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Pave the lawn, spoil the neighborhood?

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Regina Blosser need only step out her front door to see a view that breaks her heart.

Four doors down, she still remembers the little garden that once was – a tidy corner amid the press of concrete where hydrangeas bloomed and calla lilies poked feathery white heads above a sidewalk fence. Today, that pastoral plot has been sacrificed to the almighty automobile.

In this sandwiched city, hemmed in by hills to the south and water everywhere else, there are more registered vehicles per square mile than any place else in the United States, often making the daily search for parking an impromptu city tour.

For frustrated residents, like Ms. Blosser's neighbors, one answer has been to simply pave over the front lawn – an approach that has become increasingly common nationwide. Yet even here, where parking spaces can be as treasured as family heirlooms, a backlash has begun, as cities rise up to rescue neighborhood green spaces from asphalt's onward march.

The list is growing:

• By the end of the month, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal to strengthen an existing mandate that 20 percent of front lawns be devoted to landscaping.

• Virginia's Fairfax County earlier this week decreed that only 25 percent of a front lawn can be paved.

• San Jose, Calif., recently passed an ordinance that requires well-maintained front yards and could prohibit parking RVs and campers in front of houses.

• In response to the growing problem of people parking on front lawns, the Chicago suburb of Highwood, Ill., and the Buffalo suburb of Lockport, N.Y., last year strengthened traffic codes to stop the practice.


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