A proposed Bay-friendly landscaping ordinance was laid to rest Monday night when Piedmont City Council members declined to take any formal action on it.
A motion by Councilmember Garrett Keating to give the ordinance its first-round approval (adoption of an ordinance is a two-step process) died for lack of a second.
Earlier, council members discussed the proposal at length after hearing from seven members of the public — five in favor of the ordinance, two opposed.
Council members gave a variety of reasons for their opposition.
Councilmember Jeff Wieler said that the proposed ordinance was poorly written and that he preferred a "carrot, not the stick" approach to educating Piedmonters about environmentally sound practices.
Councilmember Bob McBain said it wasn't good practice to adopt an ordinance that affected so few Piedmont property owners.
Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka focused on details of the proposed ordinance, including potential penalties if affected property owners didn't comply and language (taken from existing sections of the Piedmont Municipal Code) that required the city's director of public works to give final approval to affected landscaping projects.
Mayor John Chiang said he was "on the fence" at the start of Monday night's meeting, but he ultimately sided with other council members opposing the ordinance's adoption.
Only Keating favored the ordinance during discussion.
Speakers who urged the council to approve the ordinance included Katy Foulkes, a Piedmont resident and a member of the EBMUD board of directors; Margaret Overden of Piedmont Connect; and a landscape contractor who said his Piedmont clients have been steadily moving toward Bay-friendly landscaping practices. Clients have been very happy with how those practices have cut their costs for water usage and garden maintenance, he said.
Anne Weinberger, a Piedmont resident and garden designer (who also writes a gardening blog for Piedmont Patch) said, "If we say 'yes,' then we join the great majority of cities in our county and beyond that are taking steps to address climate change and the myriad environmental problems associated with conventional landscaping ...
"If we say 'no,' then we give our blessing to practices that harm us and our children. And what will our children think of a city government that turns a blind eye to landscapes that use over 100,000 gallons of water per year? That amount is based on 2,500 square feet of lawn plus 2,500 square feet of not-so-Bay-friendly plants."
Valerie Matzger, a former Piedmont mayor and a landscape designer, said that she favors environmentally friendly practices, but the proposed ordinance was coersive and not the right approach.
The proposed ordinance would have mandated water-saving landscaping practices for new construction on large lots in Piedmont. It was also designed to limit the amount of "green waste" that gardens generate.
The proposal has stirred up considerable controversy among Piedmont residents in recent weeks, with proponents arguing that argued that it would demonstrate Piedmont's commitment to environmentally friendly practices and opponents contending that it would amount to giving up local control to a regional agency.
It was based on a model ordinance developed by StopWaste.org, which was modified by Piedmont city staff in response to council members' suggestions at their June 4 meeting. Failure to adopt the ordinance means Piedmont will not receive an $18,000 StopWaste.org grant.