In June 2011, Fire Chief Gary Dominguez, implementing the Council's stepped up Weed Abatement Enforcement, stated that organic mulch is not allowed due to flammability and must be removed. In answer to a clarifying question, he said that dead leaves under Avocado trees must be removed.
However, in 2010, the City Council passed new Water Efficient Landscaping requirements, implementing a State Law for purposes including reducing water consumption and erosion on new construction and landscaping projects over 5,000 square feet.
A minimum of 2" of mulch is required to be installed and maintained in those areas.
Property owners are now faced with conflicting requirements and hefty fines for violations.
When contacted for comment, the State Agency Cal Recycle questioned how the City would make comply green waste diversion stream numbers if what is currently recycled on site as mulch is added to the waste stream.
A representative from the California Department of Water Resources, enforcement agency for the Water Efficiency Law, said that in high fire prone areas gravel mulch can be used, but said that organic mulch keeps moisture in the soil, making plants healthier and less likely to burn and that mulch doesn't add much in an intense fire.
A local licensed contractor, who wished to remain anonymous, said that removing the typical amount of mulch would cost about $2,000 and $400 in dump fees.
At the June 21st La Habra Heights Fire Watch monthly meeting, members expressed new fears of the City government, both for over-reaching and uncertain weed abatement requirements, and retribution if they dare to speak up and ask for change.
One member said he had put in yards of mulch last year to prevent weeds after speaking to a Fire Dept representative and was frustrated he now is supposed to remove it.
Residents who do not comply with Fire Dept directives within 10 days face $300 fines.