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Get Quotes from Top Landscapers in San Diego, CA

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscaper in the City of San Diego

Landscaping your San Diego home not only increases its curb appeal but also its sale value by up to 20 percent. However, while you may perform minor activities like lawn watering on your own, it is vital to leave the task of redesigning and upgrading your home's landscape to professionals. This is because landscaping is rife with a wide variety of potential hazards, and carrying out these activities without adequate training or proper tools leaves you exposed to possibly fatal injuries. To ensure that you hire a duly qualified and well-equipped landscaper conversant with the San Diego Landscape Ordinance to handle your project, you should consider asking the following questions:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in the City of San Diego?

Confirming the licensing status of your preferred landscaper is a key step to take in ensuring that your project is delivered satisfactorily. Landscapers in Los Angeles are regulated at the state level by the California Department of Consumer Affairs through its Contractors State License Board (CSLB). This board issues a C-27 - Landscaping Contractor License to landscape contractors in the city, and these licenses are mandatory for any contractors that wish to work on projects worth $500 or more, labor and material costs inclusive.

C-27 - Landscaping Contractor License applicants must be at least 18 years old, complete an Application for Original Contractor License, and pay a non-refundable licensing fee. These applicants will also be required to submit acceptable proof verifying that they have up to four years of journeyman-level work experience attained within a ten-year period, as well as any other documents that the CSLB may request at the time. Once the submitted documents have been reviewed and approved, the applicants will have to sit for and pass a licensing examination, following which the requested contractor licenses will be issued. It is important to note that performing landscaping work worth $500 or more without a CSLB-issued contractor license is usually considered a misdemeanor offense. First-time offenders can receive a combination of statutory and administratively-issued penalties of up to $15,000 in fines and six months jail time, while repeat offenders typically face even steeper penalties.

You can contact the CSLB at (800) 321-2752 to direct any queries related to its contractor licensing procedures and requirements. You can also verify that your preferred landscape contractor possesses a valid C-27 - Landscaping Contractor License by utilizing this board's online license check portal.

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in the City of San Diego?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that landscapers in the San Diego area earn an average wage of $16 per hour. Note that not all landscape contractors charge hourly fees for their services, and some of these professionals may either charge a flat fee for specific services or utilize a square footage billing structure. Regardless of the billing structure used, the total cost of your landscaping project will be heavily dependent on certain factors, which include:

  • The nature and scope of the landscaping service that you require
  • The cost of materials required to carry out this service
  • The labor intensity of the project
  • The cost of pulling any permits that the project may require

You should always get quotes from up to three Landscapers in the city to enable you to compare costs, eliminate contractors that inflate their rates, and get a fair estimate of the potential cost of your intended project.

A landscaper in San Diego earns an average wage of $34,050, annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in San Diego against those of this category of individuals across the rest of California and other major American cities:

San Diego Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
California Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Boston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Chicago Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Do You Comply with the City of San Diego Landscape Ordinance?

The San Diego Landscape Regulations are a section of the city's municipal code that is implemented for the following purposes:

  • To improve the appearance of the city's built environment by increasing the quality and quantity of visible landscaping, especially landscaping that can be viewed from public rights-of-way
  • To minimize the erosion of slopes and disturbed lands in the city through revegetation
  • To conserve energy by providing shade trees over streets, parking areas, sidewalks, and other paving in the city
  • To conserve water through regulated irrigation design and low-water-using planting requirements
  • To manage flammable vegetation through site design, with the aim of reducing the risk of fire in the city

When hiring a landscaper in San Diego, it is imperative to make sure that this individual is conversant with, and works per the requirements of the city's landscape regulations. These regulations apply to all proposed planting and irrigation work in San Diego, as well as landscaping work that is done in conjunction with development projects in the city. Performing landscaping activities that violate the city's landscape regulations can result in city-imposed administrative civil penalties and citations. Depending on the nature of the violation and its level of seriousness, these penalties can go as high as a fine of $1,000 per violation. You can contact the San Diego Development Services Department at (619) 446-5000 and (858) 627-3360 to get more information on the city's landscape regulations and the requirements of this law that pertain to your project.

Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the City of San Diego Code?

The San Diego Development Services Department (DSD) oversees the city's permitting process, and this department issues specific permits for the planting, trimming, pruning, removal, or replacement of street trees. Applications for these permits can be made by contacting the department's Street Tree Coordinator at (619) 236-5513 or via email. Note that applicants will be required to complete and submit a No Fee Street Tree Permit Application Form.

Also, while the DSD does not issue any other specific permits for non-street tree-related landscaping projects, it typically conducts landscape plan reviews for building and construction-related projects in the city. These reviews are conducted during the building permit application process and they are done to ensure that the proposed projects comply with the San Diego Landscape Regulations and all other relevant city codes and regulations. Once these reviews are concluded, applicants can continue the permit application process via the department's online permitting system. Note that a user account will have to be created to use this system. To this end, the DSD provides a user guide that can be accessed online to get tips on how to properly utilize its online permitting system. Also, inspections are usually conducted by DSD officials after requested building permits have been issued to make sure that the work done does not deviate from the approved specifications. You can get more information on the DSD's landscape plan review and building permit issuing process by calling (619) 446-5000. Inquiries can also be made in person at the following DSD locations:

City Operations Building
1222 First Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
9601 Ridgehaven Court
Suite 220
San Diego, CA 92123

What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?

