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East Bay Homeowner Fined By HOA For Replacing Lawn With Drought-Resistant Landscaping

SAN RAMON (CBS SF) -- An East Bay homeowner is in a battle with her homeowners' association over her drought-resistant yard after she was fined by the HOA for not having sod.

Fran Paxton was trying to be good a citizen when she decided to replace her lawn with the water-saving landscaping.

"It's a variety of mint, it stays close to the ground , it takes very little water and it is green all year," Paxton said.

The newly-planted mint will fill in, she said, giving the appearance of grass in her San Ramon neighborhood of Twin Creeks.

It works for the local water district, which gave Paxton a rebate on the landscaping work.

On the other hand, the Twin Creeks Homeowners' Association is not happy. "They were demanding that I put in sod," said an exasperated Paxton.

When she refused, the HOA  fined her, assessing a $50 a month penalty until the sod is installed.

Meanwhile, many of her neighbors have had their lawns go completely brown during this drought. Other neighbors even have yards without lawns.

Paxton says the HOA is only singling her out by demanding that her new landscaping must include 25% sod.

She said she first appealed the HOA's decision and assumed they'd be reasonable, going ahead with the plans for planting her drought-resistant yard.

But the HOA did not change its mind and fined Paxton, saying the yard "would look better" with sod. Paxton said she's exhausted every avenue.  "Just seems to me that's unreasonable," she said.

Real estate attorney Michael Mau said it may also be illegal, since a recent executive order from Governor Jerry Brrown prohibits homeowners' associations from fining folks for not watering their lawn.

There's also a law that prevents fines like the one leveled against Paxton. "A rule that prohibits the use of water saving plants can be held unenforceable and It sounds like this HOA could be acting in contradiction of that law," said Mau.

Those were reassuring words for Paxton, who still can't believe she's had to fight for the right to save water.

The Twin Creeks Homeowners Association declined an interview on Paxton's case and only said landscaping issues should not be settled in the media.


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