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Rebate for taking out lawn

Original post made by watersaver on Jun 4, 2011

Has anyone had a water audit and taken out their lawn and received a rebate? How helpful was the audit and how was the process? I'm thinking about doing this soon and am wondering what others have experienced. How much rebate did you receive? Thanks for any tips!

Comments (27)

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2011 at 10:34 am

We got a rebate for taking out our lawn maybe 3 years ago. I believe we got about $750 for taking out our relatively small front lawn and replacing with permeable walks (stone dust) and low-flow sprinklers for our new low-water plants. I don't recall an audit part, though they came after to sign off on the new installation.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Be very wary of trying to reduce water consumption like reducing trash. As EBMUD and PA Utilities customers discovered, reduction in usage usually makes rates go up.

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm

We dropped our water bill about 40% by cutting back lawn, using low-flow watering, and xeriscaping (low water plants). Rates might eventually go up, who knows, but that's money in my pocket the last 3 or so years.

Posted by South PA Resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I just let my back lawn die I don't water it, can I get a rebate for that? Nobody can see it and it's become a great place for all the neighborhood cats to poop on.

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm

No, you cannot get a rebate for an already dead lawn. The audit has to happen first with the lawn intact. We wondered if we should just stop watering our lawn but the Audit guy said no. They want to see if it will make a difference and based on what they see, they decide how much of a rebate you will get. Which is why I'm interested if anyone has done this and how much rebate did they get.

What we were told is the audit person has to look at what you have, make a decision is you get a rebate, then you get a list of approved plants, the project has to be done within three months, finally the audit person has to come back to evaluate what you've done, then you are allowed to have the rebate.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Not trying to undermine your idea of water conservation, but I do wonder how much it costs the auditor to make two house visits and then give you a rebate. Does the city have funds to finance projects like this?

I am concerned because I think that if too many people stopped watering their yards, the city owned trees, that we can't touch, will die through lack of summer watering. Also, the green lawns all over town look wonderful and if too many people put in some of the awful barren looking gravelly front yards instead, the city will start looking a lot more gray and a lot less green.

Also, if we don't use enough water, our water costs will go up due to the fact that it costs a lot to bring the water here and those costs don't go down even if water consumption does. That is a major factor of our garbage rates going up even though we are recycling more.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm

You should be careful about this; if you have a slab foundation on expansive types of soil, not watering during the summer can lead to your slab settling around the perimeter, leading to sloped floors.

What has been explained to me by contractors, during the summer, the soil, if not watered, will dry out and compact around the the perimeter of a slab foundation, while soil underneath the middle of a house remains moist and doesn't compact. During the winter, the soil gets hydrated again; repeat this cycle over 15 - 20 years, and the slab gets uneven. This could affect the value of your home by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

All I see here is that when it comes to Palo Alto government is that they are the MASTERS when it comes to 'BATES....

Basic ECON: when you use less of a product, the infrastruture still has to be paid for....and rates will go up...

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

Common sense: we don't have a slab foundation so that advice does not affect us but maybe useful to others who do.

Resident: you bring up some interesting issues here. It may be that established trees are not affected. I don't know. We need an expert to address the issues you raise about trees.

As for green lawns, I hadn't thought of that -- it really depends on how well the job is done. There are some beautiful alternative landscapes with no grass that look wonderful. But if many people don't take care of them or just install rocks, you are probably right it will look decrepit. Lawns are good for children to play on too.

I do know I've got some grass that I really want taken out. But maybe not all of it, so this gives me somethings to think about.

Posted by waste, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

We can find another way to save water,yes another way,such as use less water to bath...

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm

The problem with this program is no one thought it all the way through. A neighbor on my street just had a gardening service out and poison the entire front lawn and it died within a couple of days. Then it rained, and all that toxic poison that killed the lawn ran off into our storm drains. From the storm drains it goes into the Bay. She intends to apply for the rebate, when the gardening service replants her front yard.

Our City should have set in place a way to remove an existing lawn before residents started using toxic fluids to kill it. Then they can go ahead and plant drought resistant native plants. This is only a half way thought out plan. How do you kill your lawn if you don't use toxins? Maybe let it die over a couple of years.

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Not too hard to remove your lawn. The grass roots are shallow - you just slide a spade under it, or rent a lawn-remove-tool (not sure of its name), which you stand behind upright and kick it along under your sod. Then you just roll up the loose sod. Generally I think you'd want to get rid of the old sod and bring in new dirt - that's what we did. No herbicides required.

I've also seen people just cover areas with tarp; I believe they die off within a couple weeks from lack of light.

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Midtown resident, yes, I think you're right not to do it with toxins. The first landscaper I talked to said that's what he would do and I told him that's out of the question. So he says it will cost more of course. But no way will I use toxins.

