CBS News is reporting on an unusual case in which a California husband-and-wife duo found themselves trapped between conflicting state and local regulations. With California suffering under an extreme drought, Governor Jerry Brown has asked residents to reduce their usage of water. In fact, this request recently took a mandatory tone as California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved a measure penalizing those who refuse to cut back on water use with a $500 fine.
Glendora residents Michael and Laura Korte, concerned about the drought like many other Californians, opted against watering their lawn in an effort to conserve water, causing their grass to turn brown. However, on the same day that the state government announced that those who over-water their lawns will face a $500 fine, the Korte household received a notice from Glendora’s city government requiring them to green up their lawn in 60 days or else face penalties. According to CBS News, Michael Korte said, “…the penalty was fines of $100 to $500 and criminal prosecution, whatever that means.”
Essentially, city regulations on the appearance of lawns are coming into direct conflict with an emergency state rule aimed at dealing with an unprecedented drought. If Michael and Laura Korte comply with city regulations and water their lawn until the grass turns green again, they could face a $500 fine from Jerry Brown’s state government. If they comply with state rules and refuse to water their lawn, they could face a $500 fine and criminal prosecution by Glendora city officials.
According to Danielle Nottingham at CBS News, “The city appears to have watered down its threat. City officials referred CBS News to their website, where a similar-looking notice appeared, making no mention of a fine but asking instead for voluntary compliance.” However, these mixed signals are of no comfort to Michael and Laura Korte, who still have to deal with City of Glendora’s notice requiring them, within 60 days, to water their lawn until it turns green or face punishment, which would require them to violate the state-level rule against over-watering.
The notice from City of Glendora even acknowledged that water conservation efforts were underway, meaning officials were intentionally enforcing city codes requiring green lawns, even under drought conditions when residents are required to cut back on water use. According to Fox News, the notice said, “Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green.”
Laura Korte expressed her frustrations to Fox News, “My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering. I felt like I was in an alternate universe.” Another Anaheim resident, Sandra Tran, recently spent $600 outfitting her yard with drought-proof landscaping in an effort to comply with similarly conflicting regulations in her local community.
In the past, Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown introduced and then withdrew a bill, AB1636, that would have prevented local governments from issuing fines like these during drought emergencies. Now, in light of the Korte’s plight, Assemblywoman Brown is considering reintroducing the legislation.