The remarkable charm of the city of Orange, whose Old Towne is the largest district on the National Register of Historic Places in California, is the result of its steadfast refusal to change with the times. Walking through its 140-year-old central plaza or strolling nearby neighborhoods with their immaculate Craftsman bungalows, it's easy to feel you've been sucked into a time warp.
Of course, as residents Quan and Angelina Ha discovered, living in a time warp can have its drawbacks.
Realizing that their front lawn was soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water, the Has did the environmentally responsible thing and tore it out in 2008. With the state in the midst of a prolonged drought at the time, some cities were encouraging residents to replace their lawns -- but not Orange. The Has were in violation of a city ordinance requiring that at least 40% of a house's frontyard be landscaped predominantly with live plants. After being cited, the Has spread wood chips, built a wooden fence and, last summer, planted drought-tolerant greenery. Unappeased, city officials charged the Has with a misdemeanor and ordered them to appear in court Tuesday, though after Times staff writer Amina Khan chronicled the Has' travails, they said the case would be dropped. That would be wise, but it would be wiser still for city leaders to revisit the landscaping law.