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Developments Facing New Laws For Landscaping In 2010

A little noticed change in the law will affect landscaping in new housing developments in the coming year.

California legislators passed a law in 2006 that requires cities and counties to develop ordinances to save water use in new landscapes by 30 percent. The law goes into effect tomorrow.

Toby Roy of San Diego County Water Authority says the state only came up with a model ordinance last October. She says San Diego county agencies have worked with cities and the building industry to develop a model ordinance for this region.

“As new development goes in, it will be designed to the new standards,” Roy said. “Residents installing landscapes for new homes will come in to the counter and get information on how to design a landscape but they wont have to go through a permit process.”

San Diego County’s Landscape ordinance which governs the unincorporated areas was approved earlier this month. It requires new landscapes over a certain size to be designed by state licensed landscape architects.

San Diego garden designer, Nan Sterman, says that will exclude hundreds of professional garden designers specially trained in low water use plants.

“We have four community colleges in San Diego turning out people who are landscape designers who will not be qualified to develop those plans,” Sterman said.

She says the ordinance makes putting in new drought tolerant landscaping more expensive. Plus, she says, a manual with guidelines on low water use and fire resistant plants is not based on up-to-date, scientifically proven data. Many new plants have become popular since the data used to prepare the manual was published.

The ordinances do not affect existing homeowners, though water use officials hope the design guidelines will affect all new landscaping in the region.

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