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Lawn Be Gone: City Seeks to Save Money, Conserve Water

Half Moon Bay estimates over $12,000 can be saved annually by replacing lawns with drought-resistant plants, mulch and hardscapes such as decomposed granite.

In an effort to save money and water, the Half Moon Bay City Council will hold a special study session tonight on the topic of replacing a portion of its lawns with drought-tolerant plants, mulch, gravel pathways and hardscapes such as decomposed granite. 

According to the city, installing such lawn alternatives can save over $12,000 a year by reducing costs on water delivery, water usage and maintenance. Currently, the city spends about $16,000 for water charges at city parks alone and estimates that these costs can be cut in half by installing drought-tolerant plants or hardscapes in place of lawns.

These actions would also cut back on pesticide use and the release of such chemicals to the water table, the city says.

Staff is asking councilmembers to consider their suggestions as candidates for lawn reduction and replacement at the locations listed below. Suggestions submitted in a city staff report by Larry Carnahan, Public Works Superintendent, are in quotes.

  • - "Turf area is underutilized  and can be removed and replaced with decomposed granite. We may also enhance this area with some additional low-water use plants."
  • - "The grass area covers approximately 11,500 sq. feet. Approximately 95% of the turf is proposed for removal. Some of the grass would be replaced with picnic tables, barbeques and decomposed granite. This park would be the largest area of reduction."
  • - "Has a small turf area that is underutilized and could be removed and replaced by expanding the playground area and adding drought-tolerant plants and perhaps adding a third picnic table." Carnahan also recommends increasing the playground area as a way to terrace the area which he says would enable the city to confirm to new discharge permit standards mandating that rain and runoff water be contained on city property.
  • - "A portion of the turf area could be removed and replaced with additional picnic tables, barbeques and decomposed granite. This would allow more people to utilize the area for picnics and family gatherings. With the additional facilities, the park would be more usable and not as full or crowded."
  • Lawn at the - "Totally passive and its main purpose is for aesthetics. All the existing turf can be removed and be replaced with gravel pathways, low maintenance and drought-tolerant plants and mulch. This area can be developed into a small park-like area with seating and tables which we believe would enhance or encourage public use."

The city says it could offset some of the initial costs to remove and replace the lawns with the "Lawn Be Gone" rebate program offered by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.  The program runs through June 2012 and offers a maximum of 50 cents per square foot and $3,000 in materials towards replacing a lawn with drought-tolerant plants.

To read the city staff report, click on the PDF document in the media box to the right.

The study session will be held tonight at 6:15 p.m. at the Ted Adcock Senior/Community Center (535 Kelly Ave.).

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Christine Tapia-Bleyenburg December 20, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I would like to see more details about the cost of this project, the savings from "Lawn Be Gone" rebate compared to the cost of the lawns. How many years will it take to pay off the intial investment in granite, drought tolerant plants, labor, etc? Sound like HMB is shuffling around money but in the end someone is making a profit off our tax dollars. Why do we need granite? Why can't we let nature dictate what should be growing in some of these large parks?
Brian Ginna December 20, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Kristine linked to the Staff report - pdf is linked below the photos above. The financial analysis is very cursory. They draw conclusions seemingly out of thin air - the City Manager does that often.
Christine Tapia-Bleyenburg December 20, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Yes, I saw the PDF attached to this article and have seen better cost/benefit analysis for a lemonade stand.
Vaughn Harrison December 21, 2011 at 10:25 PM
I see a lot of kids hanging out on the lawn at the library after school. They should probably put in something hardy that kids can hang out on and that wouldn't be ruined.

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