Cleaner air, a quieter environment, coupled with the health benefits, are all solid reasons to ban gasoline-powered leaf blowers from citywide use, creating a more harmonious community along the way, insists a longtime local government official.
“I know it’s time that we should do it,” said South Pasadena’s Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cacciotti, who has sat on the City Council for 20 years. “Other cities around the United States have done it and I hope we join them.”
He points to the “sound pollution, the high levels of decibels” of the gas-powered devices operated by commercial gardeners in his own neighborhood, saying they are “making a tremendous impact” on residents seriously affected by their loud, deafening, ear-piercing noise on a daily basis.
“It’s reaching a cascade where people are just ready to explode and can’t take it anymore,” Cacciotti added, saying that numerous emails have come his way, with community members expressing their concerns about their quality of life being threatened by constant roar of the handheld gas-powered equipment.
“The elimination of these types of blowers will be a benefit for their physical and mental health, along with the workers, who may not know this is polluting equipment that is toxic and unhealthy,” he continued. “It also affects the healthcare system, costing us billions of dollars a year, where people get lung disease, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss and, from recent studies, we know it impacts the brain and the nervous system. It also has a dramatic impact on the environment and climate change. There are multiple benefits through a ban of this type that potentially could save the country billions of dollars.”
The issue of banning gas-powered leaf blowers will come before the council as part of a 7:00 p.m. scheduled meeting on July 7 at South Pasadena City Hall. If it gains unanimous approval, Cacciotti said the ban would not go into effect for more than 12 months, allowing residents and commercial gardeners time to make the conversion to electric power.
“All the time while I’m out in the community I hear people saying, ‘I can’t stand gas-powered leaf blowers, I’ve had enough of them.’ We as a council are in a position to do something about this problem,” said the mayor pro tem, adding that he’s sensitive to needs of commercial gardeners and wants to ensure the necessary time for them to make the change to electric.
“This will provide needed time for public outreach and education of gardeners and our residents, businesses, and property owners,” said Bill Kelly, who serves on the Natural Resources and Environmental Commission (NREC), which recommended the ordinance to the council. “Moving to electric blowers will benefit gardeners’ health by eliminating exposure to gasoline and combustion vapors. It will improve our air quality and make neighborhoods more peaceful. While it may seem that a leaf blower is a minor cause of air pollution, because there are so many and they have minimal or no pollution controls, they’re one of the region’s significant sources of pollution. The California Air Resources Board has found that one gas-powered leaf blower operating for one hour actually emits as much toxic and smog-forming hydrocarbon pollution as driving a Toyota Camry from South Pasadena to Denver. Indeed, gas-powered gardening equipment, with leaf blowers being the dirtiest devices, now emit more hydrocarbon pollution than all the passenger cars in the Los Angeles Basin.”
As part of the transition to electric-powered equipment, Kelly stressed it will take a full public education and outreach campaign, calling on residents and others who employ commercial gardeners to play a role. “They can help clean our air by providing their gardeners with information from the city about the new ordinance and how to access the SCAQMD rebates,” he said. “They can let gardeners recharge their batteries using outside outlets at their homes. This will cost residents only pennies, but will help gardeners minimize the cost of buying extra batteries.”
Kelly said the NREC recommended that the ordinance make property owners the responsible party for seeing that the ordinance is followed on their property, noting: “Because the role of the residents and businesses that employ gardeners is crucial to the success of the transition.”
South Pasadena is an American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) certified city, meaning all of its city properties are maintained with low noise, electric-powered equipment.
“The technology is here and incentive programs exist where I believe we as a city should move into this direction,” explained Cacciotti, who also serves as a governing board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “In keeping with our pledge to become a more sustainable city, South Pasadena worked with AGZA to transition municipal grounds maintenance from fossil fuel based operations to advanced cordless battery equipment, manual tools, and ecologically friendly landscape practices. As a result, the city has been able to eliminate all fossil fuel consumption and toxic emissions, and has reduced noise by half.”
Along with commercial gardeners and resident use, others affected by the ordinance to phase out gas-powered leaf-blowers and transition to electric models would include all businesses, churches and private schools. Cacciotti, in his capacity with SCAQMD, met with South Pasadena Unified School District officials earlier this year, pushing the electric use message to management and members of its outdoors maintenance team, noting he’s encouraged after recently seeing an electric backpack blower laying on the grass at Marengo Elementary School. “It looks like they’re starting to make the conversion to electric with some of their smaller equipment, so that’s a good sign,” he said. “The public schools are a separate jurisdiction and we have no control over them.”
South Pasadena Mayor Diana Mahmud supports the proposal to stop the use of gas blowers “for the relative tranquility and environmental benefits such a ban will yield,” she said. ‘However, I think it’s also important to consider the impact of such a ban on our commercial gardeners, many of whom are sole proprietors and for whom the cost of an electric blower and the several batteries that will be needed throughout the day will be significant. We will need to consider sufficient lead time prior to enforcement of the ban, to ensure our gardeners are aware of its existence and have plenty of time to procure the needed equipment.”
Mahmud also stressed the importance of how “to address those gardeners for whom ban enforcement may impose a real financial hardship,” she said. “I hope those residents that are able consider offering financial assistance to their gardener to help absorb the cost of the equipment; such residents and their neighbors will directly benefit from its use.”
Cacciotti said the SCAQMD offers programs that help clean the air through the replacement of gasoline-powered residential and commercial lawn and garden equipment providing up to 75 percent off. For more information, go to: www.aqmd.gov.