City Council Adopts New Permitting Requirements for Landscaping Projects

File photo.

In an effort to continue conserving water, the Long Beach City Council approved new permitting requirements for certain new landscapes and relandscaping projects under the city’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), officials announced Thursday.

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The updated MWELO, referred to as “Smartscape” in Long Beach, will streamline the permitting process for new landscape projects between 500 and 2,500 square feet. New landscaping projects consisting of more than 2,500 square feet will require the services of a landscape design professional and the filing of a complete landscape documentation package. Additionally, relandscaping projects over 2,500 square feet now require a permit.

Residential, nonresidential and public construction projects will be subject to the new MWELO.

Smartscape will also reduce water usage by regulating the budget and allocation of water through revised water-efficient design requirements. These design standards regulate irrigation system requirments, plant selection and soil amendment.

“California’s drought is ongoing, but Long Beach continues to lead the state in water conservation,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “Diligent stewardship of our natural resources is vital to becoming a truly sustainable and livable city.”

Smartscape’s revision falls in line with Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-29, a statewide mandatory water reduction order that he signed in 2015.

While Governor Jerry Brown officially ended the drought state of emergency for most of the state Friday, he kept in place prohibitions on wasteful water practices.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

The drought state of emergency remains in place for Kings, Fresno, Tuolumne and Tulare counties.

In accordance with the governor, Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Public Utilities Commission, Department of Food and Agriculture and the Energy Commission released a long-term plan to prepare California for future droughts.

“This framework is about converting Californians’ response to the drought into an abiding ethic,” California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle said in a statement. “Technically, the drought is over, but this framework extends and expands our dry-year habits. Careful, sparing use of water from backyards to businesses and farm fields will help us endure the next inevitable drought.”

The plan includes:

  • Requiring the state’s 410 urban water suppliers to meet new water usage targets, which will be set by 2021 and must be fully complied with by 2025
  • Bans on wasteful practices, such as hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain
  • Technical assistance, financial incentives and standards to guide water suppliers’ efforts to detect and repair leaks
  • Requiring urban water suppliers to prepare water shortage contingency plans, including a drought risk assessment every five years
  • Requiring more agricultural water suppliers to submit plans that quantify measures to increase water use efficiency and develop adequate drought plans
  • Monthly reporting by urban water suppliers on water usage, conservation achieved and enforcement efforts
  • Improved drought planning for small water suppliers and rural communities

In order to fully implement the joint plan, some new legislation and expansion of state authority will be required while other actions can be enacted under existing authorities.

“Californians stepped up big time during the drought,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a statement. “This plan allows us to build on that success and prepare for the longer and more frequent droughts we know are coming under climate change, in a way that is equitable and cost-effective. Efficiency is the cheapest and smartest way to extend our water resources.”

To see water-efficient design tips and other landscaping resources, click here.

Editor's note: this story was updated 4/11/2017. A previous version of this story stated that new landscape projects more than 500 square feet and relandscaping projects less than 2,500 square feet would be eligible for a streamlined permitting process based on incorrect information provided by the city. The article has been updated with the correct information.



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