Council, residents weigh in on allowing artificial turf in front yards

Holding a bag of fertilizer and a bottle of weed killer in the air, Councilman Ara Najarian used what he called two examples of poison to convince his colleagues to allow artificial turf in residential front yards.

“Real grass is as unnatural as the opponents’ claim the artificial turf is,” Najarian said Tuesday. “There’s no natural grass like that growing indigenously.”

But none of the props or impassioned pleas were enough as the City Council declined to pursue legalization.

Najarian had also arranged for maintenance workers to run a lawnmower in council chambers to demonstrate the noisiness of lawn upkeep, but they left before the City Council took up the matter in a late running meeting.

Opponents of artificial turf said they were concerned about lead poisoning and other environmental hazards, such as a “heat-island” effect that occurs when unnatural surfaces get hot.

For about a year people have been able to inspect samples of artificial turf outside City Hall. The council could have changed the zoning code to allow fake grass in front and side yards, but opted not to do so Tuesday.

Residents can currently install the faux grass in backyards, out of sight from the public, and the stuff has been used at school sites and sports fields, prompting some proponents to question whether the opposition wasn’t based more on aesthetic concerns, not environmental.

Although Councilman Rafi Manoukian declined to support legalization for front yards, he said health concerns can’t be the crux of the issue, citing artificial turf in backyards and at Glendale High School.

He conceded that much of the issue centered on aesthetics, a point several opponents touched on.

“Those people who think their plastic grass looks good in their front yards are fooling themselves,” said resident Sharon Weisman.

Despite fears that the turf would spread the stench of dog waste and mold, resident Noel Petter said his pets poop on fake grass in his backyard and he hasn’t had a problem.

“My dogs have decorated it regularly and I’ve never had to replace even a square inch of it,” Petter said.

Proponents also argued that the fake grass curbed water use, and that the matter came down to freedom of choice.

“If you want to have your organic natural gas, it’s your choice,” said resident Patrick Masihi. “But you also have to allow individuals that want to save water to have artificial turf.”

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