California Governor Jerry Brown Officially declared an end to the drought and rescinded two drought-related executive orders from 2014, including the one that declared a drought state of emergency, excepting four counties in Central California. The Governor’s action today reinstates the ability for California community associations to impose fines or otherwise enforce their governing documents related to an owner’s decision to not water grass or other vegetation.
Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. Today’s order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four drought–related executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015.
In a related action, state agencies today issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Governor Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts. Permanent restrictions shall prohibit wasteful practices such as:
• Hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes;
• Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off
• Using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative
• Watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48
hours after measurable precipitation; and
• Irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
Governor Brown has signed AB 349, an urgency statute which takes effect immediately. AB 349 amends Section 4735 of the Civil Code, and prevents associations from prohibiting the installation of artificial turf, or “any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.”
This bill also prohibits any requirement that an owner remove or reverse water-efficient landscaping measures, installed in response to a declaration of a state of emergency, upon the conclusion of the state of emergency.
As anyone who has looked into replacing natural grass with artificial turf can tell you, there are different types and quality of artificial turf available in the market. AB 349 does not prevent an association from developing and applying reasonable landscape standards, including standards regarding the installation of artificial turf, so long as the standards do not restrict or prevent the installation of artificial turf, any other synthetic surface that resembles grass, or other drought tolerant landscape.
In light of AB 349 and its immediate impact, associations which have not already done so should work quickly to develop architectural standards which allow for installation of artificial turf and “any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.” This can often best be done by working with a landscape architect who can advise the board of directors with regard to the different types of products available, and how those different products may look in community. Failure to have such standards in place may result in an association not being able to require owners seeking to install such items to install the type and quality materials which the association deems consistent with the aesthetics of the community.