News

Residents sound off about leaf blowers

Gas-powered leaf blowers are banned from neighborhoods — so why are they being used everywhere?

Several days a week, Stan and Kiyomi Hutchings relax on their brick-lined backyard patio in Old Palo Alto. They enjoy reading under the wisteria canopy and eating lunch on blue-and-white cotton tablecloths next to their burbling, cherub-adorned fountain.

What they don't enjoy, though, is the burst of noise that periodically erupts on the other side of the fence — and the cloud of dust that wafts over, bringing more than just hot air into their yard and their lungs and onto their food.

"We know what's in it," said Stan Hutchings, who happens to be a retired analytical chemist. "It's terrible."

The periodic disturbance is courtesy of a gas-powered leaf blower. Technically, the equipment is illegal to use in Palo Alto's residential neighborhoods, but you wouldn't know it when driving or walking down the city's leafy streets.

Midtown resident Bill Rosenberg figures that if he were deputized by the police to hand out citations to people using the leaf blowers (the fine for a violation is $100), he could issue a half-dozen every day as he bikes around town. In fact, he's taken to handing out a leaf-blower FAQ, drawn from information on the police department's website, to offending gardeners and homeowners.

A few recipients have been "mildly abusive" toward him verbally, Rosenberg said of the reactions he's gotten. They've asked, "'Are you the police? ... If you're not the police, then get out of the way,'" he recalled recently.

Most people, however, simply turn off the combustion-fueled machine until he leaves.

Neither Rosenberg nor the Hutchingses believes the leaf-blower issue is the most critical problem in town, despite the irritating noise and air pollution. They acknowledge that the police department has priorities that take precedence over catching people in the act of blowing leaves. Burglars need to be caught; traffic accidents should be attended to.

But it frustrates them that the city ordinance is, essentially, being flagrantly ignored.

"It's not a silly law," Rosenberg said, citing the hazardous pollution created by the gas-powered leaf blowers. "We should get rid of them." (Read "More than hot air")

---

Rosenberg's is only the most recent rallying cry in a long history of residents' rage against the machines.

Palo Alto's leaf-blowing ordinance was adopted in its present form in 2005, but the rules governing the blowers first sprang up three decades earlier — and shifted with political winds over time.

The blowers were initially treated like most other noisy equipment — legal until they hit a certain loudness threshold — when the city adopted noise standards back in 1972. Then, with citizens' complaints about gas-powered leaf blowers on the rise, the City Council agreed in 1988 to restrict use of those with noise levels of 82 decibels or higher. The threshold was dropped to 75 decibels the following year and the hours of operation were restricted to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.

But the whiny roars of gas-powered leaf blowers continued to harass local eardrums through the 1990s. In 2000, the council revised its ordinance yet again, requiring that all commercial operators be trained and certified on the proper use of leaf blowers, according to a 2005 report from the Police Department.

Another new clause, whose adoption was deferred to July 2005, prohibited gas-powered leaf blowers in residential areas. It also prohibited all leaf blowers that do not bear a manufacturer's label guaranteeing a noise level of 65 decibels or lower when measured from a distance of 50 feet. Scofflaws would face a $100 fine, though the amount would go up for subsequent violations under a revision that the council approved in 2010. That law remains in effect to this day.

Through all of the debates over whether and how to regulate leaf blowers, professional gardeners and those representing them have pushed back, stating that the powerful equipment is essential to their livelihoods. When concerns have been raised about the detrimental effects to gardeners' health caused by the dust, they've responded that the California Air Resources Board already has stringent standards that sufficiently address air pollution from blowers. Not only that, but gardeners are capable of taking precautions to protect themselves.

To the issue of noise, they've pointed to new models that now make gas leaf blowers quieter than other lawn-care equipment. Then they've raised their own concerns about potential electrocution when using electric-powered leaf blowers and the loss of customers because of increased rates.

Palo Alto's ongoing desire to govern leaf blowers is far from unique. In the past year or two, the noise from concerned residents up and down the Peninsula has been getting louder. Burlingame, Los Gatos, San Mateo and Sunnyvale have wrestled with the problem during the past year, with each city council trying to find the perfect balance between education and enforcement.

