Costa Mesa charges man for dirt lawn

COSTA MESA, Calif. Kevin Doane went to city hall this week. He didn't get very far. The city is fining him $400, and Friday was the deadline to pay up.

Kevin Doane arrived at Costa Mesa City Hall Friday with $400 to pay that fine. He said he was doing it so he could move onto the next phase so that he can state his case to the city attorney next week. Doane knows exactly what his front lawn looks like.

"I have no lawn. I have dirt," said Doane.

Last year Doane said he planned to plant a new lawn in front of his Costa Mesa house but wanted to wait until after the hot summer to do it to conserve water.

"September comes around, I start to get around to it, October I lose my job," said Doane.

Without a paycheck from his construction job, the lawn was put on hold. Doane noticed his water bill dropped by about $405 and was happy saving water and money, but then the city fined him. The bill was now $400.

"It's nothing wrong with conserving water," said Khanh Nguyen, Costa Mesa City Building Official. "He basically violated one of our maintenance codes. The front yard has to be landscaped and the property has to be landscaped and all he has is dirt on the ground."

Doane tried to have the fine waived due to financial hardship but he was denied. He says he had to show financial documents from 2007 that do not reflect his present inability to pay.

At least one neighbor thinks the focus on his lawn is ridiculous.

"There's no grass on it but there's no weeds, it's not a mess," said neighbor Denise Rodman. "It's never really bothered me."

Doane believes he is being picked on because there are other lawns just like his.

"Our code officer either responds to complaints -- that's our first priority," said Nguyen. "And second, we drive around the neighborhood and probably his house affected the code officer more than anyone else. But once we've completed with this house then obviously we'll go to other areas."

Doane says he plans to pay the $400 fine and meet with city attorney next week

"If I had the money I would have never got the ticket and I would have a nice yard," said Doane.

Khanh says they hope they can reach some kind of solution with Doane. They say the city is not out to cite people and collect fines but they do need to meet code. The city says there are plenty of drought-resistant plants out there that can be put in fairly inexpensively and they're willing to give Doane tips on that.



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