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Earth Government News Idle

Officials Sue Couple Who Removed Their Lawn 819

Posted by kdawson
from the revenge-of-the-lawn dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that Orange County officials are locked in a legal battle with a couple accused of violating city ordinances for replacing the grass on their lawn with wood chips and drought-tolerant plants, reducing their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009. The dispute began two years ago, when Quan and Angelina Ha tore out the grass in their front yard. In drought-plagued Southern California, the couple said, the lush grass had been soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water — and hundreds of dollars — each year. 'We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future,' said Quan Ha, an information technology manager for Kelley Blue Book. But city officials told the Has they were violating several city laws that require that 40% of residential yards to be landscaped predominantly with live plants. Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery — lavender, rosemary, horsetail, and pittosporum, among others. But according to the city, their landscaping still did not comply with city standards. At the end of January, the Has received a letter saying they had been charged with a misdemeanor violation and must appear in court. The couple could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for their grass-free, eco-friendly landscaping scheme. 'It's just funny that we pay our taxes to the city and the city is now prosecuting us with our own money,' says Quan Ha."
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Officials Sue Couple Who Removed Their Lawn

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  • by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:45AM (#31340888)
    That the prospective jail time is from contempt of court and that it is not actually a criminal offense to cover your yard in woodchips..

    Right? Right?
    • Re:I presume... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:04AM (#31341048) Homepage Journal

      I see you've never been to Orange county, home to such places as Irvine where it is illegal to leave your garage door open.

      • Re:I presume... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:29AM (#31341206)
        Funny how the right wing love to talk about leftists being for overbearing government that controls everything you do, but it's the conservative strongholds that have laws like that.
        • Re:I presume... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:20AM (#31341534)
          There's more than one kind of conservative. There's the pro-government conservatives like the kind you may find in orange county, who really only oppose social spending, and there's the anti-government conservatives who live out in the country so they can avoid government as much as possible. The majority of conservatives are the second kind, but it's a slim majority and the first kind have better appeal with independent voters, so you really only see the first kind in office.
          • Re:I presume... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @08:06AM (#31343544) Journal
            It's more than that. "Property Values" are practically political magic. The moment people start thinking of themselves as having a right to property value rather than to property merely, they inevitably come to see control of their neighbors' behavior as their prerogative(since, empirically, it is obvious enough that your neighbor can modify your property value according to their behavior). If you believe in your right to property value, any sort of (visible) social deviance is a form of theft and crime. This is how people who ostensibly believe in property rights can end up living in places with absurdly tyrannical HOAs, and even participating in the tyranny themselves.

            Then, of course, you get the pricks who just hate nonconformity without any financial basis whatsoever. I'm pretty sure that they are just evil; but they become convenient allies to the first group, when it comes to keeping sacred property values high.
  • It's their lawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:46AM (#31340894) Homepage Journal

    As long as it's not presenting a danger to neighbors, they should be able to do whatever the hell they want with it.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      They get to vote on how much the private property fiction applies in their community.

    • Re:It's their lawn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Temujin_12 (832986) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:29AM (#31341212)

      As long as it's not presenting a danger to neighbors, they should be able to do whatever the hell they want with it.

      One would think that but......

      It looks as though you have yet to have the pleasure to live in a place with a home owner's association (HOA). If you get the wrong people in a HOA or you'll end up with crazy by-laws. You may think that "you'll just stand up to them" but you'll quickly realize that it's not worth the fight considering they can do things like put a lean on your home or take you to court and spend your own home owner dues to prosecute you. Combine this with the general legal craziness that is common in California and HOAs can be horrible.

      If home values ever go back up and we move, finding a location without a HOA will be high on the priority list. I see no reason for a HOA as long as there are reasonable county laws. It's just an extra layer of bureaucracy that is often wielded by power-hungry disgruntled neighbors out to make sure the neighborhood looks and sounds just the way they like it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        i've never figured why anyone would pay money to a private organisation chaired by their neigbours, just to have the pleasure of them policing your front yard for you. my next home is going to be on a couple of acres in a semi rural area, unwelcome guests and critisms to be greeted by my double barrel.
      • Re:It's their lawn (Score:4, Informative)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @11:14AM (#31345788)
        I have problems with HOAs, but this isn't an HOA (which theoretically you voluntarily chose to join, you have to sign the HOA agreements as part of settlement), it is the local government.
  • by originalhack (142366) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:48AM (#31340916)
    Well, it's nice to know that the city of Orange won't let residents save water while the rest of the towns on the same water system are offering bumper stickers that say "I killed my lawn.. ask me how"
  • I see you (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kitkoan (1719118) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:49AM (#31340922)
    Now get off my lawn
  • by Kartoffel (30238) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:49AM (#31340934)
    They should have watered their lawn with Brawndo. It's got what plants crave.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @01:50AM (#31340944)

    ... the law requires 40% live ground cover, so they should be given a citation.

    They think that law is unjust, so they are doing their duty by not following it.