In Sunnyvale, council members voted in March to ban all leaf blowers in residential zones, though they also agreed to defer enforcement on the ban for a year and a half so that city officials will have time to educate the community about the new restriction.

The Los Gatos ban, which took effect in January, applies to all gas-powered leaf blowers as well as to electric leaf blowers with noise levels of more than 65 decibels, measured from 50 feet away. Other cities in California with bans or restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers include Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Laguna Beach.

The town of Los Altos was at the forefront on this issue, having adopted an outright ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in 1991. Menlo Park followed suit in 1998, though its ordinance was promptly overturned by referendum.

---

In the 10 years since Palo Alto adopted its ban, the debate has shifted from strengthening the ordinance to merely respecting it. The law, critics say, simply isn't being enforced.

They have a point. While in the early years of the ordinance, officers issued warnings and citations, today gardeners are about as likely to get in trouble for operating loud leaf blowers as for removing tags off mattresses or recording a baseball game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.

The economic recession of 2008 had a lot to do with the recent downturn in enforcement. But it was also a result of the police department prioritizing its response to leaf-blower complaints toward the bottom of the heap. Then, as now, Palo Alto officers made no secret of the fact that they often have more important things to do than admonish gardeners for making too much noise.

When the ban launched on July 1, 2005, the number of complaints about too-loud gardening shot up. In the first year, the city received 559 calls about gas-powered leaf blowers. In response, the city issued 559 "first letters" to the address where the violation had occurred, 107 "final letters" and 34 citations, according to city data. The city had a designated phone line for leaf-blowing violations and a community-service officer assigned to track and respond to complaints.

Over the next few years, the calls kept coming. In 2008, the Police Department received 585 calls for service, resulting in 322 issued reports (which includes both warnings and citations), according to data obtained by the Weekly. In 2009, the department received 487 calls for service about leaf blowers and responded with 359 reports, the Police Department data show. (In some cases, people relied on the phone line a bit too much. In responding to one complaint, for instance, the community-service officer determined that the alleged violator "did not have a gardener, did not own a leaf blower, and that there were some other unresolved neighbor issues.")

Then came the recession and, with it, years of budget cuts and difficult decisions. In 2010, the Police Department eliminated the community-service officer position. The dedicated line was scrapped, and citizen complaints were directed to central dispatch, where they were joined by every other non-emergency complaint.

City Manager James Keene and Administrative Services Director Lalo Perez told a council committee in a report that June that cutting the leaf-blowing enforcement position would "not eliminate the (police) department's response to leaf-blower municipal code violations."

"Enforcement going forward will be handled on a complaint basis by patrol officers, and as such, will be prioritized with other calls-for-service, possibly resulting in longer response times than would a centralized leaf-blower enforcement officer," their report stated.

The council committee agreed to make the cut, though Councilman Greg Scharff observed that it "seems silly to have a municipal statute that we don't enforce, frankly."

The results of the layoff proved more dramatic than anyone could have imagined. After issuing 322 reports about leaf-blowing violations in 2008 and 359 in 2009, the department issued only 63 in 2010, the Police Department data show.

In 2011, the department issued zero formal warnings or citations. In 2012, it issued one. In 2013, zero. In 2014, one. As of June 30 of this year, the number was zero.

---

The lax enforcement has not gone unnoticed. In 2012, Old Palo Alto resident Sue Kemp wrote to the city complaining that more than half the gardeners she was encountering were back to using gas-powered leaf blowers after initially switching to electric ones.

"It is evident that there is absolutely no enforcement, so the gardeners don't worry about it," Kemp wrote. "I'll bet no one has gotten a ticket this whole past year." (Incidentally, she was correct.)

The response she received from police Capt. Ron Watson didn't entirely satisfy her. He noted that the department had recently lost not only the officer who was focused on leaf blowers but also several other community-service officers who were in the field daily, "handling lower-level calls for service and incident reports." He informed her that complaints about gas-powered leaf blowers were being handled by uniformed police officers.

Watson encouraged Kemp to keep reporting violations, though he also acknowledged that proactive efforts to enforce the ban probably wouldn't be made any time soon.

