Team 10: Drought landscaping? Beware of city code

Posted at 7:24 AM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 21:34:52-04

SAN DIEGO - A city code violation is something no homeowner ever wants to see in their mailbox.

A violation normally leaves homeowners with very few options: Correct the violation or face a citation and monetary charge.

One North County homeowner told Team 10 he spent thousands of dollars on a drought-friendly front yard because he wanted to conserve water -- only to receive a warning citation for violating a city code. Most of his front yard is covered in concrete.

"I'm not saying we're any type of a special case," said Kevin Runge of Oceanside. "We really, truly thought that not only were we doing the right thing, that the city would be very happy that we did this. We really wanted to do the right thing here."

Team 10 discovered the specific code Runge is in violation of varies in cities across San Diego County.

In this case, the specific code Runge violated states: "Required Planting Area: Yards Adjoining Streets – A minimum of fifty percent of a required yard adjoining a street shall be planting area or landscape that may include areas covered by ornamental gravel, crushed rock or similar materials. The remainder of the required yard may be used for driveways or walks."

Some cities are strict while others are not.

In Escondido, for example: "Aside from requiring front yards to be stabilized to prevent erosion, Escondido has very few landscaping requirements for residential front yards. The City requires developers to install one tree in addition to standard street trees. The homeowner then has wide latitude when it comes to installing water efficient landscaping, hardscape, ornamental rock or similar materials."