to allow installation of artificial turf. However, the legislation also permits HOAs to establish design and quality standards for fake grass. Although artificial turf is gaining more public acceptance as manufacturers make better-looking and longer-lasting versions, some HOA boards continue to have misgivings about the turf’s appearance and durability.
Assemblywoman Saldaña believes installing artificial grass will benefit HOAs by lowering water bills and maintenance costs. She lives in a rental complex that encourages use of artificial grass. It’s very attractive,” Saldaña said. “It obviously conserves water and can be maintained.” Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has endorsed Saldaña’s bill. Last year, he got the Legislature to pass legislation meant to push HOAs to allow more drought-resistant landscaping. “We are still in a drought,” Lieu said. “We have to change our ways.”
There are about 6,000 homeowners associations in San Diego County and 43,350 HOAs statewide, from condos to single-family developments, according to 2007 data compiled by Community Associations. The San Diego County Water Authority, noting that outdoor uses make up about 60 percent of household water consumption, is promoting artificial turf as an important way to battle drought. “What we’ve been hearing for a number of months is that many HOAs were either prohibiting or limiting the use of artificial turf,” said William Rose, head of the authority’s conservation program.
His agency estimates that about 112 gallons of water would be saved each day if a coastal homeowner installed artificial grass in a 1,000-square-foot yard. That’s roughly 41,000 gallons a year. The savings would be even greater in warmer inland communities: approximately 156 gallons a day, or about 57,000 gallons annually.
One homeowner in San Diego estimated that he could use 30,000 fewer gallons a year by not watering his 300-square-foot front yard. That’s enough for doing 1,200 loads of laundry with a newer, high-efficiency washing machine, or for flushing a low-flow toilet 18,750 times, according to the county water authority.