    The correct outcome is for the law to be changed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unrelenting rule of law often leads to stupid and even outright nasty things. That's why we also have this thing called common sense. The long-term solution is obviously to fix the law, but short-term, it is a perfectly sensible solution e.g. to have the executive branch refuse to enforce it, if it is absolutely clear that it is extremely unpopular.

      I mean, would you prefer all the various ancient laws still on the books in US to also be enforced, just because they happen to be there?

      Now, whether the law in

  • by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:01AM (#31341024)
    I've always hoped that these sorts of ordinances are made up. Just scary stories you city folk tell us country bumpkins to keep us out.

    Right?
    Right??
    • by nadaou (535365) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:20AM (#31342412) Homepage

      in many of these suburbs backyard clotheslines have been banned as well. some people reading this will think I'm making it up. Others reading it will think that everywhere has these laws.

      apparently the "logic" goes that only poor people don't use electric dryers in the desert, and that perceived perception lowers the property values for the neighbors.

      live free or die? hell no! these chains have resale value.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:04AM (#31341050)

    LA Offers upto a $2000 rebate for ripping up your lawn [latimes.com]

    Seems that in June of '09, LA wanted to try to catch up with LasVegas who is paying people to rip up their lawns as well.

    the intent of the cash-for-grass program is to reduce the 50 to 90 inches of water routinely applied to turf every year. Drought-tolerant substitutes may require just 15 -- in keeping with L.A.'s average annual rainfall.

    For information on the L.A. Department of Water and Power program, call the regional water agency rebate hotline at ..... The recording will say funding for regionwide programs is exhausted, but keep listening. DWP customers can press 3 for more details on their rebate.

    Also, here's the link to the SoCal Turf Removal Program. [socalwatersmart.com]

  • Revenue Streams (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stimpleton (732392) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:06AM (#31341062)
    FTFA: "Meanwhile, the couple said they had reduced their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009."

    Hmm, I wonder if this is to do with revenue from water supply.

    In my town, water metering is being implemented over time. As infrastructure is serviced, new metering tech in being roled out. At some point we will have to pay when the scheme is finalized.

    Coincidentily, the permit fees for watertanks has been put up, to the point it is like any of the "green" decisions: high capital outlay(factoring in the fees) to the the point one asks if financial return in 10 years is worth it.
  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:07AM (#31341068) Journal
    ... you guys in the USA need a lawn czar to stop this kind of stupidity ;)
  • by galvanash (631838) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @02:57AM (#31341388)

    This will probably be interpreted as a flame, but it isn't meant to be one. The _reason_ these kinds of city ordinances exist is because people wanted them - and they wanted them because they help protect property values.

    No matter how noble or righteous you might think ripping up your lawn and replacing it with wood chips is, it is still violating the ordinance.

    If I lived next door I frankly wouldn't give a crap how Eco-friendly the sea of wood chips next door was - if it looked like crap and it was next to my house I would be pissed off. I'm all for creative ways to help the environment and save money - but not if it means violating ordinances that exist for very good reason.

    Doing things like this is frankly makes you look like a child acting out... "The environment is more important than these stupid rules and there are just too many people that don't care about the environment so I will defy them in a effort to get the rules changed. So there!"

    Yes, in the grand scheme of things the environment is more important. So what does that have to do exactly with this particular ordinance? Nothing, zip. The point is if you actually wanted to change the ordinance the way to go about it is to convince your neighbors its a good idea and go to the city council. Its done ALL THE TIME all over the country. Good luck with that in this particular case - people LIKE grass.

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:19AM (#31341526)

      f I lived next door I frankly wouldn't give a crap how Eco-friendly the sea of wood chips next door was - if it looked like crap and it was next to my house I would be pissed off. I'm all for creative ways to help the environment and save money - but not if it means violating ordinances that exist for very good reason.

      It's none of your goddamn business what goes on in your neighbors property. None. Laws made to that effect are either communist (enforcing a community good over personal freedom) or they are authoritarian (I'm gonna tell you how to live, and you better like it).

      My beef with this is that ordinances like this aren't exactly put to a public vote - they're voted on by a bunch of blow-hards who see themselves as the second coming of Martha Stewart or Napoleon Bonaparte. Furthermore, they're generally supported by blow-hards who argue for free markets, freedom and personal liberty in every other circumstance that doesn't cost them money. These things are short-sighted and just plain wrong on so many levels that I'm amazed people who think that way managed to find their way to the meeting where the vote was held.

      • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnu ... org minus distro> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:51AM (#31342192) Homepage

        Laws made to that effect are either communist (enforcing a community good over personal freedom)

        Just to clarify your definition of communism, then, I have a few questions.

        I live in Denmark. As a consequence, I pay high taxes.

        In return, I get free health, free tuition at universities, free public libraries, almost free public service television with no ads, welfare you can live on (if only barely) and a mythical free lunch ;)

        Yes, I give up the personal freedom to spend my tax money the way I like. But in return, I get (more) healthy, educated and informed compatriots. This is a benefit to me, just as it's a benefit to my compatriots that their tax kroner was invested in my education---otherwise I might not have gotten it, but now that I have it I can return more tax money to the community pot.

