Council Ushers in New Era for Landscapes

November 11, 2015 12:00 AM

City Council ushered in a new era this week with updates to the green building ordinance and landscaping standards that put significant changes into effect for new construction, major remodels, and new landscapes.  The code changes place restrictions on the installation of sprinklers, the use of high water using plants, and align Santa Monica's code with new mandates from the State of California.  Water officials see this as an important solution for permanently reducing the amount of water required for landscaped areas of the city.  
"The drought is driving the demand for water efficiency throughout the state.  In order to meet our state conservation targets and our water self-sufficiency goals, we need to move away from inefficient technologies like sprinklers and towards proven, cost effective ones like drip irrigation," said Dean Kubani, Manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.   
The Council action was a response to changes in state code and community concerns about the availability and reliability of Santa Monica's water supply.  Santa Monica supplements its local water supply with water imported from Northern California or from the Colorado River.  The drought and climate change are making these imported water supplies less reliable.  Reducing water demand from landscape is a key way to reduce the pressure to import water and begin meeting the needs of the community using local supplies alone. 
A summary of the new provisions are the following: 
  • Ban sprinklers for all new development projects and new sprinkler systems in existing landscapes, including parkways. Repairs and replacement of existing sprinkler heads is permitted. Ban high water use plants including turf on commercial properties for new development projects and in public street medians
  • Allow for public agencies and private green spaces for sports field, active play areas, and public gathering spaces
  • Limit high water use plants including turf to 20% of total landscape on residential properties for new development projects. The total cumulative area of all high and moderate water using plants will not exceed 40% of total.  This allows residents to have privacy hedges, minimal lawn, groundcovers, shrubs, and trees.
The City's landscape rebates have been significantly expanded to help residents and businesses install sustainable landscaping including rain harvesting technologies.  You can now receive funds for the purchase of rain barrels and cisterns that turn El Nino rain into free irrigation water.  Rebates are also available for those who incorporate rain gardens or rock gardens into their landscaping.  Rain gardens and rock gardens are especially designed to promote percolation of the rain into the soil. 
Landscape Rebates include up to $4,500 for turf and sprinkler removal; up to $1,500 for replacing turf on parkways with climate appropriate plants; from $200 - $2,000 for installing rain barrels or cisterns as part of a rain harvesting system; $1,000 for installing rain gardens or rock gardens; and up to $40 per downspout for redirecting water from gutters. Rebates can total up to $8,000 or more per property. Businesses, HOAs and apartment buildings may be eligible for additional rebate funding

For more information on how 'Santa Monica Saves' visit, call (310) 458-8972 or



Media Contact

Dean Kubani
Assistant Director of Public Works


Office of Sustainability and the Environment