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Editorial: Averting a resident revolt

Plan to regulate home landscaping in Palo Alto wisely pruned back

A water conservation plan that appeared designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats was wisely scaled back Tuesday night by a unanimous Palo Alto City Council.

Residents of Palo Alto have done more than has been asked of them to save water. Lawns have been allowed to die and replaced with drought tolerant plants, use of grey water for plant watering has become a common practice and some are even paying to purchase recycled water for irrigation.

Yet the Palo Alto city staff, acting to implement an executive order issued last April by Gov. Jerry Brown, proposed a new permitting and regulatory system for any landscaping project that would require detailed water use calculations, city review and inspections. New staff would be hired to handle the permit applications and conduct inspections of completed landscaping work, just like building inspectors do currently.

Instead of sticking with the tough default plan required by the state or the tougher alternative plan developed by a Bay Area regional water agency, the city staff recommended the most onerous and burdensome plan imaginable. Prepared by the city's Development Services Department, it would have subjected every landscaping project associated with a new building, no matter how small, to city permitting and inspections.

The state requirements wisely exempt landscaping projects of less than 2,500 square feet, reduced in the regional plan to 1,000 feet and to zero exemptions in the Palo Alto plan.

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The council did the right thing by rejecting the staff recommendation and adopting the state's model ordinance for now. A far more robust community discussion on the merits of more expansive regulation is needed, especially given the changes in landscaping strategies -- such as the use of native, drought-friendly plants -- that have already been implemented by a substantial number of residents.

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Editorial: Averting a resident revolt

Plan to regulate home landscaping in Palo Alto wisely pruned back

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Jan 24, 2016, 10:50 am

A water conservation plan that appeared designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats was wisely scaled back Tuesday night by a unanimous Palo Alto City Council.

Residents of Palo Alto have done more than has been asked of them to save water. Lawns have been allowed to die and replaced with drought tolerant plants, use of grey water for plant watering has become a common practice and some are even paying to purchase recycled water for irrigation.

Yet the Palo Alto city staff, acting to implement an executive order issued last April by Gov. Jerry Brown, proposed a new permitting and regulatory system for any landscaping project that would require detailed water use calculations, city review and inspections. New staff would be hired to handle the permit applications and conduct inspections of completed landscaping work, just like building inspectors do currently.

Instead of sticking with the tough default plan required by the state or the tougher alternative plan developed by a Bay Area regional water agency, the city staff recommended the most onerous and burdensome plan imaginable. Prepared by the city's Development Services Department, it would have subjected every landscaping project associated with a new building, no matter how small, to city permitting and inspections.

The state requirements wisely exempt landscaping projects of less than 2,500 square feet, reduced in the regional plan to 1,000 feet and to zero exemptions in the Palo Alto plan.

The council did the right thing by rejecting the staff recommendation and adopting the state's model ordinance for now. A far more robust community discussion on the merits of more expansive regulation is needed, especially given the changes in landscaping strategies -- such as the use of native, drought-friendly plants -- that have already been implemented by a substantial number of residents.

Comments

Cynical ploy
Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2016 at 3:57 pm
Cynical ploy, Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2016 at 3:57 pm
12 people like this

This is a funny editorial. This should have been published BEFORE the vote, with the weekly taking a position on the issue prior to the council decision. However since we are talking about the weekly and their known penchant of looking for brownie points. We get an " editorial" after the fact praising the council ( what a surprise there). My guess is had the council voted the other way, we would have had an editorial praising that decision.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2016 at 4:57 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2016 at 4:57 pm
1 person likes this

@cynical Did you notice in the same issue the Weekly ran an editorial criticizing the council for approving the TDR? Kinda ruins your narrative.


Cynical ploy
Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2016 at 5:25 pm
Cynical ploy, Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2016 at 5:25 pm
13 people like this

Resident- in the current city climate, brownie points from PASZ are worth more than brownie points from the council


resident
Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2016 at 8:07 am
resident, Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2016 at 8:07 am
4 people like this

Residents (a.k.a. voters, in large part) should revolt on the basis of many issues that, taken together, make it clear that PA is not run in the interest of people who live in PA.


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