Lacy Kelly is the Executive Director of the Orange County Division, League of California Cities.

Landscaping constitutes 58 percent of Residential Water Usage, and is a major contributor to urban runoff.

AB 1881, enacted in 2006 as part of the state’s ongoing policymaking in this regard, required local agencies to adopt a State Model Ordinance reducing landscape water use — or a local ordinance that is “at least as effective as” the State Model — by January 1, 2010. 

This gave cities an option of adopting the State Model, which is 41 pages long and inflexible with respect to geographic diversity across the state, or develop their own model that is “at least as effective.”

The Orange County Division, League of California Cities was very proud to partner last year with the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) in the development of an Orange County Model Landscape Ordinance that not only met the state’s AB 1881 requirements, but saved participating cities and their local businesses thousands of dollars.

This project meshed perfectly with the Orange County Division’s own goals of protecting local control and acting as an incubator of good public policy.  Noting that the State Model Landscape Ordinance could be both expensive and needlessly restrictive to cities and their residents, the Division and MWDOC came together to develop an alternative that would;

1). Protect local control and mitigate the creation of increased layers of government and oversight,

2). Ensure as much simplicity, efficiency and flexibility as possible,

3). Provide for as much consistency among OC cities as possible to mitigate negative impacts that many different ordinances would have on the recovery of the building industry and economy in general, and

4). Generally minimize the complexity and cost of compliance.

The Division worked very hard with MWDOC and its Water Use Efficiency Programs Manager, Joe Berg, over the Summer and Fall of last year to manage an inclusive and broad-based stakeholder process to develop an Orange County Model that would be responsive to Orange County cities’ needs without the unnecessary, proscriptive regulation.  Together, we convened three large stakeholder meetings of electeds, city and county staff members and concerned citizens, as well as five Technical Drafting Committee Meetings, also open to the public. 

The final product was an Orange County Model not only volumes shorter than the state model (11 pages versus the State’s 41), and one that is as effective in meeting the requirements of AB 1881 as the longer, more complex State Model.

In addition to saving Orange County cities costs in staff time and legal review to develop their own ordinance, the final OC Model Ordinance package significantly minimizes the cost of implementation to the city, residents and builders.  In fact, we estimate the savings to each city range from $34,000 to $50,000.  The value of the OC Model Ordinance partnership itself totals over $65,000:

•    $25,000  (MWDOC) to draft the ordinance and guidelines.
•    $17,000 (MWDOC) staff support in technical coordination.
•    $14,000 (OC Division) staff support in stakeholder/policy coordination.
•    $9,000  pro-bono (OC Division) legal review and drafting of Certificate of Completion and CEQA options.

Additional savings will be experienced by each city in the implementation of the model ordinance due to the model’s streamlined processes and the self certification component.

Ultimately, all 34 Orange County cities utilized this Model Ordinance to comply with AB 1881, a tremendous achievement that the Orange County Division is proud to have been a part of.  This unique partnership effort was highlighted in the nationally distributed Green Builder Magazine, and the state Department of Water Resources itself (creator of the State Model) has also included the OC Model on their website as a resource, having recognized its significant value to cities and private industry. 

Because of these advantages, many cities outside Orange County are considering utilizing the OC model as part of their own ordinance. 

More information about the OC Model Ordinance, including the Ordinance Document, a sample Staff Report and Guidelines for Implementation can be found here.