"With the limited resources we have, I have directed our staff to spend all of their free time concentrating their efforts on school safety and traffic enforcement as well as the continuing residential burglary problem," Watson wrote on Nov. 5, 2012. "With homes getting broken into almost daily, we simply can't devote resources to some of the things we used to be able to do."

Since those days, the city's economy has rebounded in a big way and the era of staff cuts has long passed. No one talks anymore about eliminating traffic enforcement or scrapping school crossing guards. City Hall is now hiring, with 11 new positions budgeted for fiscal year 2016.

Yet enforcement of the leaf-blowing ordinance remains where it was during the bleakest years of the recession. At the council's meeting on June 8, resident Rosenberg told the council about a conversation he had with a police officer who effectively confirmed that the ordinance is not being enforced because of other priorities. On the one hand, Rosenberg said, he is sympathetic to the department's position.

"On the other hand, we do have an ordinance that should be enforced," Rosenberg said.

Lt. Zach Perron, Palo Alto police spokesman, observed that, much of the time, an officer's delay in responding to a complaint (because of its lower priority) means that the alleged scofflaw has already left the property.

Only when an officer is not busy responding to calls about in-progress crimes, alarms, suspicious behavior, burglaries, thefts, traffic collisions and the like, Perron said in an email, will he or she be dispatched to leaf-blower complaints.

When the officer does respond, several things might happen: The operator of the leaf blower could be gone by the time the officer arrives or the operator may have just concluded the leaf blowing and is no longer committing the violation, in which case he or she is informed about the ordinance and asked to comply in the future.

The latter outcome is fairly common, Perron said. Blowing leaves off of a property does not take very long.

Of course, if someone is actually caught in violation of the ordinance, the officer could issue an citation.

Yet the numbers suggest that low prioritization has rendered the ordinance useless. Between 2011 and June 2015, the department has received 665 calls for service relating to leaf blowing (about 166 per year, on average), suggesting that the problem hasn't gone away. During those four years, the city took formal action only twice.

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Council members proved sympathetic in June to Rosenberg's complaint, which took place during a meeting about the new fiscal-year budget. Though enforcement of the leaf-blowing ordinance has always fallen to the Police Department, council members cited leaf blowing as a major reason for approving a new code-enforcement position in the Department of Planning and Community Environment.

The new person will be tasked with leading the planning department's three-member team of code-enforcement officers. The hope is to make enforcement proactive, rather than purely complaint-driven, and to turn down the noise on lawns and in gardens throughout the city.

In supporting the position, Councilman Pat Burt argued that the notion of enforcing an ordinance only on a complaint basis is "inconsistent with other elements of our code."

The city, after all, enforces all types of laws, including those dealing with speeding, illegal parking and fire-code violations, to name a few. Unlike leaf blowing, none of these enforcement strategies are based on complaints, he said.

"We don't go after speeders only if someone dials 9-1-1, or have parking-enforcement folks who only operate on complaint," Burt said.

Recent surveys of Palo Alto residents also suggest a general awareness that the city's code-enforcement operation has plenty of room for improvement. Only 62 percent of the respondents to the 2014 National Citizens Survey gave code enforcement a "good" or "excellent rating" (this is an improvement from 2013, when only 57 percent gave code enforcement the two highest marks). In south Palo Alto, the percentage of residents giving the top two ratings to code enforcement in 2014 was even lower: 58 percent.

"It's an area where we think the planning and transportation department can be better," Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said at the June 8 meeting, shortly before the council agreed to add the third code-enforcement position.

With the new position, the planning department will for the first time take part in enforcing the ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. Gitelman told the Weekly that once the new person is hired, "We will begin talking about how our code-enforcement group can support the Police Department with the goal of achieving better compliance."

The exact role of the new code enforcer in leaf blowing will not be nailed down until the city hires that person, she said in an email.

"I assume our code-enforcement group will help with education and outreach, and inform the police if they become aware of persistent violators, so the police can take immediate enforcement action," she wrote.

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Both Rosenberg and Stan Hutchings have their own ideas for improving leaf-blower compliance. Rosenberg envisions a community-service police officer riding on a bicycle, stopping to chat with gardeners and homeowners and generally being a presence in the neighborhoods.

"He'd have a lot more clout (than I)," said Rosenberg, who nevertheless has managed to convince some of his neighbors and their gardeners to give up gas leaf blowers.

