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Turf war: Homeowners called before their association’s board for installing an artificial lawn

Posted: December 23, 2012 2:33 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2012 2:33 p.m.

Saugus residents Dawn and Arthur DeVine-Pelt sit in front of their lawn. Months after they installed an artificial lawn in their front yard, the couple received a notice to appear before their local homeowner's association.

Saugus residents Dawn and Arthur DeVine-Pelt both drive hybrid vehicles, they practice good recycling habits and exchanged all of their light bulbs for energy efficient ones, but months after they installed an artificial lawn in their front yard, the couple received a notice to appear before their local homeowner’s association.

“We were penalized for not asking for approval,” Dawn DeVine-Pelt said. “It never dawned on me it would require an “architectural approval.”

Any exterior construction or alterations, including installation of landscaping, first needs to be approved by the Saugus Homeowners Association, said Tami Bell, property manager for Euclid Management Company, the firm that manages the association. Requesting an approval is done by submitting an architectural request, she said.

“We just want to make sure that anything that can be viewed from the front has to be approved so it matches the community,” Bell said.

There currently isn’t a policy for artificial lawns in the Saugus HOA, she said. If one or two people contacted the Board and said they were interested in pursuing it, however, the homeowners’ board members can review the policy.

Having moved into the Saugus community 15 years ago, the DeVine-Pelts first installed an artificial lawn in their backyard four years ago, Dawn said. Earlier this year in March, they decided to also install one in their front yard when an area of grass repeatedly died.

“We got a good deal, but it cost us $4,200 to put the lawn in,” she said.

The couple is only saving around $250 per year in watering costs, because they also have shrubs, flowers, rose bushes and trees in the middle of their lawn, those landscape features still require watering, Dawn said.

But now, the DeVine-Pelt couple said they have been called before their HOA’s board on Jan. 8 to discuss the installation of the lawn. And, it’s possible they could be ordered to remove the lawn if the board does not give post-installation approval, she said.

“I thought that Santa Clarita was water-wise friendly,” Dawn said.

Water conservation

Euclid has worked with Castaic Lake Water Agency regarding water conservation efforts on behalf of other homeowner associations, Bell said. A CLWA consultant spoke with homeowner boards at Bouquet Canyon Hills HOA in Santa Clarita and the Valencia-Mayfair HOA in Valencia.

“Both associations are working on changing their policy and have started amending their common areas with drought tolerant plants,” she said.

As for the CLWA, it does offer incentive programs for both the common areas in an association and for individual homeowners, said Dirk Marks, water resources manager.

Homeowner associations will be given a credit if they convert their “turf” and landscaping into something that uses less water, Marks said. Homeowners can also earn free weather-based irrigation controllers.

The water agency is also under a state mandate to reduce water use by 20 percent, per person by the year 2020, said Stephanie Anagnoson, water conservation program coordinator for CLWA.

And, although CLWA has worked with close to 50 HOAs, the agency does not have a program for working with homeowner association boards to make their CC&R’s more drought-friendly, Anagnoson said, although it “has been thinking about ways to create one.”


A California bill that would have made approval mandatory for artificial lawns in HOA communities was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2011 because he felt the decision should be left to individual homeowner associations.

But Anagnoson believes the future will bring a lot of changes in attitude toward landscaping.

“We’re on the cusp of a paradigm shift where grass was the only thing that made a house beautiful,” she said.

Brad Watson with Property Management Professionals in Valencia agrees. His management company has seen many of the associations it manages revise their guidelines in the past three years to allow artificial lawns in the front and/or back yards, he said.

“It’s definitely the direction we’re heading in,” Watson said. “It’s the responsible direction to go; one that associations need to be heading in. We live in an arid climate and we have water conservation issues.”

HOAs, however, need to make sure they clearly indicate the parameters for artificial turf, he said. Some of the lawns can look really good and some can look really bad. But, if done right, it can look very good and last for a really long time.

In the case of the DeVine-Pelts, Watson said, if their HOA is thinking of moving in the direction of updating their guidelines to include drought tolerant landscaping, he would recommend it not require the couple to remove everything.

“The homeowner should be given an extension until the association adopts their revised guidelines,” he said.
As for the DeVine-Pelts, they will need to wait until Jan. 8 to see what decision the Saugus Canyon HOA makes regarding their front lawn.

“We had our lawn professionally installed. You wouldn’t know it was artificial unless you got down on the ground and pulled on it,” Dawn said.


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