Confirming the area of specialization of your intended landscaper is necessary for ensuring that you receive optimal service delivery. Landscaping involves a wide range of activities, which can generally be grouped under landscape design, installation, and maintenance. Examples of activities under these categories include, but are not limited to, lawn mulching, turf, plant, and tree care, landscape renovation, fertilization, weed and pest management, hardscape and softscape construction, and seasonal landscape color design and installation. While landscape contractors in the city generally provide several of the aforementioned services, you should always get confirmation on this from any landscapers that you interview. Request pictures of landscape jobs that they have completed to get an idea of what their finished work looks like and also ask for references on past clients that can attest to their level of professionalism. Finally, make sure that you are given a clear estimate of what the project would cost you and the billing structure that would be used to calculate this cost. The cost estimates of some common landscaping services provided by landscapers in San Diego are listed below:

Residential landscape design
$80 - $90 per hour
Landscape installation
$45 - $80 per hour (labor only)
Lawn mowing and maintenance
$45 - $51 per visit (for ¼ acre lawn)
Lawn fertilization
$75 - $82 per application (for ¼ acre lawn)
Garden Planning
$60 - $85 per hour
General Bed Maintenance/Detailing
$40 - $90
Spring/Fall clean-up
$135 - $360
$40 - $105
Lawn irrigation system installation
$1,500 - $2,550
$90 - $110 per cubic yard
Leaf removal
$70 - $250
$650 - $1,400
Weed Control
$50 - $65

What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in the City of San Diego?

Considering San Diego's average year-round temperature of 72 degrees, warm-season grasses that can survive in humid environments are the best type of grasses to use for lawns in the city. The top choices of these types of grasses for San Diego lawns are:

  • Bermudagrass
  • St. Augustine grass
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Tall fescue

These grasses are low maintenance grasses that are also drought-tolerant, which in turn helps you cut down on your water use. Nevertheless, you should always consult a professional landscaper to help you determine the particular needs of your lawn and recommend the best types of grass for it. You can find professional landscape contractors in San Diego via online resources provided by several organizations. These resources include:

Make sure to confirm the licensing status of any contractors that you contact via these resources before finalizing hiring arrangements with them.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in the City of San Diego?

More than 100 deaths and 143,000 severe injuries can be attributed to landscaping-related accidents in the United States every year. In 2020 alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 116 fatal on-the-job injuries amongst landscaping and groundskeeping workers in the country. Given these statistics, the importance of ensuring that any landscaper you hire is duly insured cannot be overemphasized. Doing this absolves you of financial and legal liabilities in the event of on-the-job injuries or contractor-caused property damage during your landscaping project.

To this end, the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) mandates all licensed landscape contractors to maintain a surety bond of $15,000 and also carry workers' compensation insurance if they have any employees. Note that these contractors are not mandated to carry general liability insurance. However, it is always in your best interest to hire a contractor that does. You can confirm your Landscaper's insurance and bonding status by requesting documentary evidence of these and authenticating the evidence with the necessary insurance or bond issuers. You can also get more information on the CSLB's insurance and bonding requirements for Landscapers in San Diego by calling (800) 321-2752.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Landscaper in the City of San Diego

The CSLB reports that consumers filed approximately 15,000 complaints concerning contractor misconduct across the State of California in 2019. Landscaping and other home improvement-related scams are an unfortunate reality in San Diego, and you should look out for signs of fraudulent contractors when searching for legit landscapers in the city. Some common signs of these fraudulent contractors include:

  • Unsolicited offers of lawn inspections
  • Offering verbal agreements instead of written contracts
  • Requesting large down payments or full payments, usually in cash, before commencing work
  • Utilizing high-pressure tactics to get homeowners to make on-the-spot decisions, without affording them the opportunity to get second opinions, competitive bids, or carry out other due diligence

In September 2019, the CSLB partnered with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office to carry out an undercover sting operation against fraudulent contractors in the area. This sting led to the arrest of more than two dozen contractors, including a landscaper that was contracting without a valid license and fraudulently using another license number. You can avoid falling for a landscaping scam in San Diego by doing the following:

  • Beware of door-to-door landscapers and other individuals that offer unsolicited landscaping services
  • Never rush into a project. Take your time to get second opinions from friends, family, and other trusted sources before commencing your project
  • Get bids and estimates on your project from at least three different landscapers
  • Always confirm that your intended landscape contractor has been duly licensed by the CSLB
  • Make sure that any agreements between you and the contractor are put in writing in the form of a contract. This contract should spell out the responsibilities of all parties involved in the project, describe the work to be done and the types of materials that will be used, and provide a timeline for the completion of the project. It should also include the total cost of the project and a payment schedule
  • Never sign any contracts that you do not fully understand. Make sure that the contract does not contain ambiguous terms or clauses, and that there are no blank spaces in it that can be filled in later without your knowledge or consent. Any changes made to the contract after the project commences should also be signed by both you and the contractor
  • Avoid cash payments and never pay the full cost of the landscaping project until it has been satisfactorily concluded
  • Limit any down payments that you make to a maximum of $1,000 or 10% of the total value of the project. Note that you should always pay the lesser amount amongst these two figures

Matters involving suspected or confirmed landscaping and home improvement-related scams can be reported to the San Diego City Attorney's Office by contacting its Affirmative Enforcement Unit online or in person at:

1200 Third Avenue
Suite 1100
San Diego, CA 92101-4103
Phone: (619) 533-5800

Landscaping scams can also be reported to the San Diego Police Department via phone numbers (619) 531-2000 and (858) 484-3154, or by filing a complaint with the CSLB.

Finally, you can take further steps against the fraudulent contractor, such as claiming damages for their actions, by filing a lawsuit against them with the San Diego Small Claims Court. Note that this court only has jurisdiction over matters that do not exceed $10,000. Also, while small claims cases can be filed without an attorney, it is always in your best interest to consult a licensed legal practitioner before taking any court-related actions.