The Revenge of the Lawn

Oh please. My lawn is neither a bastion of suburbanite conformity or a planet-killing fertilizer sponge. My lawn mower doesn’t represent a testosterone-fuled howl to display my manliness. And I am not a slave to social norms.

I have a lawn because my kid plays soccer on it constantly. I have 3 dogs that can run around on it when it’s wet and not get completely covered in mud. And we can lay out sleeping bags on something soft in the summer and discuss the constellations.

This ridiculous attempt to demonize (or mock) anyone who enjoys their lawn, or enjoys the peacefulness of working on their lawn, just smacks of the holier-than-thou crowd snarking on the suburbanites they despise. Grow up.


There’s no need to be that defensive, if you actually use your lawn for things besides looking good (even if your local climate couldn’t support it naturally) you’re not who this article’s complaining abott.


It looks like there’s a glitch in the Matrix in your area. Try going back inside for a minute and coming out again, that might solve the problem.

If that doesn’t work, it could be a problem with the plant itself. Try blowing on it and putting it back in the soil.


I love all the hatred directed towards the HOA. I don’t get it. The HOA is the most democratic institution most people will ever be a part of. First, everybody who is a member joined voluntarily. Before buying a house in an HOA, buyers sign a copy of the CC&Rs. That indicates they read them and agree to abide by the rules. Second, anybody who wants to be a board member can easily get elected. I’ve been elected every time I ran. I even got myself appointed to a vacant board position simply by volunteering. If you don’t like your HOA rules, get elected to the board and change them. Nothing could be easier.

But, no. 99% of HOA members somehow think the HOA (read: their neighbors) are out to get them. They’d rather press their state legislature to change laws regarding HOAs than get a few of their neighbors to vote for them.

Anybody who doubts what I say has either never been an HOA member or has never attended an HOA board meeting or even an annual meeting. That’s what probably cracks me up the most. Everybody complains but nobody can be bothered to take 1 hour out of their precious year to attend a meeting and voice their concerns. Most HOAs require a quorum of 10% to do business at their annual meetings. It’s very difficult to get a measly 10% to show up.

One story of many: Our HOA had a rule about statues in the front yard. A WWII vet wrote a letter saying he fought for his country and it was wrong of the HOA to ask him to move his statue to the back yard. I never realized our military fought for the freedom to break contracts you signed and later decided you didn’t like.

If you don’t like the way your HOA is run, it’s far easier to change than if you don’t like the way your municipal, state, or federal government is run.

‘‘I fought the lawn and the lawn won!’’


This is sort of true. Mostly for you.
I’ve owned a couple different condos and have some experience. One of the HOA’s was pretty reasonable and easy to deal with. They didn’t let people work on their cars in the driveway (a good thing, IMO) and could be a little tight-assed, but otherwise kept the place in shape for a decent monthly fee.
The other one was run entirely by people who were absentee owners who rented to whomever and didn’t give a shit at all about the development. There were too many of them to fight about things, and I was glad when I sold and moved out of there.


This may not be worth mentioning but the picture given as “Westlake” in the article is an aerial photo of the village of Westlake in southern California. As far as I know, “Little Boxes” was about the Westlake neighborhood of Daly City, just south of San Francisco.


Funny, I was just reading the piece on the new computer model of the universe and was wondering if I had noticed any glitches in the simulation that we are in… I guess that I have my answer.

I am pretty sure you are extrapolating your experience with your HOA to a field that is much larger and not always so pleasant. My own experiences haven’t been too bad, but I had neighbors move because of HOA problems, and merely joining the HOA board wouldn’t have solved their problems. Some of the things that used to go down with Irvine’s HOAs were incredibly abusive. When petty tyrants get on the board they can create problems. They aren’t usually on the board, but they can be.

Also they are “voluntary” in the sense that you often sign a piece of paper in a huge stack of papers that involve forced membership in the HOA. You can’t live in many homes without being a member of a HOA. There are even cities where you can’t live in a house without being forced to be in an HOA. So yes, it’s voluntary in the sense that you did sign the contract, but it’s coercive in that you have no choice but to sign if you want to live in many areas.


I think someone should put a word in here for Ward Moore’s classic bit of postwar apocalypticism, Greener Than You Think, in which a new scientifically-improved strain of grass planted on a lawn in LA literally eats everything in the word.

