[UPDATED] The City Council on Monday voted to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
The ban will occur in a two-phased implementation timeline that would prohibit leaf blowers in one year for landscape professionals on private property, and 10 months for city operations.
The city will use the phased approach to educate and inform the community about the prohibition and in turn, allow time for those with gas-powered leaf-blowers to purchase electric ones.
“Not only are they loud and annoying for neighbors, they are potentially harmful to the hearing of people operating the machines if they have not been given proper hearing protection,” wrote local resident Brooke Abercrombie.
Violations of the ban could result in fines of $116 for the first violation, $238 for the second, $599 for the third, and $1,000 for the fourth and subsequent violations.
The fine would be levied on the machine operator, despite a staff recommendation that would have placed the onus on property owners that hired the operator of the machine.
“We need to pick up the pace on climate change or we are going to be in more trouble than we are now,” said Councilmember Steve Madison.
The item was heard at the Municipal Service Committee which unanimously voted in support of the ban.
Two-stroke engines lack an independent lubrication system so the fuel has to be mixed with oil. It takes about four ounces of oil per every gallon of gas to run the engine, but all of that oil does not combust properly resulting in the release of air pollutants escaping from the engine in large quantities.
If the same type of engine were placed in a car, it would burn a gallon of oil every 1,000 miles. An Edmunds Report found that more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons were emitted than a high-performance pickup.
Five California cities have banned all leaf blowers. Twenty-five other California cities limit their bans to gas-powered leaf blowers. The pickup truck would have to drive 3,000 miles to put the same amount of pollutants in the air.
A new state law bans the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers by the start of 2024.
As part of that law, $30 million will be made available to sole proprietors and other small landscaping businesses to assist in the purchase of zero-emission small off-road equipment, including leaf-blowing machines, lawnmowers and string trimmers.
“Although AB 1346, and the resulting CARB regulations, will address new equipment, it does not regulate the use of existing small gas-powered engines, regardless of current emission levels. In that absence of State regulation, it is within the City Council’s authority to establish regulations specifically for Pasadena.”
According to the city’s current ordinance regulating leaf blowers, it is unlawful for any person to use or to operate, or cause to be operated any type of leaf-blowing machine or device within a residential area before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m. on weekdays and before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.on Saturday; or at any time on Sunday.
The ordinance also bars the use of any type of leaf-blowing machine or device in the city within a radius of 500 feet of a residential area during that time. It is also illegal to use a leaf blower to cause debris to blow beyond the property boundaries of the parcel on which it is being used, to adjoining properties or public rights-of-way within the city, and to remain therefore more than 15 minutes.
Of the 359 total complaints in the last six years, the majority (275, or 77%) concerned the use of a leaf blower outside the allowed hours. Local residents also complained gardeners exceeding the allowed length of use, noise level, and blowing debris over a property line, received 52 (14%), 23 (6%), and 9 (3%) complaints, respectively.