I live in a home that is part of a homeowner association called Crown Harbor. The homes are townhouses in that each unit is part of a free-standing building that shares one wall with an adjacent unit. One could say that Crown Harbor condominium complex is based on a townhouse architecture — one unit is next to and/or immediately above another. The term condominium refers to the type of ownership where homeowners own the insides of their individual units, and the association owns the containing structure and the surrounding area called common area. As odd as this sounds, homeowners don't own their garages or patios. These are referred to as exclusive use common areas. This means that no one other than the owner is expected to use the area, but the owner does not technically own it like he/she does for the inside of the unit. This allows some restrictions to apply. For example, if an owner wanted to convert his/her garage into another bedroom, this could be denied. The CC&Rs stipulate that the association is a better place to live if owners park their vehicles in their garages.
With the association maintaining the outside common area, it is responsible for the vegetation and regular watering. When California was in a stage 4 drought, the association was not allowed to water at all. Brown was indeed the new green as our large grassy areas soon changed color due to lack of watering. The East Bay Municipal Utility District publishes this chart for the customers it serves:
The watering ban has since been lifted, but over the long haul, California will never return to the days of plentiful water that it once had. With this in mind, our association is taking the long view and considering converting all of its 30-year-old irrigation system into a drip system.
As a test, we recently converted one of the irrigation lines. We had an area between two of the units where the lack of watering really took its toll.
Our landscaper, Cagwin & Dorward, gave us a bid to convert this area. This included:
- Remove and dispose of stumps and roots. Regrade the soil.
- Incorporate soil amendments to improve soil conditions.
- Install a pressure regulator and filter, jumbo valve box, in-line sub-surface interval drip line.
- Install downspout tie-ins to the drip system.
- Plant a tree and drought tolerant plants.
- Add bark chips as a top dressing.
The cost of such an ambitious project was $8,049. During the conversion, it looked like this.
We completed the project, and it now looks like.
For now, we are taking a wait and see attitude. We want to ensure that the drip system allows the plants to thrive. If it does, we will repeat the process via a series of phases throughout the complex. It's an expensive proposition, but our plan is to pay for this with money from our reserve account and replenish the reserve via a small dues increase over the next 30 years - the expected life of the new drip system.
An irrigation experiment is alive in the lab.