        Yes, the tax-paid benefits have their biggest effect on the recipients of those benefits; but the second-order effects are valuable to us all.

        Is that communism? If so, I want more of that :-)

        • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @06:00AM (#31342704) Homepage

          Political discussion in USA is hampered by the fact that instead of discussing if a certain change is good or bad, frequently it's discussed if it'd be "socialist" or "communist", with the implied understanding that if yes, then it's nessecarily bad.

          Which fails to be true offcourse. Communist dictatorships where abhorrent in many ways. It doesn't follow that any policy they might have supported, is automatically bad. This sort of black-white thinking is seriously broken. "If my enemies do that, I'll do the oposite, just because."

          Universal access to education is a good example. Because what you say is true; while the people to benefit FIRST are the poor people who get a good education they wouldn't otherwise get, the rest of society benefits second, because with that education, the people will WORK, and pay TAXES, and in general contribute more than they otherwise would.

          It's not hard to show that education-levels correlate positively with just about every positive thing you can think of, from low teenage-pregnancies, low crimerate, good health, low unemployment, etc etc etc. USA is not alone in accepting a large dirt-poor uneducated underclass. But it's not a clever thing to do. Even if you're in the upper quartile, it'd be beneficial to you to do something about it, your quality of life would improve, unless you LIKE high crime-rate in your society.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Narpak (961733)

          Is that communism? If so, I want more of that :-)

          As a Norwegian I would say that what you descripe is more or less what we have here; Social Democracy [wikipedia.org]. Interestingly enough when it comes to land rights all land ultimately belongs to the nation; yet individuals and companies have various rights to use and administer the property. The only place I know we have something like a HOA (Home Owners Association) is for appartment buildings/complexes and what they can or can't do is severly limited by the confines of the law. As far as lawn goes I have not yet hea

      • I suspect that you mean that, despite it being my business, too bad. That's fine -- that's your opinion. That doesn't change the reality that many things that could happen on your property impact my quality of life.

        American (and, I suspect, Western) law has a long history of recognizing the impact we have on each other with respect to property. It's not just zoning laws, which limit everything from the shape of the building to where it's located on the property to what uses are permitted on the property

    • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettin&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:21AM (#31341542) Homepage
      Sooo... Basically, you value your personal property over the environment of the entire planet? How unselfish of you.
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @06:55AM (#31343054)

      No matter how noble or righteous you might think ripping up your lawn and replacing it with wood chips is, it is still violating the ordinance.

      Let me introduce you to the concept of "Limited Government". There are hundreds of thousands of Federal laws - not just statutes, but via treaties, bureaucracies creating their own laws, what have you. You are in violation of at least several right now, I guarantee it. Everyone is. Just because it's on the books doesn't mean it itself is legal or can be enforced.

      A city's government doesn't own your property. They should have very limited rights to tell you what to do with it, especially if it costs money, and one consideration is safety. Beyond that, I look down at most laws. Especially "property" value. What is property worth when you can't do anything with it anymore except conforming to everyone else?

  • by hallux.sinister (1633067) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @03:41AM (#31341694)
    and I can tell you all from personal, first-hand knowledge, that California, collectively and in general, has lost its goddamned marbles. This is exactly the kind of stupid shit that helped me conclude I should live somewhere not-foaming-at-the-mouth insane, and it's why I moved away, and why I will never move back. Should call it Crazyifornia. I know this sounds like a rant, but I can back this up. Ever heard of Proposition 65? For over a decade now, any business that uses ANY chemical or compound which is on this miles-long list of substances "known" to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defect, or other reproductive harm, has to post notices (known as Prop. 65 Warnings) in prominent locations around their businesses. So a restaurant which cleans its windows with an ammonia-based cleaner has to have a warning, same as the business which uses such things as hydrofluoric acid, 95% hydrogen peroxide, radioactive materials, etc. This is just GREAT, because those signs are EVERYWHERE and it does no good, because you can't tell from them which businesses are displaying the sign because of a single little bottle of blue cleanser, and which ones have 50 barrels of phosgene (COCl2) in the basement. This is but one of a hundred examples of Calinsanity. Sadly, I can't think of any viable solution to the problem.
  • news for nerds???? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @07:50AM (#31343404)
    Does /. now have a gardening section? How is this article news for nerds? Yes, I get there's a grasping at straws relationship to YRO -- but surely this is too far removed from nerd news even for that? Was it a virtual lawn? Did the lawn run linux? Was the lawn someone's overlord?

    I'm surprised at kdawson, this looks more like the kind of crap article that samzenpus regularly inflicts on us.
  • really? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Alinabi (464689) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @08:55AM (#31344006)

    they were violating several city laws that require that 40% of residential yards to be landscaped predominantly with live plants.

    Maybe theirs is one of the 60% that don't have to be landscaped with live plants.

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