Lawn-to-Garden Incentive (L2G) Program Design Requirements

Before you complete the application for this program you must read and understand these Design Requirements as well as the Terms and Conditions.

If your application for the Lawn-to-Garden (L2G) Incentive program has been approved, the next steps in the process are for you to complete the on-line or an in-person landscape class and submit to LBWD, within 90 calendar days of LBWD having approved your application, the design of your proposed new landscape.

Design Requirements

Attention: You have NOT been approved for funding. You cannot be approved until Long Beach Utilities Department (LBUD) approves the design of your new landscape. Killing or removing the grass or beginning project area construction before the pre-inspection is complete, before the design is approved, or before construction approval is given by LBUD will disqualify you from the program.

Please note, synthetic turf is not an approved conversion option for this program.

The design approved by LBUD is the design that must be installed. LBUD will not be required to make the L2G payment if the installed landscape is not the same as the approved design. Read carefully the Terms and Conditions for more information.

A professionally-drawn design is NOT required: A simple, hand-drawn design is fine, using circles to show where bushes will go, etc. LBUD assumes most of the designs submitted to us will be simple pencil drawings done by your typical homeowner. The drawing must show enough detail to illustrate the overall project design. All designs must also include the name and location of each plant that will be used in the project.

When thinking about the design of your new landscape, don’t forget to take advantage of all the landscape resources we have developed for your benefit and use. This website was designed to make each step as easy as possible for you. The How To section includes information on each of the required project elements.

If, after reading these requirements, you have any questions about what’s required here please contact us at lawntogarden@lbwater.org, or call us at 562-570-2455.

The Irrigation System

Effective July 1, 2018, all LTG projects must be watered using an efficient irrigation method. Existing traditional sprinkler systems will be required to be upgraded to high efficiency sprinkler heads, drip system or must be capped. Traditional systems that are capped must be hand watered. For those choosing to upgrade their irrigation system, there will be special exceptions for the use of other efficient irrigation methods such as bubblers and micro-spray for certain shrubs, trees, and uniform groundcovers. All exceptions will be made at the discretion of the Long Beach Utilities Department.

Examples of water-efficient irrigation systems include:

  • High efficiency sprinkler heads
  • Drip irrigation
  • Bubblers for shrubs and trees
  • Micro-sprays for irrigating large flowerbeds.

All irrigation systems must include the following:

  • Pressure regulators, allowing no more pressure than recommended by the manufacturer of the drip system (usually about 10 to 15 psi) or the micro spray (usually about 35 psi).
  • Separate valves for each part of the landscape (known as ‘hydrozones’) with unique water needs.

Inefficient irrigation systems include traditional fan-spray type sprinklers. LBUD may verify the efficiency of the irrigation system during its final inspection, prior to its payment of the LTG incentive.

Additional Permitting

In response to the severe and ongoing drought conditions experienced in communities across the State of California, Executive Order B-29, issued by Governor Jerry Brown, directs the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) to update the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) to increase water efficiency standards for new and retrofitted landscapes through more efficient irrigation systems, greywater usage, on-site storm water capture, and by limiting the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf. This Executive Order applies to new landscape projects over 500 square feet and re-landscaping projects consisting of more than 2,500 square feet, including residential, non-residential, and public projects.

Any landscaping projects that are to exceed 2,500 square feet throughout the entire property must obtain a permit issued by the Development Services Department. Projects smaller than 2,500 square feet do not require a supplemental permit. For more information on the City’s new re-landscaping regulations, call (562) 570-6194 or visit https://www.longbeach.gov/lbds/planning/environmental/smartscape/

Send us Your Design

After you have completed the design of your new landscape in accordance with the above Design Requirements, send it to us, along with any additional information as necessary, using one of these three options:

  1. Email the documents to lawntogarden@lbwater.org.  Emailed documents CANNOT be photographs of the original documents. .JPG and .PNG files are NOT accepted.
  2. Send U.S. Mail or personal delivery to:

Lawn-to-Garden Incentive
c/o Water Conservation
Long Beach Utilities Department
1800 East Wardlow Road
Long Beach, CA 90807

Once LBUD approves your proposed design you will be given the go-ahead by us to begin work on your new garden.

What to Include in Your Design

As mentioned, the drawing can be done by a non-professional and by hand. Although the drawing does not have to be at a high level of detail, it should show enough detail to illustrate the overall project design.

The new Design Reimbursement Program will provide a rebate of up to $1,500 dollars for customers who submit a design from a LBUD certified landscape professional. A list of local landscape professionals that have submitted their credentials to the Long Beach Water Department can be found by clicking here. To participate in the Design Reimbursement Program you must hire a landscape professional from our certified list to create a design for your garden and submit a copy of the receipt for the amount of the design.

Your drawing must comply with the following:

1. The top-right corner of each page you submit MUST include the street address of the project, so we are able to match your drawing with your application.

2. Your drawing MUST show exactly where the new landscape will be in relation to large, existing fixtures such as the street, sidewalk, driveway, home, etc. In addition to showing these large existing features, the drawing must provide the measurements (or size) of the area to be re-landscaped, in square feet. Final incentive payment will be made based on the square feet of the final project as determined by LBUD.

3. Label the new plants in the project area and identify the plant name used from the website listed below. If the full name of the plant will not fit on the drawing, use a code for the plant on the drawing, adding the associated plant name on a separate piece of paper.

This website provides details on more than 1,500 different kinds of beautiful plants as well as virtual tours of beautiful landscapes and gardens. All plants on this website are acceptable plants, except for turf-looking grasses (such as Buffalo grass or Zoysia). If you choose to install plants that are NOT on CalScape, the plants you choose must be pre-approved by the LBUD.

