Ridiculous New Parkway Planting Rules for Los Angeles

Neatly mowed bermuda grass and weeds–no permit required!

The city of Los Angeles just announced new guidelines for parkway plantings. The new rules allow residents can plant ten different species of drought tolerant turf alternatives in addition to approved street trees and drought tolerant turf species. It sounds great . . . until you read the fine print.

Those drought tolerant turf alternatives, which include chamomile, yarrow and even strawberries, must be kept “mowed.” If you want to grow any of these plants taller than 2 inches or ones not on the list you’ve got to submit drawings, apply for a permit and pay at least $400, possibly more. Ironically, the cover of the guidelines shows a picture of a mature yarrow plant of the sort you’d have to go through the permit process to grow under the new guidelines.

If anything the city has it backwards. After all, I doubt many homeowners are going to get down on their knees with scissors to trim their turf alternatives. Instead it will be yet another chore for LA’s legion of gas powered mow and blow “gardeners.” Why not charge a permit and fees to have a lawn or lawn substitute and give a free pass to drought tolerant plants under 36 inches in height? Or, better yet, simply give a small property tax break to anyone who installs drought tolerant, plants that that provide habitat for beneficial wildlife. It’s a program that might pay for itself in reduced storm water runoff, just to name one benefit. And why can’t you grow edible plants?

Another concern the city has is liability. If someone trips on a tall plant I’ve put planted in the parkway the city could be sued. It’s a curious argument to make considering that Los Angeles has essentially given up on sidewalk maintenance. A landslide that closed a sidewalk on nearby Sunset Blvd has languished unrepaired for eight months. They’ve also given up on maintaining boulevard median strips–most are at least knee deep in weeds.

Alas, this is a typical policy move for Los Angeles. They jump on the bandwagon, but get all the details wrong.

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  1. I haven’t read those new guidelines but i can already tell I won’t like them. If the city is going to be so anal about what we grow on THEIR precious parkways, they should spend the money to maintain it themselves! I’ve converted my lawn into a garden, but my mom still hires a gardener to trim the parkway (which we filled with fruit trees). That’s our money we’re spending on that puny strip of grass, and quite frankly we’ll grow whatever we want on it. I’ll fill it with 2 inch tall cactuses, see how they like that.

  2. What’s more ridiculous is that they won’t even allow gravel or sand! My neighbors have a beautiful succulent garden and have filled their parkway with sand and a neat planting around their tree. Apparently that is not allowed. Convenience strips? Maybe I don’t want people parking in front of my house. Ugh. Ugh! And isn’t listing chamomile hypocritical as it is invasive? My brother brought home a chamomile plant 20 years ago and the thing still pops up in random places in our yard.

  3. That seems really ridiculous. In Seattle, I think the height limit is maybe 3 feet? And there is no restriction on plants. People in my old neighborhood took this space as prime gardening space, especially because it usually gets a lot of sun. I’ve seen tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, peas, just about anything growing in parking strips.

  4. I couldn’t even plant basil and harvest basil if it had to be kept under 2″ tall. I can really see the safety issue about sight obstruction. And, I can see why someone would not want to step into a jungle when exiting a car. There is no sidewalk in front of my house and we don’t have a name for that space between the sidewalk and street. But, planting cactus, even short ones, would solve lots of problems at my house.

    If I planted anything near the road, the illegal dogs would pee on it. The dogs are supposed to be under the owner’s control. That does not mean the owner is to follow two blocks behind.

    How do people who plant near the road deal with pollution from cars, dog pee and poop, and cat poop getting on the plants or roots?

  5. Parsimony,

    We deal with it by using raised beds down in the parkway. The elevation *generally* keeps people and dogs out. Sometimes we’ll find child-sized foot prints or dog prints. Dogs don’t poop in the bed, though–that’s never happened. Cats and skunks, etc., are more troublesome. When the beds are newly seeded we stretch aviary netting over them to keep critters out. Once the plants come in, there’s really no room for cats anymore, so they leave it alone. We plant those beds tight.

    As far as pollution goes–we figure it’s everywhere. No dirtier in the backyard than the front. We just saw a soil expect speak about pollution, and he says he’s found lead contamination in forest soil up to 3 miles from the nearest highway. It’s a big problem, and sad, but it’s not going to stop us from growing veggies on the street.

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  8. I have been Harvesting water in L.A. for sometime now. the parkways through out the city could be insanely helpfull. Instead its just another sheriff of nottingham situation. pay us to plant what we tell you in our space, and maintaine the parkway that belongs to us.

    I have never seen anyone fined for overwatering, But always charged to plant drought tolerants. I wonder why? $$$$$ lol

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