BY REECE PASCOE
If a resident is thinking about redoing one lawn, because of drought restrictions, take a look at the Turf Replacement Program, offered by the LADWP. It is one of the many water-saving, energy-savings programs offered by this agency.
The program was brought to our attention from a reader who wrote, “LADWP has been emphasizing its turf replacement program. This program pays a rebate to homeowners for replacing grass in their front, back or side yards with California native plants and rock garden features etc. However, one of the requirements of this program is to cover most of the beds and soil with mulch (decomposed granite, rocks or pebbles don’t qualify).”
The reader questioned using mulch in high wildfire severity zones. He said he had brought it to the attention of LADWP, but that they can’t provide any exemptions to the requirements.
LADWP likes to use the word turf as a synonym for grass/lawn. It does not mean “AstroTurf” or synthetic grass, which is environmentally unfriendly (see the box below).
It is not the LADWP that offers the program, but the Metropolitan water district. “Funding levels are comprised of a base rebate provided by Metropolitan Water District and possible additional funding by participating water agencies.”
It is a little confusing, but the Metropolitan water district is the main proponent behind the program. The LADWP is also offering the same program, but with a little difference on the rebate.
One could conceivably apply to both agencies.
The LADWP program offers $3 per square foot replacement, with a minimum size of 250 square feet. The maximum size that qualifies is 5,000 square feet for residential properties.
That program also offers $3 square foot for commercial properties with the minimum size of 250 square feet, with the maximum size 50,000 square feet.
The LADWP program also offers $1 a square foot for commercial properties with a minimum size of 50,001 square feet – with a maximum of seven acres.
The Metropolitan Water District program offers $2 per year for 250 square feet to a maximum of 5,000 square feet.
The 250 square feet must be grass “turf” and although the minimum is 250. If a resident has less, the entire lawn must be removed to qualify.
To receive the money, one must apply and receive approval, which reserves funds for the project. There are many requirements to this program, and a resident should read the full list.
One requirement includes planting three trees per 100 square feet in the project area
The city is giving free trees. All one has to do is apply online and in 8-10 weeks they will be delivered, there is a limit of seven trees per household.
Before planting, know that turf-looking grasses or invasive plants do not qualify even if they are drought tolerant or California natives.
The ground has to be permeable to air and water, no bare soil and no synthetic turf is allowed. There are many other stipulations to this program such as on-site inspections.
The DWP site explains three ways to remove a lawn: chemical, manual and by using mulch click here.
The most effective is the mulch method and is achieved by cutting the grass very short, watering it, putting cardboard or newspapers on top. A layer of fertilizer or manure is placed atop of the cardboard. Then mulch is applied on top. (Also, one will have to create a mote to help with water run-off.) This process will take three to eight months depending on various factors. There are five-minute videos that explain the whole process step by step.
One reason mulch is a good idea is that the city is offering it free. One can pick it up at any of the 10 sites or have it delivered. The delivery option is based on a first-come, first-serve basis and there are a few requirements.
After the lawn is gone, one can choose drought tolerant landscaping, from an authorized plant list, and there is an approved set of guidelines. There are many pictures of lawns to help guide one in the landscaping process.
DWP responded to CTN’s questions about using mulch and said that agency partnered with L.A. Sanitation and Environment and L.A. Bureau of Street Services.
DWP spokesperson Ellen Cheng wrote in a June 22 email “LASAN creates high-quality mulch from the green waste collected from homes across the City. StreetsLA creates high-quality mulch from tree pruning operations.”
She was asked about mulch being a fire hazard. “LADWP encourages the use of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, and make the garden bed look more attractive.”
Regarding brush clearance Cheng directed us to the LAFD site. “Cut vegetation may be machine processed (chipped) and spread as ground cover (mulch) so it does not exceed three inches in depth within 30 feet of structures and no more than six inches in depth 30+ feet from structures/buildings. Machine processed/chipped material shall not be placed within 10 feet of combustible fences or road surfaces.”
Artificial Turf Not the Answer for Lawn Replacement
Artificial turf has many problems assisted with it, making it counterintuitive to being eco-friendly.
Yes, one does not need to water the artificial turf and that is a big reason for sales especially in arid climates. Though one may think that they are doing right by Mother Earth the truth is it will do more harm in almost all circumstances.
The amount of plastic used in making it is staggering.
One can’t recycle the plastic used in artificial turf.
The plastic pellets used with some Astro turf escape into the environment. (If you have ever played on turf, you know your shoes are filled with the pellets, socks covered in the plastic grass.)
Installation is a problem due to the concrete foundation and drainage needed to be set up.
The “island effect” means the turf soaks up the heat and retains it. It makes ground like an oven. A 90-minute soccer game in 100 degrees, is about 10-20 deg hotter on the turf, shoes start to melt.
The island effect is a big problem in big cities raising the temp during the day, because roads buildings and plastic Astro turf retain the heat throughout the night.
If you decided to get rid of a lawn, turf is not a great environmental choice.