Tucson Could Ban Ornamental Grass

The city could ban the planting of “nonfunctional” grass in new developments, but would stop short of regulating lawns and golf courses.

2 minute read

October 25, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Red one-story Tucson home with gravel front yard

A Tucson home with xeriscaped front yard | Underawesternsky / Home in Tucson, Arizona

A Tucson proposal could ban “nonfunctional” grass planting in some developments, reports Tony Davis in the Arizona Daily Star, following in the footsteps of cities like Las Vegas as the West’s water shortage continues.  

Councilman Kevin Dahl, who supports the legislation, defined nonfunctional grass as “any irrigated grass area not providing functional use, such as grass along streets in strip malls, shopping centers, and businesses, and also turf managed by an HOA (a homeowners association) that does not provide recreational value for people or pets.”

Davis notes that the ban would not extend to new single-family neighborhoods, parks, school playgrounds, or golf courses, which some critics say doesn’t go far enough. Others worry that the vague and subjective definition of “nonfunctional” could make the ban difficult to enforce.

Tucson officials are working with other cities in the region to come up with a water conservation plan by November 15, but have not signed on to the current plan yet. “Among other things, the proposal now calls for a program ‘to reduce the quantity of nonfunctional turf grass by 30% through replacement with drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies that benefit our communities, wildlife, and the environment.’”

In Southern Nevada, in the water district that includes Las Vegas, development codes prohibit “any grass in new construction of commercial developments and the front yards of new single-family home developments.” In Colorado, the Castle Rock town council voted to ban grass lawns in the front yards of new homes and limit grass turf lawns to 500 square feet in backyards, just a month after Aurora passed a similar law.

Saturday, October 22, 2022 in Arizona Daily Star

View of small-town street with brick buildings and cars parked in diagonal parking with string lights going across street in Cleveland County, Oklahoma.

Norman, Oklahoma Eliminates Parking Mandates

The city made a subtle, one-word change that frees up developers to build parking based on actual need and eliminates costly unnecessary parking.

September 14, 2023 - Next City

Few passengers waiting in subway station with multiple platforms and "North Station" signs in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Transit Riders Report Safety Concerns

Almost three-quarters of current and former riders report feeling unsafe while using MBTA services.

September 18, 2023 - Hoodline

View of Boston from Bunker Hill with statue in foreground

Boston to Begin Zoning Code Update, Mayor Announces

It’s been nearly 60 years, but the city of Boston is finally ready to do a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code.

September 14, 2023 - The Boston Globe

Sidewalk in Seattle with yellow fall leaves on the ground and cars parked next to the curb.

Proposal Could Mandate Sidewalks as Part of Seattle Complete Streets

Almost a third of the city’s neighborhood streets lack sidewalks.

September 24 - The Urbanist

View of San Francisco neighborhood from top of hill with misty bay in background.

San Francisco Supervisors Punt Housing Ordinance

After hours of public comment, the zoning reform package aimed at increasing housing production and limiting red tape was delayed for further discussion.

September 24 - SF Standard

Woman wearing helmet riding POGOH bike share bike in bike lane in Pittsburgh, PA.

Pittsburgh Launches Adaptive Bike Share Fleet

The new bikes include a recumbent bicycle and a front-loading cargo bike.

September 24 - Pittsburgh Magazine