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Council Delays Fines for Leaf-Blower Violations

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By Jorge Casuso

July 25, 2023 -- Gardeners in Santa Monica can continue using gas-powered leaf blowers for half a year without fear of being fined after a crackdown approved by the Council goes into effect next month.

The reprieve was pushed by Councilmember Phil Brock as the Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to crack down on violators who have blown off a 1990 law that bans all motorized leaf blowers.

The amended law boosts enforcement against property owners, business owners and occupants who use gas-powered blowers and authorizes the use of electric ones.

"We've had the intention of riding the community of these internal combustion and gas powered engines for years," said Councilmember Jesse Zwick.

"It is a health hazard, an environmental hazard and obnoxious to many," Zwick said.

Brock's suggested amendment will delay implementation for 160 days after the amended law is given final approval on second reading on August 22.

Brock said the City should "defer fines for six months" to "give time to make sure people know about the ordinance."

City Attorney Doug Sloan noted that there were two forms of citations -- administrative citations given to first-time violators and criminal citations given to those who violate the law for a third time within two years.

"For repeat offenders, we may be able to enforce," Sloan told the Council.

Brock rejected the suggestion. "It would be consistent if we make it 180 days for both," he said.

Staff said the City will launch a campaign to inform residents and businesses of the amended law in both English and Spanish.

The amended law expands responsible parties to include the "property owner, owner, tenant, business owner or manager."

While the law avoids "punishing those who may be least able to pay fines," hired gardeners who defy a responsible party's request to use electric blowers can be cited.

To help crack down on violators, the amended law also allows the use of video-taped evidence submitted with complaints.

It also prohibits "the sound rating of electric leaf blowers that exceed 70 decibels," staff said, noting that gas-powered leaf blowers "often have sound ratings between 80-100 decibels."

"As compared to existing conditions where blower violations are commonplace," the amendments "incentivize a more effective transition to cleaner and quieter electric blowers," staff wrote in a report to the Council.

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