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Unkept Desert Lawns Lead To Hefty Fines

The down economy is no excuse for allowing a lawn to die and failure to maintain a yard could net homeowners a hefty fine, according to the Cathedral City Fire Department.

Code enforcement officers across the desert have written homeowners citations for not taking care of their property.

Dead grass, brush and bushes can be a fire hazard and depreciate the value of a home, according to the fire department.

Cathedral City is currently working on more than 750 cases involving landscaping municipal code violations, and many of them involve foreclosed and abandoned homes.

“There’s no requirement that the lawn has to be green or any specific color,” said chief Bill Soqui, with the Cathedral City Fire Department.

Failure to maintain any front and visible side yards constitutes a violation, carrying a fine ranging from $100 to $500, according to a Cathedral City Municipal Code.

“It’s not like we go out and say, ‘Hey, you know, you gotta take care of this tomorrow,'” said Soqui.

However, code enforcement officers do evaluate properties six days a week.

“I needed to save money on water and plus I think it looks better,” said Irania Barragan, who lives in Cathedral City where several homes in her neighborhood are either abandoned or foreclosed.

Before purchasing her home last October, the lawn wasn’t trimmed, and would have cost too much to maintain. That’s why Barragan switched from a traditional landscape to what fire officials call “Xeri-scape.”

“You use desert gold and other landscaping materials so that you do have a different look,” said Soqui. “A cleaner look — easier to maintain than a lawn.”

Use native plants that require less water, and replace grass with rocks, said officials.

Barragan paid $2,000 for her new yard. But, she said it was worth it.

“Not initially, but in the long run I think I am saving money,” she explained.

Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta and other desert cities have similar municipal codes regarding landscaping.

“We all want to have a nice place to live and work and we want our property values to be maintained,” said Soqui.

Several cities offer grants and rebate programs to help offset the cost of maintaining your landscape.

The Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District and desert also partner with some cities and offer “Smart Irrigation Systems;” which help conserve water.

For more information if you are a DWA customer, call 760-323-4971.

CVWD customers should call 760-398-2651.

KESQ News Team

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