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Neighbors in Turf War with HOA

Connie Hollstein’s home, left, has synthetic turf, while her neighbor’s front yard uses natural sod.
Photo: Connie Hollstein and Orange County Register

Connie Hollstein has one of the greenest lawns on the block – maybe a little too green, as far as her homeowners association is concerned. Along with two other residents of her Newport Beach, Calif. Port Streets neighborhood, Hollstein recently carpeted her front yard with synthetic turf, an increasingly popular method for saving water, reducing urban runoff and avoiding the endless upkeep associated with natural sod.

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But her move incurred the wrath of the Newport Hills Community Association, where board members who disdain the lawn’s appearance are threatening steep fines and court action to force Hollstein to uproot the synthetic grass.

That stance baffles Hollstein and others caught in the association’s crosshairs – environmental concerns aside, the artificial turf isn’t susceptible to yellowing that plagues other lawns in the tract, the residents say.

“They basically don’t care if we have dead grass or dirt – they just don’t want anything that’s not real,” Hollstein said.

In a July letter to Hollstein’s neighbor Al Presnell, who also installed synthetic turf, the association argued that faux grass “detracts from the beauty and attractiveness of the surrounding area, and is not in harmony with surrounding properties and improvements.”

Initial fines of $1,000 – and possibly more later – are possible, and the three residents have about a week to answer an association request for court mediation.

Property manager Jill Schwalbe said the association would have no comment “out of respect for the privacy of the homeowners involved.”

Imitation grass has slowly popped up across Orange County in recent years as policymakers fret about degraded seawater health and the potential for water shortages.

The average Orange County home devotes at least half its water use to irrigation, and according to the Irvine Ranch Water District, installing synthetic turf can save more than 20,000 gallons of water annually.

Parks in such California cities as Irvine, Newport, Tustin and Lake Forest use synthetic turf. Laguna Niguel and Laguna Woods are among many local agencies that have offered rebates to homeowners and businesses that install it.

“It’s truly disappointing … that an HOA is not allowing installation of synthetic turf,” said Joe Berg, a water-use efficiency expert at the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

The Newport Hills Community Association’s bylaws say landscaping alterations can’t be made without architectural committee approval. Hollstein and Presnell didn’t apply in advance.

That said, the solution of having the turf ripped out and replaced with natural sod – billed as a “compromise” in a letter from the association’s law firm – isn’t sitting well with the residents.

Source: Orange County Register

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June 18, 2019, 9:01 pm PDT

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