Saturday, October 29
Do You Take Your Lawn Wasteful or Tacky?
The perfect [artificial lawns] lawns appear to be natural fits for water-short Silicon Valley and California.
``Lawns don't have much place being here in our arid environment,'' said Jerry de la Piedra, senior water conservation specialist for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
He said the average size of residential turf in the county is about 1,500 square feet and requires about 56,000 gallons of water every year to stay alive. [Mercury News, October 29]
With all this in mind, could it be that the widespread practice of mandating deep setbacks (inevitably covered with lawn) is bad policy? In San Jose, the minimum front setback for the R-1 zoning district (single-family housing) is 25 feet. That's 1,500 square feet on a 60-foot-wide lot, and most of that will typically be lawn or other vegetation requiring regular watering. And, if it's left natural with whichever plants that will take root, it'll be "declared a public nuisance and may be abated, and the cost and expense of such abatement may be collected" (§ 9.12.040).
Why should this and other municipalities require such wasteful water usage of its citizens?
Okay, this water usage is technically not required, since homeowners also have the option of fake grass:
Somewhere she had heard about a new generation of synthetic grasses that looked like the perfect lawn. She and her husband, Steve, were sold at first sight. They've joined over 1,000 other homeowners willing to pay up to $15 a square foot -- $22,500 for the average-size 1,500-square-foot lawn in the county.
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``They can't tell the difference from real grass,'' Homan said about her children. ``I don't have to worry about dirt, fertilizers, pesticides and other stuff they could be getting on their skin.''
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Not everyone is sold on the plastic grass. Bill Thompson, editor of Architecture Landscape magazine, said the new stuff may work in arid regions but, ``It's a mixed bag because it seals off the soil.''
Without a steady supply of water or sunlight, you can't have worms, insects and moisture underneath -- living systems that hold soil firm, prevent flooding and nourish birds, bees and other animals and plants. Some researchers believe artificial turf belongs only in indoor stadiums already separated from the soil system.
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