Rosenberg mostly believes that the problem lies with homeowners, who are largely unaware of the ordinance.

"Most homeowners don't know there's a law. That's who I'd ideally like to get to," he said, explaining that he also leaves an FAQ flier on the home's doorstep when he hands one to the gardener.

"I'd hate to have police come down on the gardeners," who are often lower-income, independent contractors, he said.

For his part, Hutchings doesn't think homeowners are unaware, just reluctant to comply. He recommends the city put a flier in people's utilities bills stating that it's illegal to use gas-powered leaf blowers, that they could be fined and that there are pollution dangers associated with the blowers' use.

Violators should also face escalating fines — as much as double each prior offense, he said. That would motivate homeowners to speak with their gardeners.

"They don't want to confront the gardener," he said. "They ignore it because they don't know how to talk to their gardener. They'd rather the gardener does what he wants."

The Hutchingses have asked their gardener to use an electric blower and to do so only occasionally on the hard surfaces. In the garden, he uses a rake for the little leaves and hand-picks the big ones, if they even need to be picked up, Hutchings said. (Read "What to know about 'mow and blow'")

Their gardener is charging them the same amount he did when he was using a gas-powered leaf blower, Hutchings said. But even if the rates go up because using electric blowers and raking take longer, Palo Altans can afford the increase, Hutchings believes.

"I don't think they'd be willing, but they'd be able," he said. "An extra $10-$15 — that's a couple of lattes."

Sitting on his patio recently as a hummingbird darted to a feeder, Hutchings recalled that the city also recommended another solution when he complained recently: Call 3-1-1 (or use the city's new PaloAlto311 app) to report the offending gardener's truck license plate number and the company name.

"I was told," Hutchings said hopefully, "they would respond."

WHAT THE ORDINANCE SAYS

Palo Alto's law regulating the use of leaf blowers went into effect 10 years ago this summer, on July 1, 2005. Here's what it entails:

• Combustion-powered leaf blowers are banned from residential zones

• Leaf blowers without a manufacturer's label designating the noise level as 65 dBA or lower when measured from 50 feet away are not allowed

• All mufflers and full extension tubes must be attached while blower is in use

• Electric leaf blowers can only be used in residential zones from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays

• Leaf blowers can only be used in non-residential zones from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays

• Commercial leaf-blower operators must display certification of training according to standards adopted by the Chief of Police

• Leaf blowers can be used from 4-8 a.m. on public streets, sidewalks and parking lots in business districts; at city parks; and at the Municipal Golf Course

• The first-time fine for violating the ordinance: $100

Related materials:

More than hot air: Studies look at leaf blowers' noise, air pollution

What to know about 'mow and blow': Green landscapers urge a return to the rake

Bill Rosenberg's FAQ about the leaf-blower ordinance

Comments

42 people like this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

The noise from leaf blowers is what's most noticeable but I believe the more significant and long lasting damage is the clouds of dust and leaf mould that are blown into the air almost every time a blower is used. Gas or electric.

Many people in our town are concerned about vehicle emissions, cell tower radiation and other regularly occurring threats to health. But blowers generate huge amounts of dust and mold hundreds of times every day in Palo Alto. Any flat surface such as a parked car or outdoor table will bear evidence after just a few short days. Clouds are sometimes over 20 feet high in my neighborhood. On windy days(we have a lot of them) a blower cloud will often carry dust and mold hundreds of feet away on neighbors homes, screens, windows, cars and trees. Nobody has calculated the annual costs per household in cleaning cars, screens and windows much less the more serious consequences to the health of children and adults.

I have a very good long term gardening service that comes weekly. They train their crews and impose high standards. Yet despite many conversations with the owner, if my crew thinks I am not home they will often dispense with the electric blower and rakes and bring out the gas blowers. And pay no attention to the size of the cloud they generate.

I think it's time to ban blowers.


