Not another leaf blower...
We know that you have all experienced the noisy buzzing of a leaf blower in a neighbor’s yard while you tried to rest, read or enjoy time in your home. It is well documented that leaf blowers produce extreme levels of nuisance noise and air pollution. Volume exceeds 75 decibels at 50 feet, and landscapers often run two or more simultaneously.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that this noise level degrades quality of life. While the noise seems to be everywhere and at all times, when it comes to leaf blowers, the pollution that these devices create can’t be ignored. In just one hour, a gas-powered two-cycle leaf blower produces as much pollution as a car driven 100 miles. Leaf blowers stir up clouds of dust, pollen, molds and other harmful allergens.
In sum, these devices clear one yard, by transferring debris and dirt from one place to another — often ending up in the street and on neighbors’ properties. Other than speedy transfer of debris from point A to point B, there are really no benefits to leaf blowers.
400 cities and towns have banned or controlled blowers. In California, many cities have banned leaf blowers including Belvedere (population 2,500), Berkeley (105,000), Beverly Hills (32,000), Carmel (4,200), Claremont (50,000), Del Mar (5,000), Indian Wells (3,300), Laguna Beach (24,000), Lawndale (29,000), Los Altos (28,000), Malibu (12,000), Mill Valley (13,000), Piedmont (10,000), Santa Monica (90,000), Hermosa Beach (18,600) and West Hollywood (36,700). Organized efforts to ban blowers are under way in Palo Alto, Portola Valley and Sunnyvale. Newport Beach is also considering a ban. Cities that have implemented bans have found that they are 90-95 percent effective in reducing noise and dust pollution.
Considering whether to ban leaf blowers in a city can be controversial. Some people want their yards to look immaculate at the lowest cost possible and therefore choose to overlook the negative effects of leaf blowers. Yet, in a city with one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, Long Beach should consider the positive environmental outcomes a full leaf blower ban could have on reducing the total amount of particulate matter in the city’s atmosphere.
Certainly, there are alternatives available for Long Beach. In addition to the option of a total ban, the city could also look at requiring gardeners to replace gas-powered leaf blowers with cleaner, quieter and less powerful models, which could help mitigate some of the negative impacts.
The city might also consider enacting a leaf blower noise ordinance where hours of opera-
tion are restricted to a specific period of time during the week when people are less likely to be home.
Perhaps a restriction could be placed on weekend landscaping services when many families are home and may become perturbed by noisy leaf blowers.
Homeowners who favor banning leaf blowers should also consider the economic repercussions that a full ban could have on the small business owners of landscaping and gardening companies. While rake and broom methods are without a doubt more environmentally friendly, they are significantly slower. A standard job that takes a gardener about 30 minutes to complete could take twice as long to finish. The consumer may have to absorb a higher cost to balance the additional time incurred on one yard.
In our opinion, the negative impacts of the particulate and noise pollution generated by leaf blowers far outweigh any benefits to their operators or to the homeowners that pay for the service.
In a city and climate where heat wave records are being broken in the heart of an El Niño season, fall and winter are not producing seasonal changes that lead to large quantities of leaves falling to the city’s grounds. There rarely seems to be an appropriate occasion where a leaf blower could speed up the gardening process. It seems that the broom and rake are just as effective and are far less polluting.
We want to know what you think. Please let us know how you feel about a leaf blower ban by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzie Price is the Third District City Councilwoman. John Shisko is a Belmont Heights resident.