How can the "Brown Lawn" Syndrome be avoided?

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Submitted by mydogsarelazy on June 16, 2007 - 9:21am

Hi Everyone,

Was reading Hipmatt's post on his complaints about living in Temecula -- I live nearby in Murrieta -- and it got me thinking about something.

How can we work with our city councils to work against the "brown lawn syndrome." Are there any political actions that can be taken to keep Temecula/Murrieta from becoming a kind of home graveyard full of brown lawn homes as the real estate bubble plays itself out?

My idea is that I should open an anti-brown lawn website to foster discussion and get action and ideas going.

Your ideas?


Submitted by Bugs on June 16, 2007 - 10:27am.

Short of hiring city landscapers and water trucks to drive down the streets and hose those lawns off I don't see how you're going to compel people to care for their landscaping. The HOAs can do it to a limited extent, but really, the effects of a $50/month fine can largely be ignored by an offsite owner.

Probably better if the neighbors get together and put some effort into their neighborhood.

Submitted by temeculaguy on June 16, 2007 - 11:20am.

There is a house near my kids school where the lender painted the brown lawn green during the foreclosure process, I should take a picture of it, it's hillarious becuase it's the wrong color green, like seeing a 90 year old guy with a jet black wig.

From a buyers perspective, the brown lawns are a good thing, gives you more insight and it makes the future repos easier to spot. I actually went through the neighborhood I want to buy in yesterday and made a note of the brown lawners, then compared them to the internet, sort of a "coming attractions" if you will.

Submitted by kewp on June 16, 2007 - 11:32am.

I would really, really like to see some aerial photos of Temecula over the past (and into the next) year. Would be neat to make an animation of it.

Would look like a brown alien was eating SoCal!

Submitted by FormerOwner on June 16, 2007 - 5:41pm.

The brown lawn syndrome is just going to have to play itself out. Eventually, someone will buy all those empty houses. The price they pay and the type of buyers they are remains to be seen.

I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg so far as far as brown lawns/vacant houses. There are going to be a LOT of ARM's resetting in Temecula and not much in the way of wages to pay the increased payments.

As a side note, the fact that a lawn can go completely dead in a couple weeks shows you how DRY it is in the Inland Empire. What happens if the drought continues for decades as many scientists are now predicing and watering lawns is no longer an option?

Submitted by bigmoneysalsa on June 16, 2007 - 8:33pm.

Here's an idea. Have the city put a massive tax on houses that have been vacant for more than X number of months. Something really hardcore, like 1% per month. That way the title holder must lower the price to sell or rent the place out quickly.

BTW, this could also have the secondary effect of driving prices down more quickly by forcing inventory to be liquidated.

Submitted by PerryChase on June 16, 2007 - 9:59pm.

How about going with climate appropriate landscaping? Drought resistant landscaping sans the lawn is very beautiful. It takes a little more creativity to design an attractive landscape.

That would save water and lower maintenance. The lawn is such a paradox in a semi-desert climate such as Temecula. To me, it's such a sign of waste.

Submitted by PD on June 17, 2007 - 8:07am.

Perry, I actually agree with you 100%. Big grassy areas suck up tons of water in the desert. Desert landscaping can be very beautiful.

Submitted by lniles on June 17, 2007 - 9:55am.

That's a great idea! I think indigenous plants (succulent cacti and other dessert-hardy plants) look much more beautiful than green grass. Go with what nature intended, not the cookie-cutter, green-grass lawn!

Submitted by novice1027 on June 17, 2007 - 11:13am.

Personally, I love my fake grass in the back yard. No water bills, the dog dosen't kill it, and it looks great all of the time. It feels a little wierd, but who cares, it's not like I roll around on it.
Maybe the HOA's can take all of their money and lay that in the front lawns?

Submitted by temeculaguy on June 17, 2007 - 11:26am.

Novice, what did the lawn cost? I think those fake lawns are cool but have been told they can be expensive initially. How long before you break even if you figure in water, mowing, sprinkler repair, pest control, etc. Do they go bad after a certain amount of time like carpeting?

How long before we see them in front yards?

Submitted by novice1027 on June 17, 2007 - 12:36pm.

I was able to work a pretty good deal. I had a very small area, so I got a remnant. They threw in quite a bit of extra turf.
We installed it ourselves, so I think it was about grand all up for about a 600-700 sq ft area. That's off of the top of my head.
It far out weighs the cost for the instant and constant green lawn. I believe it has a 10 year warrenty.
When it gets dirty you can put simple green or even bleach on it. I haven't had to yet, got it in September.
We are very pleased with it.

Submitted by FormerOwner on June 17, 2007 - 7:09pm.

I agree that using things like astroturf, native plants, xeriscape, etc. is the way to go. Going forward, I think we will have no choice up here in Temecula and we'll be better off without all this grass in the desert.

I wanted to do something along these lines when I owned my house but my wife wanted a tropical look. After a few hot summers and some big water bills, she started to change her mind. Our rental house has a very small yard so there isn't very much grass to water - at least it's a step in the right direction.

Aside from the water usage, lawns cause a lot of environmental damage due to fertilizer and pesticide runoff. Plus there's the hassle of having to mow it, fertilize it, fix sprinkler heads, etc. The less grass, the better.

Plants should be suited to the climate as well. I can't believe some of the plants that Lowe's and Home Depot sell up here. Almost everyone that moves up here from San Diego has a story about how they spent a couple hundred bucks on plants that all burned up in the summer heat. I did that but I brought them all back (I had saved the pots) and got a store credit. After that, I started researching what types of plants, trees would do well up here before buying them.

Submitted by AK on June 18, 2007 - 11:44am.

I too am surprised by the widespread use of water-hungry landscaping. I remember the dry years of 1976-78 in Nor Cal ... my parents switched to drought-resistant landscaping, as did many other homeowners. Unfortunately closed minds can't distinguish between xeriscape / native vegetation and weeds.

On the subject of brown lawns ... some could be the result of intentional neglect. Somewhere in the forums is a link to an interview with a short sale "specialist" who says that brown lawns help convince lenders/servicers that a property is impaired and will be hard to sell as an REO.

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