Update, Jan. 25, 2017: The rains have brought out the plants weeks early this year. Plus we are seeing a lot of birds.
Update, Oct. 2016: At the end of a very dry year we have a fairly brown yard. I think we should recognize that there are two important reasons to let this normal event play out naturally. First the maturation and release of seed for many plant species follows a die back, and drying. Then the dropped leaves create an isolating layer which keeps the soil, and critters cool. Lastly, it is also helping to retain moisture in the soil. Here are some photos just before the predicted start of the rainy season. I'll also be posting updates as the rains return (hopefully) and the garden greens up again.
One way I judge our success is the number of critters that make this tiny patch of land their home. The latest are two breeding pairs of Western Fence Lizards, and a few breeding Southern Alligator Lizards. The drought has been hard on the salamanders, but they are hanging on appearing in winter.
Western Fence Lizards are fast, and paranoid. Good survival skills in an urban environment are speed, and fear.