Homeowners association fines woman for replacing lawn with drought tolerant plants

Fran Paxson, a longtime homeowner, ripped out the water guzzling lawn from her front yard last month and replaced it with drought tolerant plants.

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Soon after, she received a notice from her homeowners association - the Twin Creeks South Estate Homes Association.

The letter said the association was fining her $50 a month. It claimed she hadn't followed proper approval procedures, and that it preferred the yard was at least 25 percent turf.

"I was angry. I will admit to being very angry," said Paxson.

She said she thought she had approval.  After all, East Bay Municipal Utility District signed off on her plan and even gave her a rebate.

The homeowners association issued a statement saying in part quote "the board plans to invite Mrs. Paxson to their October meeting to discuss the matter as neighbors, rather than through the media."

Later on Thursday, Paxson received an email from the manager of the homeowners association, Tom Bantz, saying he supports her new yard and "I have asked the board to again approve your plan and waive your fine." It's up the board to decide.

Paxson's neighbors applaud her. "I think it is crazy they would fine her," said Melissa Cohen, who lives across the street.

"They are pretty much not in touch with current conditions," said Paxson. "Status quo seems to be very important."

This summer state lawmakers approved a plan to prevent homeowner associations from fining residents who let their lawns go brown during the drought.

A second bill allowing homeowners to install drought resilient plants without fear of fines is awaiting the governor's signature.

Paxson now has an attorney - she plans to fight the potential fines. 

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