Although California’s historic drought rages on, a bit of good news for water-conserving residents who want to practice restraint in the lawn irrigation department but fear punishment from overzealous homeowners associations hellbent on keeping up immaculately lush appearances:

Just one part of a third executive order issued late last week by Gov. Jerry Brown to “redouble drought actions” across the state, HOAs are now forbidden from fining homeowners who have let their lawns go brown in an effort to help conserve water. California has been in an official state of drought emergency since January.

Reads the fourth tenant of Brown’s executive order:

Homeowners Associations (commonly known as HOAs) have reportedly fined or threatened to fine homeowners who comply with water conservation measures adopted by a public agency or private water company. To prevent this practice, pursuant to Government Code section 8567, I order that any provision of the governing document, architectural or landscaping guidelines, or policies of a common interest development will be void and unenforceable to the extent it has the effect of prohibiting compliance with the water-saving measures contained in this directive, or any conservation measure adopted by a public agency or private water company, any provision of Division 4, Part 5 (commencing with section 4000) of the Civil Code notwithstanding.
You’d think that homeowners associations would practice a bit of understanding and go with the severely restricted flow considering the dire situation in California. Heck, maybe they'd even offer residents a slap on the back for doing the right thing. But as evidenced by the need for Brown to specifically call out the practice of HOAs penalizing water-conserving homeowners, this hasn’t been the case. Back in January, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on one instance of an association threatening to slap non-lawn-watering residents with fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. In this case, residents had no choice but to start watering their lawns. “I’m going to water as much as I possibly can,” explained one resident who had felt the wrath of his HOA after letting his turf go brown.

Aside from instructing HOAs to kindly knock it off, Brown’s sweeping order also asks residents to conserve by refraining from washing off sidewalks and private driveways with water; turning off decorative water features such as fountains (unless said features use recycled water or greywater); and washing cars not at home but at commercial car wash establishments that recycle waste water. Furthermore, he requests that residents not water their lawns more than twice a week, if that.

Outside of requesting that homeowners chip in and do their part, Brown asks that parks, business complexes, college campuses, golf courses, and other recreational and institutional facilities to “immediately implement water reduction plans to reduce the use of potable water for outdoor irrigation.”

Restaurants are also asked to serve patrons water not by default, but by request.

Via [Los Angeles Times]

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

With California drought order, Gov. Jerry Brown instructs fine-happy HOAs to back off
As part of a proclamation further urging residents to conserve water, HOAs cannot punish residents who allow their once-lush lawns to go brown.