By Melanie Mason

Cities and counties in California will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, a Democrat, prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of "lawn maintenance" ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.

Brown has said she's aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.

The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns "fade to gold." Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners' associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.

With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25 percent.

This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29 percent in May.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times