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As more people replace lawns, how is it changing Southern California landscape?

by AirTalk®

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Landscaper David Puac installs a succulent plant during the installation of a drought-tolerant landscape in the front yard of Larry and Barbara Hall's home in the San Fernando Valley area of the city of Los Angeles, July 17, 2014. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV for Turf Terminators, the most popular company in the contractor direct-rebate program offered by the the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s (MWD) for lawn removal.

Once a homeowner has successfully applied for a rebate, the contractor fills out the paperwork, tears out the lawn, and replaces it with a drought tolerant landscape, and in turn, receives the entire rebate.

Turf Terminators won the business of 97% of the 15% of applicants that participate in the contractor direct rebate program and has earned $5.8 million through May for replacing people’s lawns. But some accuse the company of using the cheapest elements available to make the most money. Their signature look is to replace grass with white rock and a couple of plants.

Those plants may not be native, and the white rock’s reflective nature can create hot spots of urban heat island effect, preventing the earth beneath it from absorbing water because it evaporates so quickly off its bright surface. So while removing the lawn results in a lower water bill, it might be causing greater problems down the road as it creates hotter urban spots that can’t collect water.

14,000 households across Los Angeles have received MWD rebates so far. The program ran out of money earlier this month, but not before approving 45,000 applicants for the process of removing their lawns and replacing them with drought tolerant landscapes.

Have you decided to replace your lawn recently? If so, how did you do it? And with what material?


Lili Singer, Director of Special Projects and Adult Education, Theodore Payne Foundation, a native plant nursery in Sun Valley

Mia Lehrer, Owner of Mia Lehrer + Associates, a landscape architecture firm She wrote an op-ed for the LA Times this summer, "Don't gravelscape L.A."

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