19 people like this
Posted by Paul Pedersen
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:28 am

I've spoken to a number of gardeners that I've seen using gas leaf blowers in our neighborhood. I remind them of the Palo Alto municipal ordinance, then I ask them why they prefer the gas-powered machines. The answer surprised me. It has nothing to do with the cost of an electric blower. Corded electric blowers are cheap - certainly much cheaper than the gas-powered leaf blower backpacks. Saving on gasoline (by using the resident's electricity) also has nothing to do with it. I considered handing out free loaner electric leaf blowers, but then I realized this wouldn't make any difference. TIME is the main issue. Gas blowers are more powerful, and the gardeners can finish sooner. Electric blowers might reduce by two or three the total number of jobs they can do per week. That's around $100 a week. It dwarfs other cost considerations and is comparable to the fine. Pay the gardeners a premium for using electric and they will be more than happy to do so.


69 people like this
Posted by Hanna
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:29 am

Nothing is being enforced in this town. Leaf blowers, dogs off leash, smoking downtown and in parks, bicycles on the sidewalks in downtown, and the sit and lie ordinance. The quality of life here is getting worse everyday. The constant noise of construction, leaf blowers, airplane noise, and our neighborhood streets being used as cut throughs to Middlefield and Alma is loud and polluting.


33 people like this
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:39 am

I agree with @Mike. The preoccupation with leafless yards has become unhealthy. I wonder if there have been studies about the increase in allergies and asthma in kids, and what effect the dust and mold may contribute.

We also had our gardeners switch to rakes instead of any blowers at all, and everyone is happier. I wish our neighbors would do the same - we still get their dirt blown over the fence into our yard.

How about an ordinance that requires electric leaf vacuums - they suck up the leaves and dirt instead of blowing them. Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:58 am

I walked past a couple of gardeners recently who were raking, there was a large cloud of dust surrounding them, they were wearing masks.

I have seen the street sweeper creating a large cloud of dust (due to less water because of the drought possibly?).

We have a mulching mower. It does a reasonably good job of getting rid of leaves off the lawn.

A manicured lawn does not have to be leaf free. In fact, a leaf free lawn lasts a very short time before more leaves fall, or petals, or blossom, or pine needles, or whatever. In fact, it can look better when it has some of these.

Why bother?


Like this comment
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

I've never seen rakes create clouds of dust. Sure they weren't brooms? Otherwise, I agree with you completely.


42 people like this
Posted by Saturday suffering
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

We have three neighbors - all on a street behind our street - who have gardeners who use noisy blowers at length on Saturdays! They don't even use the same gardener, rather three different guys come at different times. It is awful. These are not original homeowners, from what I can tell, I have been here long enough to know that, it wasn't always like this, so it is coincidental, but an unpleasant development for nearby residents who wish to enjoy their homes and yards themselves on a Saturday.

We get gardeners 5 days a week, all with trucks and most with blowers, so I wish we could outlaw blowers on Saturdays.

Most yards here aren't large enough to really justify the "necessity" of extensive blower use. Its more like a habit to most of these gardeners.

It is also tiresome to return from getting one's car washed to then drive through a cloud of dust as a gardener blows a large cloud into the street, any street.


9 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Swift
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:17 am


Residential and commercial construction also generates the same variety of dust and noise. Let us ban that as well.


17 people like this
Posted by please
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:01 am

rake it or
brush it or
leave it there


5 people like this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:09 am

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

Residential and commercial construction have restrictions on noise and dust. Talking to the construction manager usually yields results. A few years ago residential construction next to my home involved soil compacting. It was summer and the workers were running a gas powered tamper on bone dry soil. They raised a column of dust over 30 feet high that was blowing onto my yard. I contacted the construction manager and in five minutes they wet the ground and ended the dust.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:24 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The city manager is not telling the truth. Patrol officers never issue citations to leaf blower offenders. Every single gardener on my street, neighboring streets and pretty much everywhere I go in town, is back to gas powered blowers. Even in the extremely unlikely event they would end up paying the $100 fine, about as likely as winning the California lottery, the fine is way too low to bother them. The only solution is to quadruple the fine, increase it for repeat offenders and slap it on the home owners. The city of Santa Monica has done just that(I'm not sure about the size of the fine down there), and presently there are practically no gas leaf blowers operating in Santa Monica.


23 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

How about the NEVERENDING loud, cacophonous roar of 6 days a week construction?????


3 people like this
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:45 am

Why do some people think that we can't make an effort to solve one problem with out simultaneously addressing every other problem on the planet? So construction noise is also unpleasant, so just live with every kind of excessive noise there is?

