Residential Landscaping and the Drought in Oakley

oakley logo2 Everyone is aware there’s a drought and we’re all being asked to conserve water. Being conscious of our water usage is something that is both our social responsibility to the community and our commitment toward a healthier, longer-sustaining environment. With that said, the significant investment we have all made to beautify our landscaping and our homes, parks, businesses, etc. should continue to be maintained. The common standards of attractive and sustainable landscaping can be met regardless of whether or not there is a drought.

A common myth circulating around social media is that “residents are receiving fines for not watering their lawn or letting their lawns die.” This is not true. In fact, not one Administrative Citation (fine) has been issued for anyone in the City of Oakley for letting their lawn die. What residents are receiving when they fail to abide by established landscaping guidelines and codes are “Correction Notices.” A Correction Notice is a letter from the City informing the resident what code is being violated, thereby causing a nuisance, and what action must be taken, along with a due-by date to cure the violation.

When it comes to landscaping, the drought has brought multiple challenges, especially the requirement to reduce water usage. In order to clarify what is expected of Oakley residents and to also present some options, the following is an edited excerpt of the City’s Code relating to landscaping:

Residential Property Maintenance Standards

What is a Landscaping Violation?
“It is hereby declared a public nuisance for any person owning, leasing, occupying or having charge or possession of any property (residential) to maintain such property on which the unimproved surfaces are not maintained in good condition or repair, including without limitation any property which contains excessive weeds, rubbish or debris.”

How is the Violation Cured?
“Landscaping shall be installed and maintained in any unimproved portion of the front and side yards that is visible from any public right of way. If only decorative landscaping is used to meet the requirements of this section, ’weed block ‘shall also be used.”

What are Landscaping Options?
“Landscaping shall mean the planting of trees, shrubs, or grass, or other live plants, or the use of decorative landscaping to improve the appearance of the land.”

Note that “grass” was just one of the landscaping options presented. Many property owners are investing in drought-tolerant landscaping and/or decorative landscaping in place of grass.

This is a great alternative water-wise and reduces your long term maintenance costs — a win-win alternative!

If you receive a Correction Notice, understand it is because Oakley is committed toward ensuring we remain a highly desirable place to live and work. If you receive a Notice because of your lawn’s neglected condition or a lack of landscaping, be aware that there are alternatives to traditional landscaping that will increase your property’s value while reducing your water usage AND will comply with the City Code.

If you’re considering installing drought-tolerant landscaping, the Contra Costa Water District is offering rebates to customers who replace their front yard with water-efficient landscaping. For more information about the rebate program please visit Contra Costa Water District’s website at


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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