Landscape Design Standards for Water Conservation


Compliance with the City's Landscape Design Standards is mandatory for all new or altered landscaping proposed as a part of a project subject to review by any City of Santa Barbara design review body (Council Resolution No. 08-083 and SBMC § 22.80.020). The Standards are intended to promote water conservation while allowing flexibility in designing attractive and cost effective water-wise landscapes.

The links below provide the full resolution text, which contains the Landscape Design Standards and defines several important terms such as “Water Wise Plants” and “Turf”. Also linked is the Landscape Compliance Statement checklist, page 2 of which should be copied onto all landscaping plans submitted to the City as part of a permit application and completed to receive final approval. Other resources include the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS IV) plant list and the City’s locally adapted Addendum to the WUCOLS list. The Addendum displays plants which WUCOLS IV lists as ‘medium-water-use’ but that the City recognizes as ‘water-wise’ (low-water-use) based on local experience.

The California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) permits local agencies to use their own Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance provided it is at least as stringent as the State MWELO. The City of Santa Barbara’s Landscape Design Standards have been approved by California DWR for continued use in lieu of the State’s MWELO. MAWA and ETWU calculations are not a required part of the City’s Landscape Design Standards. If you have further questions regarding the State MWELO and Santa Barbara’s Ordinance, please contact Water Conservation Office staff at (805) 564-5460.

For questions about whether your landscaping project on private property will need permitting, please contact or visit the Planning Counter at 630 Garden Street, (805) 564-5578. Also see the Landscape Plan Submittal Guide for more information on landscaping changes and relevant permitting triggers.

If your project will modify, plant or remove Street Trees in any way (including possible root damage), please contact the City Parks Division at (805) 564-5433 or click here for more info on Tree Application and Parkway Planting. Street tree modification, planting or removal will require coordination and approval from the Parks Division.

Landscaping projects in the ‘Public right-of-way’ or park strip/parkway/streetscape areas that are not affecting any street trees will generally not require a permit; however, they must comply with City street landscaping code, which limits plantings to 8” tall at maturity, to drought-tolerant species only, and to keeping plants trimmed back from blocking the free flow of vehicular and foot traffic or interfering with sight-lines. Please contact or visit the Public Works Counter at 630 Garden Street, (805) 564-5377, for additional information or to confirm with Public Works staff that your anticipated parkway landscaping project will not need permitting.

For further questions regarding the Landscape Design Standards, please call the Water Conservation Hotline at (805) 564-5460.