Water & Drought

Will Sacramento finally lift its ban on artificial turf?

Now that the state has cleared the way, the Sacramento City Council will again consider finalizing an artificial turf ordinance that would lift a longtime ban on faux grass in front yards.

Last year, the Sacramento Planning Commission approved a measure that would lift a three-decade ban on fake turf in front and side lawns visible from a street.

But when it got to the council last November, the ordinance stalled out of concerns that too much faux turf could harm the city’s lush urban tree canopy. The worry was that too much dense turf below trees wouldn’t allow water to reach their roots.

Earlier in California’s historic drought, state lawmakers had passed a law that generally prohibits local jurisdictions from banning drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial turf.

Nonetheless, Councilman Jeff Harris requested that the city table the proposal in the hopes that state lawmakers could give local governments the right to enact restrictions on putting artificial grass directly under trees and to require the turf to be permeable. Harris said he worked with Assemblyman Mike Gatto to give cities the latitude to place restrictions on turf for limited reasons such as protecting trees.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing cities to make such changes.

Harris said the ordinance that Sacramento is now going to consider would prohibit turf underneath the canopy of a tree. It would apply to front-yard trees that are part of the street canopy, but Harris said he hopes the new rules will teach homeowners about the risks of too much turf anywhere in their yards.

“Really we want to educate people not to put artificial turf too close to their trees because they are going to kill it,” he said.

The proposed ordinance will go before the city’s Law and Legislation Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday. If approved, it will require a vote from the City Council.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow