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Manteca may restrict lawn size
New homes & landscape renovations targeted
water lawn
Lawns are the biggest use of water in Manteca - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The effort to whittle away at water guzzling front yard grass may soon restrict how much turf new homes can have plus require major renovations of existing yards to reduce lawn area.

An ordinance amendment establishing parameters for turf use in front yards more in  line with California’s current drought emergency and expectation of ongoing water supply issues is before the City Council when they meet Tuesday. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

It is the latest move in Manteca’s effort to meet a state mandated 32 percent cutback in water use as California heads into the summer of its fourth consecutive year of severe drought.

Grass is the single biggest use of water in Manteca.

The Manteca Planning Commission last month voted 3-2 to recommend that the council limit new homes to having no more than 25 percent of the required front yard landscaping planted in turf. They also embraced adding language that prohibits new homes from having more than 25 percent of their side yards that are visible from the street planted in turf.

 All homes currently existing in Manteca would be grandfathered in and not subject to the limit on front and side yard turf unless the property was “not used” for six months verified by utilities being turned off for that length of time or more than 25 percent of the front yard landscaping was modified.

Allowing grass to die as now allowed by the city under an ordinance for the duration of the drought will not trigger the requirement that moderations be made. However, a major renovation or expansion of landscaping for existing homes will limit grass to 25 percent of the area the city requires to be landscaped.

“Required front yards” are established by setback. That means if you are talking about a residential lot has a 20-foot setback the “required yard” goes to that point. The “actual yard” refers to the area in the front yard that’s created when the residential structure and garage are placed back further than the setback requires. The “actual yard” then refers to the front yard that starts at the edge of the sidewalk and goes to the first building whether it is the garage or the house.

The area behind the setback that is also behind the front profile of part of the house/garage structure that is closest to the street is not defined as part of the front yard and is not subject to any limitations on what can and can’t be done in terms of landscaping. Typically that occurs in newer homes where the garage is closer to the street than the front door or porch.

Street side corner yards don’t have to be landscaped under existing city rules. The change the commission recommended is if landscaping is placed in such side yards no more than 25 percent of it can be turf.

At the same time the 25 percent cap for front yard landscaping doesn’t mean that it has to be planted in any turf. The ordnance simply states that the 35 portent area of the front yard that is required to be landscaped must use living plant material.