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Council Gets Tough on Leaf Blower Ban  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

September 16, 2010 --The responsibility for following the City’s two-decade ban on leaf blowers will soon no longer be limited to the operator. The City Council voted 6-0 (with Council member Terry O’Day absent) on Tuesday to expand the burden. Also, the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE) was put in charge of education and enforcement. The Police Department currently oversees this.

Under the new law, when a person is seen using a leaf blower, he will be warned. A warning letter and possibly a photo will be sent to the person and others, including the employer, property owner, property management company and water customer. Repeated violations will lead to citations for the property owner or property management company. Other involved parties could also be cited.

The council set aside $55,000 in this year’s budget to pay for an OSE education and enforcement officer. This person will work half the time on leaf blower issues and the other half with the Bay Saver Program, which is charged with education and enforcement for the City’s “no water waste” ordinance.

The council was told in January when it first contemplated altering the leaf blower ban that this could not be done without additional staffing. At the time, the council voted 4-1 to support in concept an expansion of compliance responsibility.

“I think the council would have adopted an ordinance at that point if it would have been ready,” Council member Kevin McKeown said. “But we were told that staffing would be necessary to adequately enforce this ordinance. And we did not want to pass an ordinance that we could not adequately enforce because that’s been the problem for 19 years.”

The lone vote in opposition in January was Council member Bob Holbrook. He voted for the ordinance on Tuesday. He said in January that it was unfair to make the property owner responsible.

“I see my gardener about twice a year … and I can’t guarantee that he’s following the law or not because I rarely see him,” Holbrook said in January. “Somebody who’s doing something with their equipment on your property ought to be responsible for what they’re doing.”

There were two public speakers on the item, both were in favor of the ordinance. Freida Dubin, who sits on the Board of Directors for the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont), said leaf blowers are widely used in the area.

“The health and aesthetic reasons to ban leaf blowers are well-known,” Dubin said. “Under the current law, the leaf blower operator is placed in a position of disobeying the law or losing his job. Wilmont is filled with many multi-family housing units, and residents are powerless to prevent gardeners from using leaf blowers. Only when this responsibility is shared by property owners, management companies … will there be sufficient motivation to use other means to clean our sidewalks and driveways.”

OSE Director Dean Kubani said information about the new law will be placed on the City’s web site in English and Spanish. Also, people will be informed about it during the City’s sustainable gardening classes. Additionally, a notification will appear on the information one receives when obtaining a business license.


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