- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A wealthy, gated community in the San Francisco Bay Area has threatened to punish homeowners with brown lawns despite California’s ongoing drought crisis.

A letter sent last month to residents of Blackhawk, just east of Danville, stated that beginning June 1, the community’s homeowners association would begin “aggressive enforcement” of landscaping standards that could include issuing fines, filing lawsuits, billing homeowners for landscaping improvements or turning off gate clickers to enter the community, The East Bay Times reported.

“We believe that allowing the drought to negatively impact the landscaping at any Blackhawk home does a disservice to property values throughout the community and is a violation of our CC&Rs,” Mark Goldberg, the community manager for the association, wrote in the email. “We believe there is no longer any reason that all landscaping in the community cannot flourish as it once did.”

Ron Banducci, president of the Blackhawk Homeowners Association, said his group is giving homeowners a choice to install low-water use landscaping in brown or bare areas, The Times reported.

“Nothing in the letter says people have to increase their water use,” Mr. Banducci explained. “Some homeowners have basically stopped maintaining their landscaping and haven’t watered in months. We’re trying to tell residents summer is approaching and it’s time to tidy up.”

East Bay water officials said the Blackhawk email was premature, seeing that water districts still face mandatory water reduction targets and state law prohibits homeowner associations from penalizing members who cut back on water their lawns. The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s board, however, is scheduled on May 24 to discuss whether to modify those rates following the wettest winter in five years, The Times reported.

John Coleman, the EBMUD board member who represents the Blackhawk area, told The Times that the homeowners group shouldn’t have sent out the letter before the May discussions.

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