The City of Yuma recently updated their landscape regulations to 1) emphasize the importance of trees to provide shade, reduce energy consumption, absorb stormwater runoff, and improve air quality; 2) to encourage xeriscape, low-water use landscape design; and 3) to improve aesthetics throughout the community. Landscape is an integral part of the community’s infrastructure. The changes to the regulations addressed common concerns that arose with the previous landscape regulations. Under the previous code, staff frequently reviewed landscape plans that specified plants not well adapted to Yuma’s climate, specified inappropriate groundcover materials, and oftentimes did not contain adequate information. The previous code’s standards were based on the area of the space, which required designs that filled the space with plants rather than designs that encouraged thoughtful, pedestrian-friendly locations for the landscape material. Furthermore, the area-based standards in the previous code did not make the purpose of the required landscape clear. The new code outlines the rationale behind each required landscape area and why certain types of plants are preferred. Overall, the goal of the new landscape regulations is to reduce the cost of landscape while increasing the landscape’s benefits to the community.
The most important change I recommended for the regulations was the introduction of a designated streetscape zone to emphasize trees along the street to provide shade to pedestrians and visual enclosure to the street to calm traffic speeds. Many studies have shown that tree-lined streets increase property values by making these areas more desirable places to live, work, and shop. Another key change was requiring single-family residential lots to plant one tree per lot, an increase in the number of trees required in parking lots, and a flexible point system to regulate landscape requirements for retention basins.
The effort started with the creation of the Recommended Plants List to identify and encourage appropriate, low-water use plants for Yuma’s desert climate. This list, created by Community Planning staff in conjunction with the Public Works Department, Yuma County Water Users’ Association, and APS, is now available to the public at City Hall and online. It is provided to designers and landowners as they develop their landscape plans, typically during the pre-development meeting process.