Letter to the Editor: Glendora's City Manager Weighs in on the "Brown Lawn" Controversy

After running the article "Residents Fined for Reducing Lawn-Watering During Drought," CityNews was contacted by  Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers, who wished to clarify aspects of the story that has been making national headlines. The contents of his correspondance can be seen below.

Dear CityNews,

Thank you for the opportunity to shed some more light on the City of Glendora and our efforts. 

First, we are conserving about 12% since we implemented Stage One Conservation regulation in 2008. Despite more population and business growth, we can do more, absolutely,and we are.

We are the only municipal water company in the SGV Valley that offers financial incentives on top of those offered by Metropolitan Water District (MET) for property owners to implement conservation programs. This includes turf removal, low flow toilets, drought tolerant plants, smart controllers. While MET rebates are pretty substantial, we will match them if our residents buy those products locally from our stores like Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Armstrong Nursery and many other stores. So for a toilet, you can almost get 80% of the cost back through MET and the Glendora rebates

How successful is it? Very. 

We spend about $100,000 annually in rebate checks to the ratepayers that avail themselves of the various programs. In fact this past fiscal year we had 396 property owners take advantage of our rebate program. Again, this is in addition to the rebates that MWD/MET offer.

We have built three large demonstration gardens (library, Water Yard and Gladstone Park) which allow residents and business to observe firsthand what the plants look like and how they will grow. We will constructing a fourth such garden this year, so that we have one in all four corners of our community and thus more visible.

We offer free water efficiency audits to help ratepayers to become more efficient, look for leaks and inform them about the rebate programs. We do about 10 -14 per month and have been doing that since 2009. We did over 134 this last fiscal year.

We host the largest Earth Day Celebration in the entire San Gabriel Valley each April in which we host approximately 4,000 to our small community. During this we offer information on water conservation, classes on conservation maintenance, offer rain barrels and the list goes on. How successful is this? This year about 100 students from a school in Anaheim came to our event.

Do we pay attention to those that are not conserving, we do. In fact, for this past fiscal year ending on June 30th, we noticed a total of 895 properties that we observed activity that was not consistent with our Stage One restrictions. As with any problem, our policy is try very hard to get voluntary compliance and work with the party. In my eyes that is success when you work things out. With the 895 stated above, 893 correction were achieved via that process. In only two incidents, did we need to cite for continued water wasting processes. We have not cited anyone – ever – for having a “brown lawn”. It is not a violation of our code to have a “brown lawn”, what is a problem having no landscape vegetation.

In this case, we did not cite or even indicate to the property owner they were in violation. We were responding to a call that the house appeared abandoned. I am sending you pictures of the yard and the complaint that we received by someone feeling the property was abandoned due to its condition [see image below]. When staff determined that the home was occupied but on the verge of violating the maintenance standards, they left a Flyer just reminding them that we can conserve and have a wonderful landscaped property that helps achieve conservation. We asked them to call if they had questions and we could point them in direction of our Water Conservation Team helping them.

Water Conservation photos

Above you can see a few examples of landscape that can occur with drought tolerant plants and themes. We do not ask that properties be landscaped with grass, we simply asked that they be landscaped and maintained to keep up neighborhoods. With all new development over the last three years, we have in fact required that grass not be more than 15% of the entire open space and that they rely on vegetation to enhance their landscape. We believe that drought tolerant vegetation comes in all sizes and colors that can enhance your home – yes it is “Green”. Green as you know is more associated with environmentally sensitive and sustainable issues. 

In fact, a recent report done by Associate Press on an analysis performed by the California Water Board showed that Glendora has a savings of 26% in May when compared to the three previous years water production. This report recently appeared in the Washington Times. We realize that this production will go up and down based on many elements that impact water (weather, pumping, special events, etc.) yet, this was part of the State’s report that overall California used 8% more water in the Washington Times article.

Again, we are demanding conservation, but that does not mean that landscape needs to die, be unmaintained or even non-existent. As our conservation gardens show, you can improve your homes curb appeal and do your part to help the state. We’ll even help pay a major portion. 

I would add that every city is taking this issue seriously in my humble opinion. No one wants to be seen as not doing their part.

I hope this clarifies the situation and our commitment to conservation along with keeping the City of Glendora the Pride of the Foothills.

Sincerely,

Chris Jeffers
City Manager


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