Bill would allow artificial grass in HOAs February 23 2015

— Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, known for her matter-of-fact approach, is pushing something artificial.

Artificial grass, that is.

The San Diego Democrat pitched a bill this week that would allow residents in homeowner associations to replace their lawns with synthetic turf without fear of fines.

Most HOAs in California prohibit the artificial material on front lawns, saying its out-of-place look damages community character.

But with the high cost of water and ongoing drought, HOA residents and some lawmakers have been pushing for real change.

“There’s nothing fake about the water savings that will result from this bill,” Gonzalez said in a press release. “Last year, we proved that brown could in fact be beautiful with the passage of AB 2104 (allowing HOA residents to install drought tolerant plants). Still, some homeowners prefer a green, drought resistant artificial lawn.”

In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed HOA residents to install artificial turf. He said at the time that homeowner associations, not state government, should call the shots on fake grass.

Late last year, Gonzalez said she considered pushing for the artificial grass protections in 2014, but held off due to concerns from environmentalists. Many say laying down synthetic grass leads to greater urban runoff and, in turn, ocean pollution.

Gonzalez said she has since been convinced that newer synthetic turf has less of an impact on the environment.

The lawmaker’s bill is likely to face opposition from groups including the Community Association Institute, which advocates for HOAs nationwide. The institute has opposed past government efforts to take away their authority, including on landscaping issues, saying property values could suffer as a result.

In announcing her new bill, Gonzalez cited the state’s forecast for a fourth consecutive dry year in 2015. She also noted Gov. Brown’s call for residents to cut back their water usage by 20 percent, an effort that could be helped if more HOA residents start rolling out synthetic lawns.

“They should be applauded for their conservation actions not penalized,” Gonzalez added.