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Orange may drop lawsuit against couple that pulled out front lawn

The city of Orange may drop its lawsuit against a husband and wife cited for not having enough plants in their frontyard, officials said.

The case against Quan and Angelina Ha could be dropped without fine or penalty, officials said Tuesday hours after the pair was arraigned on charges of violating city ordinances when they removed their lawn to try to save water.

Officials determined the yard met city standards after re-examining the property about noon Tuesday, said Paul Sitkoff, a spokesman for Orange. A city ordinance requires that 40% of a front lawn be landscaped with live plants.

"We had two officials go out there and look at the property, and they did make strides in complying with the ordinance," Sitkoff said.

City officials will meet with the couple later this week to make another assessment, he said.

The dispute began two years ago when the Has tore out the grass in their frontyard because it had been soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water and costing them hundreds of dollars a year.

The Has said Tuesday that dropping the lawsuit would not resolve the underlying issue: The city must encourage more water-saving measures among residents. Angelina Ha said her husband planned to petition the City Council to change the law.

"I'm glad we're not going to be in legal trouble, but right now we're really not in compliance -- only 10% of our lawn has plants," Angelina Ha said. "What about the next person? And if people just want to comply to the law, everyone is going to keep planting 40% and sucking up water."

-- Amina Khan

Comments () | Archives (39)

What do they do? They plant an attractive and diverse selection of drought tolerant, low maintenance native xeriscape plants that require no mowing, raking, fertilizing, or water after they are established.

People who have lawns and lots of shrubs should be the ones the City goes after - California is a desert and we need to use drought resistent plants not acres of grass and water loving plants - that's really stupid and a foolish waste of precious resources - and just think you can also fire your illegal alien gardener once you put in a desertscape. Desertscape is really quite nice - my sister has that type of landscaping up in Apple Valley and it is viturally maintenance free.

nb wrote: "

While Orange's lawsuit was ridiculous, this statement:
"And if people just want to comply to the law, everyone is going to keep planting 40% and sucking up water.""

is not fair either--plants provide shade, reducing air-conditioning bills. They absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. They keep down dust, and hold soil, preventing erosion. They provide food and shelter for birds--birds that eat West-Nile Virus infected-mosquitos and other pests. They provide beauty. Plants are not the enemy!

It's entirely possible to plant a beautiful lush garden without using a lot of water. It takes more time (for the initial planning), and plant knowledge than the typical garden requires, which many people are not able to manage. Besides wise planting, collecting and storing rain is one way to significantly reduce the use of public water. Plants are not the enemy!"
[no comment here - none necessary]

"When you live in the O.C. you must conform!! Vote GOP, bash immigrants and homosexuals and make everything appear as perfect as possible.

Posted by: Owen | March 02, 2010 at 04:42 PM"

Well we do want to appear neat and tidy 'cause we live next to a dirty, filthy county, which is L.A. Sorry folks, but if cities in L.A. County actually followed their municipal codes, and code enforcement officers did their jobs correctly, then you would not see all the decomposing neighborhoods or residential areas that happen to permeate all over. We do not want OC to become like LA, plain and simple.
By the way, OC is a very tolerant county Mr. Owen!

Government health care, anyone?

The landscape need not be extreamly dry and barren to be a water saving garden-in fact a well designed native garden should good almost all year long. Prior to the fence installation and peremeter planting it probably did look like a vacant dirt area to most. Still, it would only be fair to see what the yard will look like in a year or two when the plants that are there (which look sooo small now) have grown out. Perhaps they have actually planted with proper spacing in mind?
I applaude their efforts and hope that their landscape progresses as they learn more. There is so much more they could have done to keep water use extreamly low while having a beautiful yard full of natives suited to our region. Plants that can live with little water, great for hummingbirds and butterflies, and still look good.
Yes, a design with drought loving native groundcovers, a few key elements of seasonal color, and and a single native focal point (like the sculptural Manzantia) would have gone a long way towards appeasing the city, providing a inspiring front yard for neighbors to view, and a good lesson in habitat for their children-all while needing little water.
Hopefully (after reading Pablo's entry)simply saving money is not the only reason they tore out their front lawn-it should go beyond that.

I read on another news site that the family covered the space with wood chips, and later buit a fence and planted drought resistant plants but they filed the proper paperwork after the deadline and the drought resistant plants didn't come up to the required 40%, and therefore the City pressed charges anyway.

It gets better, possible punishment is 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine.

I agree the lawsuit is a bit extreme.

But honestly, I wouldn't want that to look at that yard if I were a neighbor of theirs. In my opinion, it's not attractive and from what I've seen they live in a nice neighborhood and it's everyone job to contribute to the beauty of it. There are plenty of options available for those who wish for a yard that conserves water.

I hope I misheard the owner last night on the local news saying he spent 80 grand on the front yard landscape??? Please someone tell me that's wrong, cause I don't see it.
Either he is BS-ing, or he got RIPPED!
Heck, I would've done it for 60!

40% lanscaping is meant to keep Southern California cities looking like a concrete jungle.
Drought tolerant planting or hardscape should fullfill the 40% landscaping requirement.

Right on Pablo and OC_Moderate!!! The proposed 'landscaping' was a dirt lot, right in the middle of Orange, a town which is known for preserving its local and historic character (it has one of the largest historic districts in the entire state of California). Some of us down here in OC value our independence from Los Angeles, and don't appreciate the LA Times editorial board and a bunch of self-righteous commentators telling us how to live, especially given that you don't hear us telling you how to do your zoning ore building permits!

It would have been relatively simple to put in a low-water garden that complied with Orange's laws; instead there was a dirt lot that made the entire neighborhood look bad. I for one am very disappointed that Orange caved into pressure from the LA Times.

Pretty sad what the city came up with: they see the public outcry and chose to lie about the Has complying rather than admitting they were ignorant and arrogant. They should change the stupid ancient law. What a shame...

This is utterly rediculous!

Please, isn't there anything more important for them to spend taxpayers money on than enforcing ridiculously intrusive ordinances...the governments at all levels need to stop wasting money on nonsense and get serious about the finances we entrust to them.

40% of live plants. But the Ha's was penalised because they took away the grass that used too much water, not that they don't have plants on their lawns. So I think this lawsuit is stupid. Those contributes more to the environment are bigger plants & even trees or shrubs. They don't need the grass unless they wanted to make it a must to have cows for every lawn. Duh.

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