City of Orange Code Enforcement Targeting House with All-Native Plants Front Yard--Again

Categories: Environment

Thumbnail image for vandalism_native_garden.jpg
Vandalized sign
By Joel Robinson

In east Orange (the sprawling part, where history was erased), my mom received another code violation for her native habitat garden in her front yard. It has been five years since we won our legal effort to preserve our native habitat garden. And here we go again


The city responded to an anonymous individual's complaint that the vegetation exceeded a maximum height requirement of 42 inches extending 20 feet from the sidewalk towards the front of the house. Many other neighborhood front yards obviously violate this code, but the city will only focus on our yard. They say that the high vegetation obstructs the view between pedestrians on the sidewalk, drivers on the street, and drivers leaving their driveways. Many city trees and landscapes also violate this code. If it is such a serious safety issue, then why obligate only one yard to the 42-inch rule and ignore the rest of the neighborhood?

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Scene from a trimming

During a site visit 5 years ago, Howard Morris, head of landscape for the city, said that he appreciated the use of taller evergreen shrubs around the perimeter of the yard in order to hide the interior seasonal dormancy of native grasses, herbs, and small shrubs. In fact, the head of planning and code enforcement also admitted that there was nothing wrong with our yard. Of course, I had an attorney present during that meeting.

This year, the new code violation letter happened to arrive when our evergreen shrubs finally reached the level of maturity to provide habitat for nesting birds. Melodious songs could be heard from the male goldfinches, song sparrows, Bewick's wrens, and other species hoping to attract mates. Many shrubs were blooming as well, including the lilac, coyote brush, toyon, lemonadeberry, and encelia. All sorts of pollinating insects buzzed and flitted around the splashes of yellow, purple, lavender, white, and pink. Even a treefrog could be heard croaking from a shady spot underneath a shrub! The larger shrubs conveniently blocked the radiating heat and unpleasant view of the excessively wide street.

Sadly, during this spring's nesting season, my mom was obligated to trim down all the hedges to the 42-inch height requirement, which exposed defoliated undergrowth and removed many of the flowers and fruit. Now the native habitat garden is visually and biologically degraded. Because shade was removed, the soil is now exposed to more sunlight, the plants will lose more water, and erosion will increase. Birds and butterflies have lost some of their nesting, cover, and foraging material.

All the while, the city promotes on their website and newsletter that they are going green by encouraging residents to install a native landscape similar to ours.

Our yard requires no water, herbicide, or fossil fuels. It requires no maintenance. It is the least polluting yard in the entire neighborhood. The city has never recognized or celebrated our efforts to go green. Instead, we have been threatened with code violations, fines and jail time. I don't believe the city really wants to go green. They seem to be "greenwashing" for marketing purposes. Let us not forget that this is the same city that unanimously approved The Irvine Company's proposal to build thousands of tract homes through the native shrub-dominated foothills of Orange County's last rural open space.

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Valentine left by a neighbor

On our eerily quiet 1970s "cul-de-sac" (literally "ass of the bag" in French), it is clear to see that the height of our native shrubs is not a safety issue. Nothing dangerous ever happens in our sterile, stucco suburban environment. Right now, some of our neighbors may be secretly dying of sheer boredom. It is false logic to blame a shrub for the dangerous decisions of humans. Every time nature is pushed back for the sake of "progress" there is a profound increase in irresponsible behavior, such as driving faster, jogging with earphones, ignoring surroundings, blaming others for personal negligence, wasting water, polluting the air, killing the wildlife, and on and on...

We wrote a letter of concern to the mayor and hope to receive a response in a few weeks.

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18 comments
JenniferP4
JenniferP4

This sounds like a personal problem someone has with the homeowner......I would consider this to be harassment actually and if the complainer has the nerve to repetitively complain I would file charges against them. The City of Orange should be ashamed for wasting taxpayer's money on such a frivolous situation! I tried to email the Mayor of Orange about this and guess what? Their email doesn't work and mine was returned undelivered. Nice.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Actually, the biggest weeds in Southern California are the green lawns everyone has, and which we waste about 40 percent of our water to keep that unnatural green...

Liz Gonzalez
Liz Gonzalez

Is the yard like what's referred to as a "wild garden"?

n2bigmuscle
n2bigmuscle topcommenter

I live in an HOA so I don't have to deal with people like Mr. Morris.  I think his neighbors should move to one if they do not like the "natural" look.  For me, if I want nature, I go camping.

Steve SanFilipo
Steve SanFilipo

There is a house in Tustin near Newport Ave that is purple. Literally purple. I hate HOA's but it's purple houses and people with ecologically sound "weed" landscaping that make them a necessary evil. But the reality is, if you don't want to live in a neighborhood where purple houses and weed garden naturalists bring down the property value, buy where HOA's dictate what you can and can't do.

Tracey Marcyan
Tracey Marcyan

I live in the general neighborhood of this house. I totally appreciate and "get" what he is doing - but I am still glad they don't live next to me. It does look like an abandoned house with overgrown weeds. It does, however, seem like a waste of the City's time to deal with it though.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

The spelling and grammar on that note are the real "discrace".

Judith Torres
Judith Torres

That letter is ridiculous, lol! This person is trying to offend Robinson and family but they can't even spell or put a sentence together. What...a...joke! I hope they win the case.

SickSnail
SickSnail

I'm pretty sure that since this is in OC, rich white kids, racism, or bad cops are to blame.

Michael Moon
Michael Moon

Meanwhile, over in Costa Mesa, the city council lead by Jim Righeimer will not give up on writing a charter that gives the council more power. Even though the voters rejected the charter in the 2012 election.

ocsurfgirl
ocsurfgirl

I live in Orange and I am so sorry to hear about your horrible, horrible neighbors and retarded code enforcement. Funny how they target an eco friendly yard yet ignore our neighbors who park two cars on their lawn everyday and our other nice neighbors who are hoarders and literally have garabage piled up in their front yard which is surrounded by neglected succulents in white paint buckets. And there is all kinds of crap piled up under their vehicles in the driveway.

It just don't make no sense! 

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

You should get some used motor oil and pour signs on your neighbors lawns. That's what i'd likely do if I got some busybody complaining about what I do on MY property. 

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

But nature has to be 'pushed back'. In 1970, about when your house was built, California had about 20 million people. Now it has twice that. People need houses.


krobinson20
krobinson20

First I would like to say how sorry I am to the writer of this story and his mother.  I can't believe someone would be so ignorant to not see the value of her garden and probably doesn't even know what native plants are and the person that wrote the nasty note is as shallow and empty as their own yard probably is!!! Also, they are cowardice by leaving nasty letters and vandalizing signs! And on top of all that; why cant his mother or anyone else have the kind of yard they want to have. I am pretty sure that you can tell the difference between her yard and a lot full of weeds.  Not to speak of the wild life benefits!

I am so shocked that this is what has become of people and their non admiration of nature and wildlife and the want to control someone else and what they enjoy.  Why don't THEY just mind their OWN business!

I would love to be someone to help bring back the native plants to our neighborhoods and have all the butterflies, birds etc. to enjoy and I am 100% behind the writer's mom on this one!  Let her and her yard be!!!

Everyone is so insecure that they have to be and look all the same! ?  and if your not like everyone else, well then there is something wrong with you and "WE" don't want you around. Sad.

krobinson20
krobinson20

@Tracey Tunstall Marcya

yes, oh I am so glad "they" don't live next to meeeee!  this is exactly what I was talking about with everyone these days!  


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