Such a weird book, that feels that it should be more Vonneguty and satirical than it actually is. In 1947, the lawn was not yet a universal symbol of suburban conformity, which can be hard to remember when reading.


“Run entirely by people who were absentee owners”.

Again, the HOA is the most direct form of democracy anybody will likely be involved in. If you think your board is run by a bunch of tyrants, get yourself on the board and make changes. But I’m guessing you couldn’t be bothered to spend one evening a year to even attend the annual meeting and cast a vote, let alone ask a dozen neighbors to support you in getting on the board. (All you need is about 5% of owners to change the board. Obviously, rules vary by HOA, but typically you need 10% to have a quorum. And a plurality of that to get a seat on the board. So, if you’re in a 500 unit HOA, 25 votes will get you a seat on the board.)

How can you say that joining the board won’t solve the problems? That’s just nuts. For the most part, the board makes the rules. Some rules are harder to change, but most can be easily changed by the board. In a single evening, any small group of owners can replace a third of the board. Do that two years in a row and you’ve thrown the bums out. But, for the most part, people would rather hate on their neighbors who take the time to volunteer for the board rather than get involved themselves.

Anybody who would move rather than change their board are doing things the hard and expensive way. It’s real easy to fix an HOA board. Attend the annual meeting. Vote for somebody you trust, or run yourself. For most HOAs, it takes only a couple dozen votes to get on the board. But nobody bothers to attend a single meeting. They’d rather watch TV than spend an evening at a meeting to fix it.

I’ve lived in 4 different HOAs. I’ve been on the boards of 3 of them. If I can get on a board, anybody can. It’s not rocket surgery. But, of course, apathy is much easier. If you have a petty tyrant on the board, vote his ass out of it. Why anybody would sell rather than spend an evening with their neighbors is beyond me.

And, yes, they’re all voluntary. If you don’t read the CC&Rs before you buy, it’s nobody’s fault but yours. If you don’t like the CC&Rs, look at houses in different HOAs. They’re not all the same and often vary widely. But if you don’t bother to read them, oh well. All it takes is a phone call to get a copy of the CC&Rs well before you close on the house. Be proactive, It’s much better than whining.

When you are facing immediate harassment from the board, many people would think that joining that group of petty vindictive venom spitting vipers would be nuts. YMMV.

It’s never been relevant to me, since I never have been harassed, and my neighbors who were bullied out of their (adjoining HOA) neighborhood aren’t here to speak to the matter.


I’ve served on an HOA board. (A long time ago - I’ve since moved back East to an area where HOA’s are few and far between.) There were a ton of CC&R’s that the original developer had put in place that absolutely nobody on the board liked, but the way they had been drafted, it took a unanimous vote of the homeowners to overturn them! That’s right - unanimous. All 160 homeowners in the subdivision would have to show up for a meeting and vote the same way.

So the best we could do was to be somewhat capricious about enforcement - but that was complicated by the fact that most of the people who actually wanted to run for the board were curtain-twitchers who just loved going after their neighbours for every perceived infraction. “Oh, no! We couldn’t possibly let someone paint their front door white! All the other front doors are brown! What would one different one do to our property values!” And I really suspect that the mostly-retired group in the subdivision wanted a tyrranical board - conformitarianism runs deep in our culture.


Actually, I went to every meeting and was friendly with the president.
But hardly anyone else went given the size of the place - 500 units - I tried to do my part.

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Fun article, if a little overwrought at times, but hey, that’s our Dery!

Also wanted to say that I like Rob’s illustration of LA. Is that actually a painting? It looks like LA is on fire. Which I guess especially fits the sometimes hyperventilating tone of Dery’s piece.


A public park could serve all those purposes even better.

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Right now, my lawn is a sheet of glorious yellow, setting off the azaleas around the house. In a few days it will turn white, then blow away. This will repeat a few time with sparser sheets of yellow, then just stay green all summer. It gets water every time it rains. It gets mowed every week. Looks great. Very low maintenance, and drought resistant. Dandelions are da bomb!


The suburbanite doth protest too much.


Wouldn’t it have been easier to dissolve the HOA and start a new one?

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