BRENTWOOD (CBS SF) — Ed Pereira never thought that trying to save water at his Brentwood home would be so trying. Last month, he decided to take out his front lawn and put in drought-tolerant landscaping.

But Ed says his homeowners association isn’t making it easy. The HOA rejected his first application.

“They came back and said that there was too much rock,” Pereira said.

Then the HOA told Pereira that any plan would have to include at least 25 percent grass — either real or artificial.

Pereira has a problem with both those options and he’s not alone.

“It’s kind’ve the equivalent of paving over your yard and painting it green,” says Ilana DeBare, with the Golden Gate Audubon Society in Berkeley.

Some environmental groups — including the Audubon society — cite concerns over artificial turf, ranging from carcinogens and chemicals to climate change.

As for Pereira, he says he just doesn’t like the stuff. And, with current restrictions on watering, keeping real grass green isn’t an option either.

“Basically they’re asking me to put in lawn so I could let it die,” Pereira said.

The HOA is now threatening Pereira with fines of $100 per day if he doesn’t comply. It’s a familiar story all over California.

“These kind of rules, they have to change with the times,” says real estate lawyer Michael Mau.

Drought-Tolerant Yard

Homeowners in drought-stricken California are coming up against neighborhood rules requiring green grass. (CBS)

Mau says a new state law now forbids homeowner associations from penalizing homeowners with brown lawns or for replacing lawns with drought-tolerant plants. But, Mau says, requiring fake green is still a gray area.

“Being fined for doing the right thing is something you could challenge,” Mau told us. And, legally speaking, he suspects that Ed Pereira is on solid ground.

“I’ve had a number of neighbors come around here and say ‘I hope you win, because we’d like to change our yards as well’,” Pereira said.

Pereira’s landscaping desires have been granted. After KPIX 5 began investigating his case, his HOA notified him that the 25 percent grass rule was being relaxed, at least temporarily.

And in a side note, the Synthetic Turf Council insists that artificial turf is “absolutely safe.”

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