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Different kind of turf war

January 10, 2009|By PETER BUFFA

It’s good to be green. But is it green to be brown? More to the point, can you be brown, dead and green? Kevin Doane thinks so.

The city of Costa Mesa does not. Here’s how it all started. Doane, a Costa Mesa contractor, was not the least bit sad to see 2008 grow dim then disappear in his rear view mirror.

The economy’s one and a half gainer onto the sidewalk from 20 stories up cost Doane his job, and he was counting every penny, twice. Actually, he was counting quarters, but we’ll get back to that later.


After hearing a drumbeat from the city of Costa Mesa and elsewhere about how saving water and using drought-resistant plants would not only save the planet but save some dough, Doane had an epiphany: If the city wants drought-resistant plants, what could be more drought resistant than a dead plant? No water, no money, no problem. It was perfect.

Doane put his water/money-saving plan into action not with just one plant but thousands of tiny ones — i.e., his lawn. Sure enough, not long after he stopped watering, his front lawn looked like a something out of the Dust Bowl and Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” — “Houses were shut tight and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in…and settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.”

Doane believed that he had achieved total oneness with the environment and the city. It was the perfect lawn for a new age, so brown it was green, with not one drop of water or 1 cent wasted.

Unfortunately, the city disagreed and not all the neighbors were Steinbeck fans.

A code enforcement officer from the city referred Doane to something called the Municipal Code — a long, dry, humorless document that has more sections than a pomegranate cut eight ways, including “Title 13, Planning, Zoning and Development: Chapter 7, Landscaping Standards: Section 13-108, Landscape Maintenance“ which, as it turns out, is quite specific, and I quote: “The property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the landscaping on their property. Any dead, dying, or diseased trees, shrubbery, vines, groundcover, or turf, must be replaced within sixty (60) days of written notice from the development services or public services departments.”

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