Thursday, July 03, 2008

COUPLE FINED FOR LETTING LAWN DIE IN MIDST OF DROUGHT

Redorbit - Anne Hartridge and Matt George bought a home in east Sacramento for easy biking to work and shopping. They installed solar panels and efficient appliances. Their laundry dries on a clothesline. They didn't own a car until four years ago, when their eldest son, then 18 months old, was being treated frequently for food allergies. They bought a Prius.

So when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought June 4, Hartridge decided it was only right to let her front lawn die to save water. "The whole water conservation ethic is very important to me," said Hartridge, a state employee who bikes or rides the bus to work.

But that ethic didn't agree with her neighbors, or with the city. Before Hartridge could plan new landscaping, a neighbor complained to the city about her brown lawn, and the Code Enforcement Department slapped the family with a citation.

Their small brick home was declared a "public nuisance" in violation of city code section 17.68.010, which states that front yards "shall be irrigated, landscaped and maintained." A $746 fine will be next unless they correct the violation. . .

Two weeks ago, The Bee reported that Sacramento's per capita water use is among the greatest in the world. Later that week, the same day Hartridge got the citation, an audit revealed that the city has lost or misplaced nearly 5,000 water meters, out of more than 100,000 it must install citywide to comply with state law. . .

Dennis Kubo, city code enforcement manager, said his department does not communicate with the Utilities Department about drought concerns or water efficiency. His department only enforces health and safety and "general welfare" codes.