Letter: Vote for Guenther for transparency and procedural reform
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Leaf blower ban - contact City Council today

By Todd Edelman

City of Davis people... why has there not been a ban on use of leaf blowers in the nearly month-long wildfire fallout event?

Why do feel the need to remove every leaf and bit of dirt from our landscapes?

Why do we allow ourselves to send dust clouds and noise to our neighbors when we might not even know their names?

Why do some falsely portray a ban as an assault on a largely Latino workforce?

WRITE the City Council NOW!

Agenda - September 15, 2020

Item 6 (8:15)
Natural Resources Commission Recommendation on Updating/Strengthening Leaf Blower Ordinance and Request for City Council Direction (Public Works Utilities & Operations Director Stan Gryczko/Management Analyst Adrienne Heinig)


Recommendation:


Receive the Natural Resources Commission’s (NRC) report on Updating/ Strengthening the Leaf-Blower Ordinance and recommendation to consider a ban on all leaf-blower activity within the City limits


Staff has not completed a full review and analysis of the NRC’s report and does not have a recommendation for a specific action at this time. Instead, staff asks that the City Council provide direction on (a) the Council’s priorities and goals with respect to limiting or banning the use of leaf blowers, and (b) any actions the Council would like to take, including, for example, one or more of the following actions:

  • Continue to allow leaf-blower activity but direct staff to conduct stakeholder outreach regarding possible future restrictions.
  • Continue to allow leaf-blower activity but direct staff to educate the community on appropriate uses of leaf blowers, encourage the cessation of use while the community is impacted by wildfire smoke or poor air quality, and provide guidance on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be used when cleaning up ash.
  • Direct staff to prepare an urgency ordinance to temporarily ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within City limits until October 31, 2020 in order to avoid exacerbating air quality conditions, and to begin preparing outreach materials regarding the ban.
    Impose a temporary ban on the use of leaf blowers for City operations when the air quality index crosses a specific threshold.
  • Provide guidance to staff on a preferred option not listed here.
  • Direct staff to return to the City Council at a future meeting with a full analysis of the NRC’s report and a staff recommendation for amending the Davis Municipal Code.

Note re: Leaf Blower Regulations

YSAQMD does not recommend the use of leaf blowers when ash is present as it causes ash to become airborne and increases the risk of inhalation on harmful particulate matter by residents and animals.

City of Davis crews have temporarily discontinued use of blowers in accordance with this guidance.

Comments

Greg Rowe

Below is an email I sent to City Council on this issue. We continue to see landscapers using leaf blowers throughout Davis, with no regard to the fact they are needlessly spreading potentially toxic ash. Remember, the ash now covering everything outdoors is not necessarily just biologic matter. The fires are burning all types of potentially toxic material, ranging from cars to household furnishings.


We strongly urge the Council to adopt several actions to strengthen the City’s Leaf Blower Ordinance to better protect public health.

First, adopt an emergency ordinance to temporarily ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers until October 31, 2020, accompanied by a vigorous informational program. Outreach materials must be distributed to homeowners and property managers, but special efforts must also be made to inform the many licensed and unlicensed landscape contractors operating in Davis. Enforcement by City personnel will also be a key factor in implementing such a temporary ban, because an ordinance in the absence of enforcement and significant monetary fines would be meaningless.

Temporarily banning blowers is critically important because of the current poor fine particulate air quality caused by massive wildfires in California and adjoining states, which is expected to continue through the coming months. During the past week we have witnessed landscape contractors creating huge clouds of dust and ash in our neighborhood through unwarranted blower use during poor air quality. Such practices have also been witnessed elsewhere in Davis.

Small atmospheric particles capable of penetrating deep into the lungs are responsible for a myriad of health problems, especially among the young, elderly and people with existing respiratory problems. The 2-stroke engines common to the most frequently used leaf blowers also generate disproportionately high volumes of ozone-forming precursor pollutants (NOx and hydrocarbons), along with potentially carcinogenic toxic air contaminants. Leaf blower pollution is also an environmental justice concern because users employed by commercial landscaping firms are often low-income Hispanics.

Second, the City must explore permanent and enforceable gas blower regulations that will effectively limit combustion emissions, fugitive dust and stormwater pollution while also lowering noise levels (NRC report sections 3.2, 4.1 and 4.2). As the report makes evident, allowing the continued use of gas leaf blowers in and near public spaces imposes real public health and safety risks on users of those spaces. The current municipal code does nothing to address these concerns because it only regulates days/hours of use and permissible noise levels.

Leaf blowers also negatively impact water quality because landscapers often simply blow leaves and dust into the street, whereupon the materials reach stormwater inlets. Earlier this year while walking in our neighborhood we photographed a City landscape contractor actually blowing leaves directly into a stormwater inlet near the West Davis Pond (which was reported to the City).

As emphasized on page 16 of the NRC report, any long-term approach to reducing the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers, including a phased-in permanent ban, should include a city-wide rebate program allowing landscapers and residents to trade in gas-powered leaf blowers for electric models. A citation and fine system similar to the City of Encinitas should also be enacted. A permanent ban on the use of any type of leaf blower between the months of May – September should also be considered because this is the period when more people spend time outdoors, and when leaf blower dust can enter homes through open windows.

Thank you for your consideration. - Greg and Kathy Rowe

Todd

The City of Davis DID yesterday finally implement a temporary ban but only on its own use of leaf blowers.