4. Your Drawing MUST state: which option you will commit to:

  • Option 1: All the plants shown are showcased on calscape.org; or
  • Option 2: NOT all the plants are showcased on the CalScape website. If Option #2 is chosen, applicants must submit the documentation for the plant using the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species website at http://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/ showing that the plants are rated as “Low” or “Very Low” when grown in the South Coastal region, indicated as Zone 3 (Column J).

Only California native plants and California climate friendly plants listed as very low or low water using plants in WUCOLS (column J) may be installed for LTG. 

5. Your drawing MUST show that plant material will cover at least 65% of the newly landscaped area with at least 10% being California native plants. The California native plants on your design must indicate they are with either a highlight, an asterisk, or bolding the font of California native plants. Your new landscape MUST be designed such that it can reasonably be assumed that at least 65-percent of the site will be covered with plant material by the time the plants are mature, or within two years, whichever is sooner. This “reasonable” assumption will be made at the sole discretion of LBUD. An example of what is NOT acceptable: a new landscape that is almost entirely graveled, containing few if any living plants. Plants that are used to meet the 10% California native requirement must be marked as such on the design or planting key.

To calculate the estimated required plant coverages for your project you can use the following formulas:

Estimated Square Footage of Lawn x .65 = Total Coverage Required

Total Coverage Required x .10 = CA Native or Flowering Plant Coverage Required

If, for example, your lawn is 1,000 square feet, you would use the first formula to calculate that your project would require at least 650 square feet of total plant coverage. After determining the total coverage requirement, you can use the second formula to determine that 65 square feet of your project area must be covered by CA native or flowering plants.

6. Group plants by hydrozones. Hydrozoning is the process of grouping plants with similar watering needs together so similar irrigation watering can be applied efficiently. Each hydrozone must be clearly labeled in your design. Along with the schematic of the design, applicants must submit an attachment page with a plant list that is grouped by hydrozone.

7. Your drawing must include at least one or a combination of the following storm-water retention features: (If applying for a project with transformation areas in both your front and backyards, only the front yard is required to have a stormwater retention feature. If applying for a front or backyard only project, a stormwater retention feature is required in the designated project area whether it be the front yard or backyard.)

  • Rock Garden
    A rock garden is a shallow depression filled with 1-to-3-inch diameter gravel. This shallow depression should have enough of a side slope that the difference between level ground and the lowest point in the rock garden is visible to the eye. Rainwater is stored in the space between the stones and eventually percolates into the soil. Plants are distributed throughout the rock garden and there is no ponding area – so one can walk on it.
  • Vegetated Swale
    A vegetated swale is a shallow ditch that has gently sloping sides. These side slopes should create a ditch that is visibly lower than the surrounding landscape. Native perennial grasses are planted along the bottom and sides of the swale to slow runoff, filter sediments, and remove excess nutrients. A swale relies on gravity to move water and is designed to direct the water where you want it to go, such as flower or vegetable gardens. For the water to gradually flow it is recommended that there be a minimum 2% slope from beginning to end. In other words, the swale should be higher in elevation on one end and then slowly get lower – visualize a very slow slide.
  • Dry River bed
    A dry riverbed is made up of a shallow swale (see section on vegetated swales) line with stone substantial enough to withstand a serious downpour. The dry riverbed needs to have enough of a side slope that the difference between level ground and the lowest point in the dry riverbed is visible to the eye.
  • Berm
    Berms are mounds of earth with sloping sides that are located between areas approximately the same elevation. Berms are designed to direct water in order to keep water from following off the property.
  • Downspout diversion into a catch basin
    Diverting downspouts from roads, walkways, driveways and the sewer system, allows roof water to flow into gardens. The diverted water organically filters into the ground through the soil and plants, reducing the contamination of the environment from pollutants and runoff. Properties must have a roof gutter system to divert water from the roof into garden areas.
  • Compost Amendment and Mulch
    Three inches of compost amendment mixed into the top 6 inches of soil and at least three inches of mulch. The cubic feet of mulch and compost to be used must be indicated within the landscape design (receipt of payment for compost and mulch must be submitted prior to rebate payment processing).

8. 100% of the new landscape MUST be covered with NATURAL materials such as plants, compost and mulch, and permeable hardscape. The use of any synthetic materials is not allowed in the Lawn-to-Garden Program. Examples of permeable hardscape include pavers and brick set on a bed of sand, where no mortar or grout has been used. The maximum size for pavers are 1 ft. by  2 ft., 2 ft. by 2. ft, or 2 ft. by 3 ft.  If not covered by permeable hardscape or plant material, your new landscape must be completely covered by at least a 3-inch layer of mulch. Acceptable mulch includes rock, compost, bark and other organic material. In other words, there can be no bare soil or installation of non-permeable (material water cannot easily penetrate) hardscape such as a concrete patio or walkway.

9. Parkway project areas must meet all the requirements of the City of Long Beach Municipal Code (Chapter 21.42.050). Designing a landscape for your parkway can be especially challenging. Compliance with the City of Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 42.050 is one of the criteria for final approval and is your responsibility. You should read the applicable section of the code available at longbeach-ca.elaws.us/code/mc. Please see our helpful tips PDF for assistance: lblawntogarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Parkway_compliance_design.pdf

10. Any turf grass, artificial or synthetic turf, or turf-looking grass is not acceptable. No turf grass, artificial or synthetic turf, or turf-looking grass (such as Buffalo grass or Zoysia) is allowed in the newly landscaped Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) and all other invasive plant species are prohibited from LTG. For a list of invasive species and their alternatives, visit www.cal-ipc.org/plants/ or www.plantright.org.