Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMDs): The city-wide issue that won’t go away


What is an LMD?

Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMDs) were created many years ago by developers as a way for property owners to pay for enhanced landscaping and improvements beyond those generally provided by the city. Each district is responsible for maintaining all irrigation and sprinkler systems, turf, trees, shrubs, and bushes in medians and public rights-of way. Monies collected from LMD assessments are set aside for the exclusive benefit of each district and can only be used for maintenance and improvement of that specific district. Many homeowners in north Poway are assessed on their property taxes under LMD 86-1. (To determine if your property is part of an LMD, check your property tax statement.)

What’s the problem?

No adjustments to these LMD assessments have been made since 1994. Since then, the cost of water, landscaping, tree removal, etc. has steadily and significantly risen. The City says the districts are facing critical budget shortfalls to adequately maintain these areas.

What happened since the vote failed?

In May 2018, homeowners in two LMDs (83-1 along Twin Peaks Rd. and 86-1 along Espola Rd.), received ballots to approve re-engineered district maps and increased/ new assessments. The proposals were overwhelmingly defeated in both districts. Then-city manager Tina White appointed an ad hoc LMD Advisory Committee comprised of 13 Poway residents from various areas of the community to review LMD 83-1 and 86-1 and provide recommendations. The committee has met more than a dozen times since October 2018. The committee’s recommendations were presented to City Council in March 2019. No decisions were made or actions taken at the time. NOTE: In the current fiscal year (2018-19), the City allocated $100,000 to the two LMDs for emergency tree removal and $165,530 in supplemental water from the general fund over and above its annual general benefit funding to fill the gap left by the LMDs’ insufficient funding.

What does the advisory committee recommend?

In order to return the LMDs to a state that is viable, manageable, and sustainable in the long term, the committee ultimately recommends the need for a successful re-ballot. However, its most pressing recommendation is for the preparation of a Landscape Master Plan (LMP). This coordinated, overarching strategy would:

  • designate a plan for managing the existing trees to reduce long-term maintenance;

  • provide concepts for low-maintenance, drought tolerant ground landscaping, including at the entrances, that can be implemented per an eventual funding plan;

  • create the basis for developing preliminary construction/implementation cost estimates that would inform future decision-making;

  • outline an overall strategy for reducing maintenance expenses;

  • initiate broader community support through public input meetings during preparation of the plan.

How would a Landscape Master Plan be funded?

The City is currently in the budget review process and early indications paint a discouraging picture.However, the committee has cited a number of possible funding options for an LMP (roughly estimated to cost $100,000-150,000), including the “surplus” City- provided LMD funding that the Council rolled over into next fiscal year at the May 7 council meeting, current LMD revenues, and possible loans to the LMDs.

Next steps: JULY 16th meeting

The committee is resolute that without a Landscape Master Plan in place, the City will be unable to move forward to resolve the under-funded and inadequate maintenance of LMD 83-1 and 86-1. The City will hold a public LMD Council Workshop on Tuesday, July 16th, 7:00 pm, at City Council Chambers at 13325 Civic Center Drive in Poway to discuss next steps. GVCA encourages all homeowners in north Poway, regardless of whether you are in a current LMD, to attend the workshop, get more information, and provide input.