I have heard some people do it with newspapers and a tarp. Or just take it out.

So far no one has commented here who actually got the rebate . . .

Posted by killing lawns, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Actually, even years of covering Bermuda grass or oxalis won't kill it; after that water, reaching the deep roots, will allow the plants to regrow.

Short of digging 12" or more into the ground, round-up is probably the best way to kill an established lawn with this type of weed. And unless you've been using chemical poisons, these weeds are very common here.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

Rebate ... this is news to me ... can anyone please provide a link to this rebate policy.

When you take out your lawn, what do you replace it with? Are we just cementing over or putting flagstones over the ground or is it something else?

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Here are some links:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Where are the people who have done this?

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm

LOL - we did. I posted above.

Posted by Propaganda, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 9, 2011 at 5:06 am

Crazy, Affluent Palo Altan think the world lacks water !!!

So much propaganda and people now actually believe it.

Have you visited any other country! Just compare.

Palo Altan is the BIGGEST sucker you can find - lets steal money from him.

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2011 at 6:46 am

@killing lawns - we took out about 3-4 inches of sod by hand and replanted loam/xeriscape/mulch - no weeds have grown at all in 3 years. In the back yard we took out sod by machine (sod cutter), put in new sod, again no weeds. No herbicides in either case. It was not that hard - total cost for removal was about 2 days work and $100 for the machine rental.

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2011 at 8:37 am

WeDid -- thank you for your info, and that's encouraging esp. about the weeds not coming back. Just wonder how the audit process works and no one has commented on that.

Here's some info that is about 2-3 years old that someone has gathered comparing cities all over California (do not know how accurate it is -- it was posted on Barron Park on-line):

The average cost for water in California is $2.00per HCF (hundred
cubic feet).
Fresno pays the least, as .44 per HCF, and they have no water meters.
Palm Springs - .77
Los Angeles - 2.04
San Carlos - 2.42
Redwood City - 3.63
Palo Alto - 4.04

Does make you wonder why so expensive here.

Still California needs to conserve water, and I'm all for that.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2011 at 9:22 am

I saw some presentation somewhere that talked about the amount of water the developed countries uses in processing bodily waste ... ie. our toilets.

That is huge, I get rivaling lawns any day and a huge investement in energy and infrastructure. It's gotta end someday, they have dry composting toilets, but I think it will take a lot of resistance and getting used to to convert, but it just makes sense.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

LA pays less for water than Palo Alto ... ain't that rich? Unbelievable ... this city and this state have to start getting real ... are we putting something in that water that makes people stupid or what?

Why is everything always way more expensive in Palo Alto, and then the infrastructure and benefits are way lower ... Palo Alto, where rip-off is not just a word it's a way of life. Use less - pay more ... does anyone in this town understand what incentive means at all?

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

When we bought our house in 1977 there was virtually no lawn and no landscaping. There were weeds. There was a concrete slab/ patio in back of the house where the heat radiated from its surface and into the house. We lost two fruit trees and three birch trees during a drought. The house is not air conditioned and was hotter than hades until the yard was installed in 1991. This made a HUGE difference in our ability to tolerate the heat. We have a drip system which unfortunately has not been a ringing success because we have lost many. many plants because of inadequate watering. Everything we planted was "drought resistant" but not "drought proof." Pouring concrete or asphalt over our yard would make the house unbearably hot and would cause us to increase our utility bill just to contend with the heat. As a senior citizen, this isn't the direction I want things to go in my "golden" years.

Posted by SuperD, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I'm all for water reduction efforts, including low water usage plants. But please don't put in one of those fake grass lawns - at least not the really ugly ones. I noticed one on Newell south of Embarcadero the other day and it was UGLY!

Posted by watersaver, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Ha, ha, SuperD you are so right! One landscaper proposed just that and was surprised that I said No way! I love real plants. I'd rather have all rocks than fake grass. But there are landscapers out there who like to put in the fake grass. That would change our beloved town ambiance if we all start putting in fake grass, ugh.

Posted by We Did, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm

We looked at the fake grass. Like anything else, it comes in different varieties and qualities. The "tri-blade" type, with different width/thickness/shade blades was pretty nice - I went and visited a couple of installations and thought they were perfectly fine and appropriate for some purposes; certainly a lot nicer than many a neglected natural grass lawn around town. But the high end stuff is pricy and it was >10 year pay back by our calculation, and is certainly not for everybody. But I wouldn't reject it out of hand.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm

There is a very nice looking house on Channing I saw recently that has synthetic turf ... and it actually looks really great. It sort of play with my sensibilities of what a lawn should look like, but I have to admit it looks like a pleasant spot.

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