As covered in an investigative report by CBS Los Angeles, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recommended Turf Terminators—a landscaping company that has been converting lawns into drought-tolerant landscapes—back in April, but why he mentioned the company raised some questions. Turf Terminators created drought-tolerant landscapes for customers in exchange for their rebates from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Turf Terminators went on to make $23.6 million in rebates, but their website currently lists that with the rebate program over, they are no longer taking new customers.
CBS investigative reporter David Goldstein traced the money that was given to Garcetti from people who were actually connected to Turf Terminators.
In April when Garcetti addressed the public, he pointed out Ryan Nivakoff in the audience and called him “Mr. Turf Terminator.” Nivakoff is the former CEO of landscaping company.
Goldstein was able to trace a number of sizable donations that were made to Garcetti’s 2017 mayoral campaign from records in the L.A. Ethics Commission. All the donations came in before the speech and apparently include thousands of dollars from Nivakoff himself, members of the company, friends and family. All in all, CBS Los Angeles is saying that the company donated around $25,650, all well within the legal limits, towards Garcetti’s campaign.
According to the article, Goldstein also found that the day of the speech, a City Council committee accepted a donation of $50,000 worth of landscaping from Turf Terminators. It was used to beautify the LAPD Topanga Police Station with drought-resistant plants.
When Goldstein asked the mayor why the donations came in right before State of the City, Garcetti said he had no idea of the timing.
While Goldstein questioned if the donations were responsible for Garcetti choosing to mention Turf Terminator, Garcetti denied it—stating that it was coincidence and he wanted to mention a landscaping company that had been successful in reducing water use and installing drought-tolerant landscapes.
While Turf Terminators originally had good reviews, customers have been voicing their dissatisfaction online, citing the companies landscaping tactics (installing gravel and very little plants) and then leaving those very few plants behind to die. The company originally had around 450 employees, but since the rebates have ended they’ve downsized significantly.
Enviromental specialists also voiced concerns about the landscapes themselves, stating that they should be installing drought-resistant native plants and soil that would flourish and prevent water waste. When new rebate money appears the standards for drought-resistant landscaping will be updated.