Solana Beach updates water efficient landscape ordinance

To comply with the state of California’s regulations, the Solana Beach City Council on Nov. 18 unanimously agreed to update the city’s water efficient landscape ordinance.

The new law increases water efficiency standards for new and existing landscapes through improved irrigation systems, greywater usage and onsite storm water capture and by limiting the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf.

Under the new ordinance, a review will be required for landscaping and irrigation plans for development projects with landscaped areas of 500 square feet or larger. The previous threshold was 2,500 square feet of landscaped area. In addition, a building permit, plan check or development review permit will be required for rehabilitated landscaping projects with landscaped areas of 2,500 square feet or larger for residential and commercial properties.

Existing landscaping for residential and commercial properties will be required to comply with wastewater prevention measures.

The current exemption for single-family lots that are re-landscaped and do not require a permit has been removed.

Furthermore, annual audits and a separate landscaping water meter will be required for all new multifamily, commercial and industrial projects. Single-family residential projects will be exempt. In lieu of the audit and meter requirements for single-family homes, drip irrigation will be required in all areas except on slopes and in bio-swales. No turf will be allowed except in recreation areas.

Existing enforcement measures will remain in place. Penalties include fines of $100, $200 and up to $500 for first, second and third violations of the ordinance. Misdemeanor penalties include a fine up to $1,000, six months in jail or both for continued noncompliance.

California adopted the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act in 2006 to increase water conservation efforts and more efficient water use in landscaping. In 2008, the state’s Department of Water Resources prepared a Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance for cities to use in updating their landscaping requirements.

To meet state requirements, Solana Beach adopted its first water efficient landscape ordinance in March 2011. In response to the ongoing drought, Gov. Jerry Brown issued a new executive order in April that required the Department of Water Resources to update the state Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

The executive order also requires cities to report on the implementation and enforcement of local ordinances to the Department of Water Resources annually, beginning Dec. 31. If the city had not taken action, the state regulations would have taken effect Dec. 1.