Leaf-Blower Enforcement

Monday, March 25, 2013
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I have received the following letter from Mayor Schneider to my letter regarding enforcement of the city ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

First, my apologies for the delay in this response. I have been thinking about your comments and asking for ideas on how to better enforce this law that was passed by voters fifteen years ago.

As you know, most of the City’s zoning and building code rules are enforced on a complaint basis. The gasoline leaf-blower ban works in the same way. Unlike building and zoning violations that don’t move around, the challenge with this particular rule is that by the time anyone with enforcement powers respond to this type of complaint, usually the person using the gas-powered blower has left the area.

You bring up some good ideas below, especially as they relate to educating the public about the law. I doubt if the City is legally allowed to confiscate someone’s property, as you suggest; however giving them a ticket on the spot for violating the law could be possible. I would bet that many people don’t even realize they are violating a city law when using a gas-powered leaf blower because they don’t know it even exists. So, yes, the City could remind key property owners and landscape gardeners about the rules. Specifically, I have talked with city staff about these potential methods of communication:

* Add reminder in the water bill insert - mailed to property owners in the City.

* Include as a regular part of the Green Gardener Program curriculum.

* Produce a short PSA to play on Channel 18 and ask SBTV to run the PSA.

* Send a letter to landscape business owners with a City business license.

* Produce a printable information sheet in Spanish & English on city website.

* Remind Police Beat Coordinators and Patrol officers of this law and enforce it when they come upon it.

I am including key city department heads to this e-mail so they too can read your comments. As I mentioned, I’ve talked with some of them and can follow up to see what’s feasible from this list - or perhaps with some other ideas.

Thank you for your persistence on this issue.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Congratulations, Ashleigh, & Thanks, Mayor Schneider. I checked a couple of websites, hoping there might be some relatively quiet GB and didn't find any, but I didn't know that air pollution from 2-stroke GB engines is also significant, as well as air pollution from dispersal of material on the ground;
"GP blowers emit as much pollution in an hour as a car would if it drove 100 miles. California’s Air Resource Board reports that the 2-stroke engines emit several pounds of particulate matter into air every hour they are in use."

Citizens for a Quieter Sacramento (2nd link) has some great references to noise studies showing increased aggression and hostility and mental illness associated with noise. I'm sure Ashleigh Brilliant and many others know a lot more than the info on these two sites, but I'm thankful that Mayor Schneider's letter to him motivated me to find a little more info.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2013 at 7:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does the Municipal code needs to be updated?

The basis for banning gas blowers in the code is noise. And non-gasoline blowers (presumably electric or hamster-powered) with max noise output of 65 decibels are allowed.

Unlike restriictions on motorcycles in CA, SB's leaf-blower restriction doesn't make the distinction between 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines (the latter pollutes much less).

There are now 4-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers that meet the City's 65 decibel limit. Should they be allowed as a reasonable compromise?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 25, 2013 at 8:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"There are now 4-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers that meet the City's 65 decibel limit. Should they be allowed as a reasonable compromise?"

Hence the problem EB of government; this is not a wind blowing machine problem but a decibel problem. Obviously any method of generating wind that is not disruptive according to objective standards should be allowed. But then again, I don't get why these things are illegal anyway, it's not the sound that annoys me it's people blowing their crap onto other peoples property that sucks.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 5:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

how about printing something, in independent paper or downloadable, in spanish so it can be shown to users using banned blowers

ktl93101 (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 8:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Noise polution has serious negative impacts on health.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 9:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's close the SB airport then.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think this is a case of the ordinance not being crafted well in the first place, or of it needing an update to reflect improvements in gasoline blower technology.

These kinds of problems are not limited to government. I see the same kinds of issues in the private sector (e.g. approved supplier lists).

If it were me, and it was agreed that the main issue is noise (as the current ordinance reflects) then the ordinance should simply ban all blowers louder than 65 decibels. This would allow use of quiet blowers of both the electric, gasoline, or hamster variety.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If the issue is air pollution then the ordinance needs to be updated to reflect that. If noise pollution is the problem then the reality is that newer4 stroke gas leaf blowers are actual much more quiet than the electric versions. Perhaps a hybrid update to the ordinance is needed that sets standards for both noise and air pollution. Either way more public education is also needed.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 10:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Air pollution should be addressed, serious noxious fumes are discharged from those things.
And again, they don't clean a thing. They just blow the problem onto someone else's prioperty public and private. What happened to sweeping up and disposing? Laziness? Too cheap to pay the worker?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

EastBeach: Noise is the only issue I recall in cc discussion. I'm glad there are 4-strokes, but I bought a 4-stroke weed- wacker a few years ago & returned it because it was too heavy. I wish I was fluent in Spanish - I hope someone responds to ktl93101. I hate watching gardeners who speak little English destroying their hearing using these for hours/day.
Italiansurg: dB is the issue, but as recently as 4-5 years ago, SBPD didn't have one - the criteria for "excessive" noise was that it bothered the reporter, so their action was based more on the relative political clout of the reporter/noisemaker than on dB. I prefer quiet, but I can't avoid noisy power tools all the time.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 8:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

2-strokers are popular because they're cheaper to make and lighter weight than 4-strokers. I believe my gardener uses a 4-stroke backpack unit ... it can actually be quieter than the whiny 2-speed electric blower I use because he can throttle down (as someone else mentioned). He wears protection anyways.

When used to blow leaves, cuttings, etc into a pile so you can put them into the recycle bin, blowers are effective. Especially over large non-smooth/rocky terrain. My gardener does not blow stuff off my property to a neighbors.

I think those who recall the smelly/noisy 2-stroke motors will be surprised by the quieter/cleaner 4-strokers. Anyways, just want to let folks know there are options.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 9 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My main objection to dirt blowers is the fact that they blow dirt. Does it matter what motor blows the dirt?

When people are walking or biking why should they be assaulted by dirt blown into the air in their path for them to breathe?

If this assault were made by throwing dirt in someone's face would this be acceptable?

The city should send a notice to every "gardening" and lawn care business. There can't be that many.

And law enforcement should enforce the law as the problem is seen by them. I am sure they see it a lot.

sbrobert (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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