Odd arguments here.


37 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:56 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

Please look at how other cities have made enforcement effective - they shifted the fine away from the gardener to the owner of the property. It is silly and looks bad for a city like Palo Alto to be fining gardeners. Put the responsibility where it belongs, then actually enforce it.


13 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:01 am

This was a well-written article, covering all the angles. Thank you Palo Alto Weekly.

This was funny: "....today gardeners are about as likely to get in trouble for operating loud leaf blowers as for removing tags off mattresses or recording a baseball game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball."


15 people like this
Posted by Klara
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

Leaf blowers are health hazard.Not jut because of the excessive noise level but they blowing up dust mold rotten food excremens of rodents birds etc. creating risk for elderly and people who haveing Asthma.

The heat generated by the leaf blowers are also drying out the roots of the trees.

The gardeners starting sometimes early even before 7:00 AM with the devilish noise in residential areas.

The leaf blowers need to be banned.Some cities on SF Peninsula already did it.

The proposal for ban was couple of years ago on the City Council's agenda but was voted down- protecting the Gardener's business.

Question to the City Leaders :

What is more important to you to keep the Gardeners happy or to protect Palo Altans health and well being?


26 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

Leaf blowers in general and gas ones in particular create air pollution from their emissions as well as the dust, mold, pollen, etc that they blow around.
Also, by blowing off the surface of the yard, they destroy the topsoil and leave dry, hard ground.
The noise is also very disturbing to neighbors. Construction noise stops when the job is over; blowers go on forever.
What did we do before they were invented? Leaves were allowed to sit on the ground and decompose, and hard surfaces were raked and swept.
Yes, it takes longer. Ban all leaf blowers and the market will take care of the rising cost.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Kudos to the write and editor who took the time to research this issue and to write a comprehensive story.

Thanks - this is what good journalism should be.


1 person likes this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:13 am


It has recently come to my attention from a friend in Old PA that the city workers are using gas powered leaf blowers and other gas powered tools. Anyone know if this is true?


14 people like this
Posted by OMG OMG
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

All of these annoyances. So annoying... First World Problems.

It is not enough we have police guarding empty crossings during the mornings rush hour when there are lots of clogged intersections which take forever to clear; we now need to send them after the leaf blowing profiteers who swindle people out of $20 a week to clean their yards because someone's sensibility has been offended.


12 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@OMG OMG - we work hard and pay a lot of money to be entitled to first world problems. If I wanted to be worried about drive by shootings, I could live in a much cheaper house.


2 people like this
Posted by Ventura OG
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

@ Elizabeth - IIRC the Palo Alto ban on gas powered leaf blowers applies to residential properties only.


9 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:31 am

@OMG I just wanted you to read the part of the story you missed before you commented:

Neither Rosenberg nor the Hutchingses believes the leaf-blower issue is the most critical problem in town, despite the irritating noise and air pollution. They acknowledge that the police department has priorities that take precedence over catching people in the act of blowing leaves. Burglars need to be caught; traffic accidents should be attended to.

But it frustrates them that the city ordinance is, essentially, being flagrantly ignored."

Seems quite balanced and reasonable, unless you're one of those easily offended on msg boards...such a first world problem. OMG, OMG.


31 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:37 am

What I find more offensive than the noise is the dust (obviously worse because of the drought) and when they blow the leaves from my neighbor's sidewalk over to mine!

We used to have a mow and blow service and the blowing just ruins your yard. In addition to removing leaves, it removes the top layer of top soil, a little each week. We are finally "recovering" from excessive blowing, and the soil is getting a lot healthier. Pull out your rakes people!


18 people like this
Posted by 6thSense
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:40 am

I always disliked leaf blowers because of the obvious noise and pollution. It wasn't until I retired and was spending more time at home during the day, that I realized that that leaf blower noise/dust is nearly non stop from 9am to 5pm. Now I really appreciate the anger that so many have. The steady whine of a dentist drill combined with the exhaust from 57 Chevy - what a miserable annoying device.
Nobel Peace prize (or at least $100k award) for the first Google, Stanford, or retired Engineer to come up with a silent, non polluting device. All you future retirees better take a stand or your quiet retirement is not going to happen.
Shame on the PA police for not enforcing this - I was hoping that PA was going to be a leader on this that other city's could point to. How about the fine going to the property owner who knowing allows a crime to be committed on their property.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Nobel Peace prize (or at least $100k award) for the first Google, Stanford, or retired Engineer to come up with a silent, non polluting device."

