California Homeowners are Turning to Lawn Painting to Disguise their Browning Lawns

paintedlawnCalifornia is experiencing the worst drought in its history, and while most are bemoaning the water rationing, fines, and unsightly brown lawns, some see it as a business opportunity.

When Drew McClellan listened to a friend complaining about his browning front lawn earlier this summer, he thought back to his childhood in Florida, where he often saw golf courses using sprays to dye their greens.

After a brief Internet search failed to show any local business offering this kind of service to homeowners, McClellan decided to take matters into his own hands. And since opening up shop in July, he’s had more requests than he can handle.

“No matter how weird people might think it is, everyone is getting to the point of considering something drastic,” McClellan says.

McClellan has taken a break from his other job working as a hair stylist in a retro barbershop. He and his wife work together to handle the booming lawn painting business.

Most California water districts have put in place rationing, limiting the number of days and times that residents are permitted to water their lawns or wash their cars, with a $500 fine for violators. Several California cities have started running public safety announcements declaring that “Brown is the new green,” picturing dormant grass alongside a lush lawn.

Many residents have taken to transforming their once lush green lawns with landscapes featuring rocks, pavers, planters, and drought-resistant plants.

The transition from green to brown is still proving difficult for some people, as a lush green lawn has long been a symbol of wealth and vitality, especially in beautiful Technicolor California.

“Letting it go dead and brown might be an option for some people,” says Shawn Sahbari, a Bay Area entrepreneur who manufactured his own paint formula when working with a property management company several years ago, “but let’s face it, nobody really thinks brown is the new green.”

Jim Power, manager at Lawnlift, a San Diego lawn paint manufacturer whose business has tripled in the last year, says, “I see it as a cultural paradigm shift that we are just starting to make. It’s very hard to find a yard that doesn’t have a problem — this is a quick fix, instant gratification that does not make you feel guilty.”

Cy Bodden and his wife painted their lawn to welcome visiting relatives after they had a new baby. When one of their nephews stepped on the green grass, he was dismayed to fidn it was rough and crunchy. But Bodden wasn’t swayed.

“The only people who really think it’s weird are people who aren’t from California,” he said.

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