New law aims to lift artificial turf ban on HOA property

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CHULA VISTA, Calif.  -- On the heels of new water regulations that start Monday across San Diego, one answer to California’s massive drought may come in the form of something fake.

There’s a turf war brewing over a bill making its way to the State Senate. The bill would make it illegal for homeowners associations (HOAs) to prohibit fake turf.

Rod Sekimoto of Chula Vista has replaced his lawnmower with a vacuum cleaner. Sekimoto belongs to an HOA and after showing samples, was allowed to install his fake lawn in December.

“I knew we were in drought conditions so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to save water. It was a no brainer,” said Sekimoto.

Thought it may save water, it won't necessarily save money -- at least not yet. Sekimoto’s back and front yard combined cost him $4,700 after $1,000 in state rebates.

Local assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez passed a bill stating HOAs must allow residents to put in drought tolerant landscaping. Now, she wants synthetic turf to be an option.

“A third of urban water use comes from landscaping, so when you look at ways we can stop watering our lawns, that’s an important step,” said Gonzalez.

More than 49,000 communities are governed by HOAs statewide -- about a quarter of the state’s housing stock.

“People thought fake turf, fake anything, that’s out, that’s cheap,” said Sarah Richardson, VP of J.D Richardson Companies.

They manage 60 HOAs across San Diego.  She said over the past year all of her HOAs have become open to the turf as long as they follow quality standards.

In 2011, Gov Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill. Environmental groups like San Diego-based Surfrider Foundation’s ocean friendly gardens program have concerns too. They say padding materials placed under the turf prevent soil from absorbing rainfall, causing toxic runoff.

Gonzalez believes the new materials are more eco-friendly.

“[The turf now is] more porous so you have less runoff and you have to balance environmental needs. Right now we know the number one environmental issue in California is the drought.

The bill passed virtually unopposed in the Assembly. No word yet if the Governor will sign the bill if it comes to his desk.

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