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San Diego Again Offering Money To Help Make Your Lawn Drought Resistant

Talmadge resident Mike Daly's yard after he removed his grass and replaced it...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Talmadge resident Mike Daly's yard after he removed his grass and replaced it with drought tolerant landscaping, Dec. 12, 2017.

Friday is the deadline for San Diego residents and business owners to apply for a rebate from the city for removing grass and replacing it with drought tolerant landscaping.

The turf rebate program was very popular in the height of the drought. In past years, the money was used up immediately.

This year, the city opened applications for rebates for two weeks in October and had 120 takers, said Brian Hojnacki, a management analyst with the city's Public Utilities Department. At the end of those two weeks, about two thirds of the $660,0000 available for rebates was left. So the city is again taking applications.

To apply for a rebate, residents can visit www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation or call 619-533-7485.

Property owners get up to $1.70 for each square foot of grass removed, with the maximum rebate for homeowners at $4,250. For businesses, the maximum is $17,000. Projects will have to be inspected by the city before work begins.

If more applications come in than money is available, the city will hold a lottery to decide who gets rebates, he said.

While the drought may be over, Hojnacki said it is still a good idea to take out grass.

"We still live in an arid area, and it's expensive to get water," he said. "A lot of the customers, their lawns have been suffering from the drought, and they are in need of replacement."

Talmadge resident Mike Daly got a rebate to take out his grass a few years ago.

"That helped offset the cost of the entire project, which was great, because of the labor that was involved and purchasing the rocks and the pavers," he said.

But, he said, there was a surprise come tax time. He found out the rebate counted as taxable income.

"Which was kind of a pain in the butt because we'd already accounted for that money in the project," he said.

In 2016, residents who got rebates from the San Diego County Water Authority were also notified that they had to pay taxes on the funds.

Allied Gardens resident Joey Davis said at the time that he was not told he would owe taxes.

"There's a lot of things you do on their website to get the rebate. There's a lot of things you have to go through, so I would have definitely noticed something like that and scaled down my project a little bit," he said.

Hojnacki with the city's Public Utilities Department said he hopes future legislation will exempt turf rebates from taxes.

"There is a push to make water conservation tax credits free," he said.

Despite the extra taxes, Talmadge resident Daly said he is glad he took out his grass and applied for a rebate.

"We definitely still would have done the project," he said.

Friday is the deadline for San Diego residents and business owners to apply for a rebate from the city for removing grass and replacing it with drought-tolerant landscaping.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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