Kiss His Grass: No Matter What City Says, Jose Escobedo Ain't About to Rip Up His Fake Lawn
"It gets me so mad," says Jose's daughter, 19-year-old Brandy, who lives with her father and who serves as his translator. (He does indeed speak English, but finds he can better say what he means when doing interviews this way.) "The Landmark Commission already had their minds made up: It was against the code. They wouldn't let him explain anything. We asked if we could get a petition for neighbors to sign in support [of the lawn], and they said, 'No, it's against code.' They weren't listening at all." (Clarification: Brandy says her father has owned the house for 14 years. Junius Heights did not become a historic district until April 2006, as per the ordinance.)
Escobedo installed the lawn four months ago, he says, after he'd spent what he calls a small fortune on trying to keep his front lawn green the old-fashioned way. Escobedo's son, who works at the same construction company at which Jose worked till he was injured, gave his dad the turf -- a remnant from a football-field installation job at a school. Says Brandy, "My brother knew my dad was having yard problems, that he'd wasted so much money fixing it."
Brandy says city officials knew what Jose was up to: They drove past the house during the two-day installation period and never said a word. "He took off the sidewalks, and the city never said, 'What are you doing?' Brandy recounts. "They passed by and didn't want to know what he was doing." It wasn't till a neighbor called 311 that Escobedo received the first of several notices from the city.
"The only thing my dad wants is for the house to look nice," Brandy says. "We even told the council people, 'Come look at the grass.' Police officers come by and say, 'What's wrong with the city?' Neighbors and people who don't even live in the neighborhood come by and ask my dad about the grass. People like it. And the city keeps telling us to save water. It's a great way to save it. It's better than having dirt. Since we have trees, it gives a nice shade. You can sit down, there are no bugs, it's perfect."
Escobedo has 30 days to appeal to the plan commission; after that, he'll head to the city council. One thing's for sure: He's not about to rip up his lawn, despite the threat of ticket upon ticket, fine upon fine.