Your Front Yard: Who’s in Charge?

April 2nd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

If a man’s home is his castle, should he be lord of his lawn?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

After replacing their grass lawn with wood chips, “drought-tolerant greenery,” and a decorative wooden fence, Orange, California homeowners Quan and Angelina Ha were charged with three misdemeanors for violating a city ordinance that requires landscaping at least 40% of all front yards with “predominantly” live plants.

The LA Times reported that, “Realizing that their front lawn was soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water,” in the midst of a 2008 drought,“the Has did the environmentally responsible thing and tore it out.” The new landscaping was not acceptable to the city attorney’s office.

“It’s their yard, it’s not overgrown with weeds, it’s not an eyesore,” said a neighbor whose own front yard is planted with fruit trees. “We should be able to have our yards look the way we want them to.” Violators of the landscape law face fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail. “It’s funny that we pay our taxes to the city,” said Quan Ha, “and the city is now prosecuting us with our own money.”

After the Times story ran, the city attorney announced that the case against the Has would be dropped.

Tell us what you think: Should the government have a right to determine what homeowners do with their own front yards?