Los Angeles residents, now is a great time to pull out your lawn.
With water supplies continuing to tighten, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday that the city’s Department of Water and Power will pay homeowners and businesses significantly more to remove their grassy turf. Approved applications will receive $5 per square foot, a 67% increase from the previous $3-per-square-foot incentive.
The payment is capped at $25,000 per residential property.
Removing your lawn is just half the process; in order to get the rebate, you must have an approved plan for replacing the grass with drought-tolerant plants. But the timing of the higher rebate is propitious. The cooler temperatures of what passes for fall and winter in Southern California will give those new plants a chance to establish themselves before the deadly heat waves return.
“Los Angeles is one of the most water-efficient cities in the world because Angelenos know how scarce and precious this resource is,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Turf replacement is already one of the most popular and impactful tools that Angelenos use to cut back on their water use, and by nearly doubling the rebate, our city can set an even higher bar for conservation in the face of an intensifying drought.”
Here are the details of the program and some tips for how to turn your grass into cash.
First, make sure you’re eligible. The higher rebates announced by Garcetti are available only to customers of the LADWP. If you’re in Pasadena, East Los Angeles or some other community outside L.A.’s borders, different rebate programs apply, such as the $2-per-square-foot rebate offered by the Metropolitan Water District.
Beyond that, your yard needs to have actual grass. Dead or dying grass counts, but there’s no rebate for pulling up artificial grass or packed dirt. And the project must involve the removal of at least 250 square feet of grass or your entire yard, if it’s smaller than that.
Most important, you have to apply for the rebate before you start work on removing your lawn.
Get help making a plan. The Times offers a guide to DIY lawn removal, along with stories about several county residents who replaced their thirsty turf with drought-tolerant landscaping.
The LADWP offers free, professionally developed replacement landscape plans that you can submit with your application for preapproval (explained below). If you’re hoping to do much of the work yourself, the utility also offers free two-day DIY Lawn Be Gone workshops with hands-on instruction and free online landscaping classes to introduce you to some of the principles of sustainable yards.
Next, apply for preapproval. This is done through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s SoCal Water$Smart site. It almost goes without saying that the MWD has a long list of specific requirements.
The key here is having a replacement plan that passes muster with the MWD. You’ll need to put in at least three native, drought-tolerant plants per 100 square feet, including trees already on the property. The agency suggests consulting the California Native Plant Society’s website for a list of suitable substitutes for grass, as well as the California Invasive Plant Council’s site for a list of unsuitable substitutes.
Another wrinkle: Your new yard must not become a water-runoff nightmare. That means no artificial turf, bare soil or impermeable surfaces within the area to be converted.
You may also need to change how you water your property. The MWD demands that you have some technique for capturing and reusing rainwater, such as rain barrels, cisterns or rock gardens. And it requires you to convert any overhead spray sprinklers you have to drip, micro-spray, rotating nozzle or bubble irrigation. Alternatively, you can switch to hand-watering.
Then seek your rebate. The LADWP is offering to pay $5 per square foot for up to 5,000 square feet of residential or 50,000 square feet of commercial turf removal. For commercial turf removed beyond the first 50,000 square feet, the utility is offering $3 per square foot.
According to the MWD, rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis until the funding runs out. The program is funded by LADWP’s water rates.
For additional tips on how to successfully convert your lawn into a sustainable, drought-friendly yard — and get paid to do so — visit the LADWP’s turf replacement program website.
About The Times Utility Journalism Team
This article is from The Times’ Utility Journalism Team. Our mission is to be essential to the lives of Southern Californians by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions and helps with decision making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles — including current Times subscribers and diverse communities that haven’t historically had their needs met by our coverage.
How can we be useful to you and your community? Email utility (at) latimes.com or one of our journalists: Matt Ballinger, Jon Healey, Ada Tseng, Jessica Roy and Karen Garcia.