Shortly after pleading with his fellow Angelenos to voluntarily ease up on the lawn watering, cover their swimming pools, and practice other conservation-minded #DroughtHacks to help the city reach a 20-percent-by-2017 water reduction goal, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti immediately did something rather dramatic at his own home: he got rid of a sizable chunk of grass.

Adjacent to the also-affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park, the leafy Los Angeles nabe of Windsor Square — “a garden oasis in the heart of a world-class city” — is best known for its collection of more than 1,000 well-preserved historic mansions that are set apart from the street by broad front lawns and immaculately manicured parkways shaded by a canopy of mature California sycamores, Aleppo pines, queen palms and other trees. (Trees that aren’t mature must be deemed as a historically “appropriate” species by the arbor-minded offshoot of the Windsor Square Association, Windsor Square Canopy, before being planted).

Wealthy and obviously tree-obsessed, if there was one Los Angeles neighborhood concerned with keeping up appearances in the landscaping department, Windsor Square would be it.

However, the tree-dotted parkway — the generous expanses of turf between the sidewalk and the street — fronting Windsor Square’s most famous addresses, 605 S. Irving Blvd., now looks different from the rest. Gone is the lush, water-guzzling grass, replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping.

That address, of course, belongs to Getty House, the official mayoral residence of Los Angeles since 1977. While the home, a 1920s Tudor revival-style mansion, has sat unoccupied for long stretches of time (1993 to 2005), Mayor Garcetti and his wife, social activist and apparent LED-enthusiast Amy Wakeland, decided to call Getty House home in November 2013. Before packing up and moving to Windsor Square, Garcetti, a bona fide hip dude and former member of the Los Angeles City Council, resided in the decidedly less staid L.A. neighborhoods of Echo Park and Silver Lake.

As reported by Curbed LA, the removal of Getty House's grassy parkway commenced the day after Garcetti announced his executive directive outlining how Los Angeles residents and businesses can pitch in and help the city meet its aggressive water reduction goals. If the goals are not met, the city will institute a series of stringent, mandatory water restrictions.

Writes Garcetti in a blog post published in the Huffington Post:

We need bold action, which is why I have issued an executive directive to reduce Los Angeles' water use by 20 percent by 2017 and our Department of Water and Power's purchase of imported water by 50 percent by 2024. This means reducing our use of water and renewing our local water sources. Of particular importance is reducing outdoor water use, which accounts for 50 percent of residential water consumption.

City government will lead by example. I am directing the city to reduce watering and replace lawns and other water intensive landscaping at city buildings, on street medians, and sidewalk parkways.

It would appear that Garcetti is also leading by example. A quiet act of solidarity instead of a splashy, self-congratulatory PR opportunity, the removal of the grass parkway at Getty House — to be clear, it’s a city-owned building — wasn’t publicized by the mayor’s office.

An email sent to Curbed by Garcetti’s office explains the low-key landscaping overhaul: “The city is replacing turf and upgrading the irrigation system at Getty House to reduce water use … Work on the backyard is planned for later.”

Julie Grist, a writer for neighborhood website Larchmont Buzz, was able to get a bit more info out of the mayor’s office on the project, including the names of the types of drought-resistant plants that have been swapped in for the thirsty green turf: Callistemon viminalis (weeping bottlebrush), Grevillea lanigera (coastal gem) and Dianella revoluta (flax-lily). A more efficient drip irrigation has been installed to help the parkway’s mature trees make it through California’s historic dry spell.

Larchmont Buzz, which also published a few "after" shots of the Getty House's lawn, notes that the front yard of Getty House is being sheet-mulched, a common turf grass-to-native garden conversion technique.

The chances that the water-smart makeover on the grounds of the Getty House will inspire Windsor Square residents to take advantage of the city’s Landscape Incentive Program (now offering $3.75 per square foot of grass removed!) and tear up their lawns are likely, at this point, slim.

But even if Garcetti’s grass-less parkway is ultimately more symbolic than catalytic in nature, it’s refreshing to see a public official truly walking the walk outside of city hall. (Paging Michael Bloomberg). And while drought-resistant plantings may not meld seamlessly into the fastidiously groomed, turf-heavy landscape of ritzy Windsor Square, it’s certainly more attractive than the AstroTurf situation at Garcetti’s previous home. That was perfectly terrible.

Via [Curbed LA], [Larchmont Buzz]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

L.A. mayor walks the walk, orders removal of front lawn
The water-guzzling grounds at the Windsor Square mansion that serves as the official mayoral residence are undergoing a drought-resistant makeover.