California Makes Artificial Grass Permanent

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Artificial Grass

This month, Governor Brown signed AB 349, a drought bill aimed at California HOAs that restrict the installation of artificial turf. Significant protections already exist for owners who wish to install “low water-using landscaping,” but AB 349 goes a step further, directly addressing artificial turf.

HOAs Can't Prohibit Artificial Turf

HOAs must approve the "use of artificial turf or any other synthetic surface that resembles grass." Many HOAs have policies that specify what types of low-water using landscaping are approved, but those policies will need to be updated.

Artificial Turf Is Permanent

After installing artificial grass or other water-saving landscaping, owners "shall not be required to reverse or remove the water-efficient landscaping measures upon the conclusion of the state of emergency."

The Law Is Effective Immediately

AB 349 passed with an urgency clause, which means that the law goes into effect immediately. Boards should react swiftly to adopt policies that minimize problems that could arise from the new law.

Update Your Landscaping Guidelines

Although no exemptions exist yet, the Governor is likely to sign AB 786, which would permit fines for failing to water in associations that use recycled water for irrigation. HOA boards may pass reasonable guidelines concerning the style of artificial grass or other low-water using landscaping. We recommend that affected HOAs create new guidelines as soon as possible. Guidelines should address:

  • Color. Does your neighbor like pink? Pink is a great color, but maybe not for the lawn. Artificial grass also comes in many shades of green – your HOA may want to choose a specific shade.
  • Style. Artificial grass is available for anything from a putting green to a soccer field. Each type has a unique look and feel. Consider length blade width in addition to color.
  • Materials. Not all artificial turf is created equal. Some materials include organic components such as cork infill, while others are made from crumb rubber (recycled tires). Some materials are also better for communities with pets – and their droppings.
  • Installation. Artificial grass must be cleaned periodically, and rainwater must be allowed to drain. Make sure that your policy addresses appropriate installation.

Although the new artificial grass provision will not be welcomed by every HOA, we encourage boards to help owners respond to the drought by providing clear guidelines.

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