Dishing the Dirt: “Last month someone saw me using my nasty [gas-powered leaf] blower and called Santa Barbara Police Department,” reports Dan Seibert.
“They were there within minutes. Nice use of police resources. The cop asked me why I was using it and I said I felt dragging a 300-foot extension cord was dangerous. She then said, ‘Why don’t you use a broom?’ I wanted to say, ‘Why don’t you ride a horse?’ “
Seibert, responding to my column item about dirt blowers, says he’s a gardener with two clients on the Upper Eastside, one with 360 feet of sidewalk, the other with 280.
“I’ve been a gardener in Santa Barbara since 1987,” Dan emailed me. “I voted for the ban because I was sick of gardeners using these machines to blow dust and debris. I agree with everything people say against the machines. However, it’s not so much the machine, but the manner in which they are used. Anyway, I hate using it, but it saves me time. That’s it.
“Want to talk about a waste of city time? I have been to the traffic court office three times asking if I could pay my fine. They had no record of it. Finally, on the 27th of March, they told me to go to the police station to find the status. I went there, and after many minutes an officer told me I needed to go to the city [attorney’s] office at City Hall. But I couldn’t because they were off. I went there on [the following] Monday and they had no clue what I was talking about, but they made a call. After some minutes I was informed the ticket had not made its way through the system. This was more than a month after I got the ticket.
“Barney, the issue is now convoluted. My arraignment date has passed and I still have no word. I will take up as much city time as I can to resolve this. It’s the law. Are you happy?”
The ban on gas-powered dirt blowers “was put forth twice to the City Council and both times it was voted down,” Dan added. “However, the voters passed it. Blowers are awful machines, as are cars, trains, and jets. Yet we tolerate them all. I’ve posted on this topic many times and even sent copies to the City Council. Since you bring it up again, this is what I believe.”
I hate the gas blowers too, Dan. We ask our gardener not to use one. I use a broom on the driveway or my wife, Sue, does. We don’t have 360 feet of sidewalk. In fact, our San Roque street doesn’t have sidewalks.
I also heard from Andy Rosenberger. “Read your column this week on leaf blowers and I agree with your analysis on the enforcement issue.” I’d said that police are usually too busy and have other priorities to deal with than responding to dirt blower complaints.
“Trouble is that the ‘Brilliant’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) Law ignores some pretty important facts,” Andy went on, referring to gadfly Ashleigh Brilliant, who pushed the blower ban. “My question is, what is the objection? Is it the two-stroke motor? If so, we should outlaw weed eaters, chain saws, and Vespas. They all have two-stroke gas engines. Two of the three make the same amount of noise.
“Is it the fact that the user blows the stuff all over?” Andy wondered. “If so, outlaw the device, not the power [source]. Or restrict hours, or something sensible.”
Andy, I guess Ashleigh could only take on one issue at a time. Is it your turn to try to outlaw the other gas-powered gardening gear?
“Living in Mission Canyon under oaks leads me to believe that the populace would not support such a law,” Andy said. “It’s a wonder they put up with the existing one. The best example I have seen of how completely ludicrous this law is can be observed at the City Municipal Golf Course.
“The groundskeepers drive around in a little tractor (carrying the first gas engine) pulling a trailer that houses a little generator (carrying the second gas engine). As he moves around the course he starts the generator and runs the (Iegal) electric leaf blower. Now how dumb is that? Real dumb. Legal, but dumb. The groundskeeper must wonder who passed the law.” Maybe that’s because the city doesn’t have an 18-hole extension cord, Andy. By the way, some carts that lug the generator are electric.
According to Municipal Code section 9.16.020, legal blowers can only be used between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. if in or near a residential zone. That code section not only bans gas-powered blowers, but restricts the use of legal ones to Mondays through Saturdays, prohibiting them on Sundays and national holidays. It’s also illegal to blow debris onto neighboring property or into the street or gutter, to not collect the debris, or to sell a blower made to exceed 65 decibels.
Since some of the gardeners don’t seem to be observing the law, maybe the property owners who hire them should.