Los Angeles Landscaping Requirements 

July 12, 2023 ● Lawn Care

Planning a landscaping project in Los Angeles, California? Don’t worry, we’ve simplified the regulations for you. This post will guide you toward creating an eco-friendly, water-efficient, and compliant landscape. It’s essential knowledge for L.A. property owners looking to remodel their lawns without hiring a landscape architect. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Follow LA’s landscaping regulations for water management, design, prohibitions, fire safety, and waste reduction.
  • Be aware of exceptions to navigate requirements effectively.
  • Maintain vegetation, implement fire protection measures, and adhere to brush clearance requirements.
  • Promote sustainability by recycling grass clippings and vegetative waste, with exceptions for installation waste.

Los Angeles Landscaping Requirements

Understanding the specific landscaping codes of Los Angeles County is essential for those interested in lawn care or who have landscape plans. Let’s take a closer look at some important areas:

Landscape Water Management

Ensure proper water management under L.A.’s Municipal Gov Code (SEC. 64.70.03.) by considering the following:

  • Ensure that only rainwater and natural water sources are directed into the storm drain system, refraining from discharging other types of water.
  • Exceptions are made for certain discharges, including water use from fire department activities and natural sources like springs and wetlands.
  • When discharging water other than rainwater or natural sources, following the Best Management Practices (BMPs) specified by the code is crucial.

Landscape Design

The city also provides guidelines for landscape design under Code SEC. 12.42. LANDSCAPE. Here are three to consider, among others, especially regarding open space:

  • Energy Conservation: Include shading strategies to mitigate urban temperatures and reduce power demand.
  • Heat and Glare Reduction: Incorporate measures to minimize heat and glare in vehicle areas for temperature control and stormwater management.
  • Soil and Water Conservation: Use techniques to preserve soil moisture, prevent erosion, and retain rainfall in the watershed.

Los Angeles Landscaping Prohibitions

To conserve water and maintain sustainability, the City of Los Angeles has certain prohibitions that apply to landscaping practices. Let’s explore some of these restrictions.

Landscape Water Management (SEC. 12.41)

  • Native Vegetation and Irrigation: Undisturbed native vegetation doesn’t need irrigation unless natural rainfall is harnessed for native plantings.
  • Irrigation System Maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential to ensure irrigation systems function as intended.
  • Mulching: Using a three-inch deep layer of mulch is encouraged to promote plant growth in landscaped areas.


Securing permits for your landscaping project is essential, and it starts with adhering to the regulations in Sections 12.40 through 12.43 of the Municipal Code. The Department of City Planning will carefully do a “plan check” and official check of your project site to ensure compliance with these requirements.

While it may seem like a lot to read, familiarizing yourself with the codes is necessary for your landscaping endeavors. Luckily, we cover the majority of it here.

Los Angeles Landscaping Exceptions

Regarding landscape regulations, the City of Los Angeles does provide certain exceptions. Understanding these can help you navigate the complex landscape requirements.

Landscape Water Management (SEC. 12.41)

  • One-family dwellings: Landscape and water management features may not be required for permits related to the construction of one-family dwellings.
  • Undisturbed vegetation: No irrigation system may be necessary for undisturbed native or natural vegetation, provided the overall hydrologic regime remains unchanged. However, the Department of City Planning may require irrigation for native plant material that utilizes natural rainfall.
  • Equipment and methods: Specific irrigation equipment and methods are not mandated, except for backflow preventers, as long as they meet the criteria set forth in the section unless stated otherwise in other code sections.

Landscape (SEC. 12.40)

  • Replacement of earthquake-hazardous buildings: This exception applies when demolishing buildings due to earthquake safety concerns.
  • Building permits for repairing unsafe conditions or post-disaster rebuilding: If a building permit is required to address unsafe conditions or rebuild after a fire, earthquake, or natural disaster, the landscape requirements may not apply.
  • Projects with valid prior discretionary land use approval and landscape approval: If a project obtained prior approval from the City and required landscape approval, the current landscape provisions may not apply.

Los Angeles Landscaping Fire Code

In fire-prone areas of the state of California, including Los Angeles, homeowners must adhere to specific regulations to ensure fire safety in landscaped areas:

Landscape Vegetation (SEC. 57.322.1.1.8.)

Maintain landscape vegetation, like conifers, eucalyptus, acacia, palm, pampas grass, and other ground cover, to prevent them from fueling fires.

Greater Fire Protection Measures (SEC. 57.322.1.1.9.)

The Chief can impose additional fire protection measures beyond the minimum requirements if necessary due to existing conditions.

Additional Brush Clearance Requirements (SEC. 57.322.1.1.10.)

All individuals performing grass or brush clearance activities in the “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones” shall adhere to the following requirements (and more):

  • Avoid conducting clearance operations on red flag days.
  • Focus solely on grass or brush clearance without engaging in other activities.
  • Immediately use an appropriate extinguishing agent to put out any fires.
  • Report all fires, regardless of size, promptly through the 9-1-1 system.
  • Keep a Class 2-A two (2) gallon water fire extinguisher, pressurized garden hose with attached nozzle (fully open), or a comparable pressurized Class 2-A extinguishing device within 10 feet of the clearance operation.

Waste Reduction in Landscaping

In Los Angeles, landscaping practices aim for waste reduction and sustainability (SEC. 12.43). Here are some crucial guidelines:

  • Grass clippings in any landscape must be recycled, not disposed of as regular waste.
  • For lots larger than 7,500 square feet, all vegetative waste (except inappropriate items) must be recycled.
  • All lawn waste must be recycled in landscapes with lawn areas exceeding 15 percent of the planted area.
  • Exceptions are granted for waste produced during landscape installation to meet code requirements.
  • The effective enforcement of this section depends on the Board of Public Works’ certification of adequate off-site facilities for handling recycled vegetative waste.