BUT see this not too subtle manipulation or sloppy transcription of critical advice from the Yolo Solano AQMD:

"NEVER use a leaf blower as it will spread the ash and blow it back into the air." - Yolo Solano AQMD - https://www.ysaqmd.org/about-the-district/news-outreach/wildfire-smoke-information/

"Leaf Blower Regulations - YSAQMD DOES NOT RECOMMEND the use of leaf blowers when ash is present as it causes ash to become airborne and increases the risk of inhalation on harmful particulate matter by residents and animals. [...]" - https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/emergency-information/emergency-events

At best it's poor literacy and copy-editing, at worst... it's what? The City deliberately obfuscating best health and hygiene practices?

Daniel Cornford

Dear City Council Members,

I am writing in strong support of a measure to curb, or rather eliminate, gas powered leaf blowers as soon as possible. As I am sure you are aware, the California Air Resources Board is already moving in this direction. And it is high time! While they are in a minority, some CA cities have already outlawed gas powered leaf blowers. It is time that Davis joined them and got ahead of the curve on this environmental issue—something this city has boasted of doing for years.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the timing of such a ban could not come at a better time when we are experiencing all over CA probably the worst air quality we have ever experienced. This year is not unique and major fires in the last several years have also majorly degraded our air quality. And no-one that I know is saying that we will not likely have a repeat of this year’s fires and unprecedentedly bad air quality.

I did a little further research before writing this letter. One story I found stated that: “According to the California Air Resources Board, running a gas-powered lawnmower for an hour will produce the same amount of air pollution as a Toyota Camry driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.”

And this air pollution calculation, of course, does not factor in the blowing around of masses amount of ash produced by our fires!!!

There is also the significant issue of noise pollution which has been almost as important in 100 California cities restricting the use of gas powered leaf blowers.

I moved here in 2000 and, as a matter of principle, I bought a corded electric leaf blower which works excellently for almost all purposes. We live in a new era where cordless, battery powered, high performing, electric leaf blowers exist at a cost that is hardly prohibitive to home owners, landlords, landscapers and gardeners.

The top of the line battery powered leaf blower on Amazon costs $242, and most are less, or not much more, than $100.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=electric+leaf+blower+cordless+with+battery+and+charger&crid=102I0Z8YNHZUO&sprefix=Electric+Leaf+Blowers+with+batteries%2Caps%2C257&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_36

I live on a small street, the Notre Dame Drive loop. Just on my side of the loop, three different gardeners or landscapers gas leaf blow at times ranging from even before 8 AM to midafternoon any day of the week. Aside from the air pollution, the noise, with all dual pane windows closed, is somewhere between maddening and deafening.

Worse than that: Notre Dame Drive has very few deciduous trees, and at most times of years, I watch in irritation as gardeners blow around for a good 10-15 minutes on each house almost nothing in the way of anything. The houses are virtually spotless and free from debris and only the cleanliness compulsiveness of some neighbors, who all consider themselves “good” environmentalists and socially responsible neighbors (as in most respects they are) combined with a lack of consideration, allows this.

In view of the above, I urge the CC to catch up (and even get ahead!) with the CARB and many other California cities, and impose the most immediate and stringent controls on gas leaf blowers as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Dan Cornford


Donna Lemongello

Why are you discriminating against gas powered blowers, electric blowers blow ash too, and dirt and other fine particulate matter the rest of the year. They should only be used for blowing LEAVES, if you can see a dust cloud, it should be mandatory to stop.

Daniel Cornford

Donna, In many respects I agree with your comment. But first: you overlook the very important noise issue which is what many people object to. Secondly, you ignore the air pollution issue totally! Yes electric blowers stir up particulate matter, I agree, but what about the gasoline omissions???

I, myself, use my electric leaf blower blower about five times a year and only in winter if there is a big pile up of leaves, and at this time of year there is little particulate matter.

I grew up in the UK, and go back there quite often, where they are many deciduous trees. In growing up there, living there for two full years there, and I return often: To this day very very few households have leaf blowers and they clear debris and leaves the old fashioned way, with a broom and perhaps a rake. Great exercise!

Your point about blowing particulate matter, whether by electric or gas LBs is well taken. At age 72, without a gardener, I'd be happy to surrender my electric leaf blower!!!

But that will be a bridge too far for the Council and most people, and I doubt you will find one city in the US that has banned electrical and gas powered leaf blowers.

Another measure, evidently not under consideration, would be to ban all leaf blowers from circa January to October somewhat like the Davis claw operates now. Further, neighborhoods could be limited by day (say two days a week) for LF use, and?or the time window for use of them could be greatly narrowed.

Donna Lemongello

I am not ignoring the air pollution of the gas engine, I'm including it, but not exclusive of the other issues with all leaf blowers. For me personally, the noise is a secondary issue, though I sympathize with those who are bothered by it. But blowing particulates is my biggest objection. Seasonal use or as I said, for blowing leaves not just whatever else, should be the limitation if we allow them at all. Problems with banning gas blowers 1) Limiting to electric does not work, where does a landscaper plug it in? 2) Raking is best but people expect to pay a low price for services that would take more time if hired help had to rake. So I advocate for seasonal and a limit on what's blown. Or why not vacuum instead of blow? Takes time that's for sure, but I know many "blowers" have this option. Another problem, trying to enforce any of that.

Daniel Cornford

Donna,

Just one comment on yours. Leaf blowers, and even lawnmowers, as I said in my original piece, now come with long lasting and powerful batteries. See my Amazon link. I think It would not be too much to ask a landscaper or gardener to begin a day with two, or even three, batteries to get them though the day and charge used ones as they work on houses from outside outlets.

I like your idea of a seasonal limit!

The raking/sweeping issue is complex and this (the cost to homeowners in Davis and their gardeners ) is one of the reasons of several reasons I opted for the electric LB as the lesser of two evils.

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