It is called a rake.

And then the piles can be easily mulched ( using an electric mulcher) and used to enrich the soil from whence they came.


18 people like this
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I think we should go back to the community officer and dedicated complaint hotline. When we had this, the officer asked for license plate # and name of company.
This worked really well as he did not need to witness the violation.


Like this comment
Posted by DIXIE
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Just about every dog owner who walks his/her dog off leash will tell you when confronted, that since the gas blowers is ignored and not enforced, so should be the ordinance about leashed dog in public. I have been amused to notice that often, those who complain widely about off leash dogs allow their gardeners to use gas blowers. A neighbor of mine who is notorious for complaining about off leash dogs even lets his gardener, and his very noisy gas blower to work on holidays, which is against the law. The dog leash ordinance and gas blower ordinance are not enforced by the city, and this sends a signal that people can get away with breaking laws they don't like. Both need to be enforced, just like the ordinance regulating construction hours and days, another ordinance that's widely ignored.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@DIXIE - you are riding the coattails of generations of complainers before you. Would you be happy with a lead smelter next door? Dirt roads? E-coli in your water? We get to decide as a group of Palo Alto citizens what complaints deserve action. If you are happy on your deck, great, but you don't get to decide what problems others are allowed to fix.


11 people like this
Posted by Walter Murray
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Since I bike around town it is rare for me not to see several leaf blowers on any given trip. Since these people are working for the home owner the easiest way is to first ask the home owner to insist they use electric blowers or else they will get someone who will. That worked with both my neighbors. I rake my own leaves.


2 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

There are probably others but Stihl make a batter powered leaf blower which makes less noise than a rake. The downside: the battery only last 20 minutes at full speed (but it is very effective on driveways at very low speed) and it costs about $500. They are great for homeowners. Ban the problem not a tool that doesn't create the problem.


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Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

And blow the leaves into your flower bed.


8 people like this
Posted by leaf blower
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

we have never understood what a leaf blower actually accomplishes. our neighbor's leafblower blows all kinds of stuff into the street, and into our yard and garden area. then our leafblower comes along and blows all of the stuff on our property right back into the neighbor's yard. who wins? it is a constant weekly game of who can blow more stuff into their neigbhbors' yards. take the noise factor out of the equation. what is the purpose of a leaf blower in the first place. seems like a total waste of time, money, pollution, and purpose. that time by the leaf blower could be far better spent, pulling weeds or trimming bushes--that really is what a gardener should be doing--not blowing and irritating all the neighbors, cars parked in street, bikers and walkers.

what would happen if the home-owners simply told the leaf blowers--to use his time more wisely and with a purpose. there really is no purpose for the leaf blower in the first place.

btw, along the same lines, there would be no drug cartel or drug crimes, if we simply stopped using drugs. problem solved--cartels go bankrupt and have to find another line of work. it would save billions of dollars that we could better use to fix roads and infrastructure.


3 people like this
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Electrical leaf vacuums. Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by ConstructionZone
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Peter - rakes are not silent. I prefer the low murmur of an electric leaf blower over the nails-on-chalkboard scratching sound of a rake.

Leaf blowers are nothing next to the sounds of heavy construction equipment from houses being demolished and rebuilt all over Palo Alto. This city is a never ending work in progress. It seems like every house that gets sold, then goes through extensive down-to-the-studs remodeling, or gets knocked down and replaced. What is the priority in this city? Building and hammering away every day to create big, new, shiny houses, or peaceful neighborhoods where you can enjoy the gentle sounds of birds chirping and children playing?


4 people like this
Posted by David Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 3:35 pm

I'm not at all surprised by this. I mean, the city doesn't appear to enforce traffic laws or watering restrictions in any meaningful way, so why should this be any different? The only type of enforcement we're likely to get from the city is that which will produce maximum revenue with minimum effort -- i.e., the residential parking permit program. I don't know what it will take to get the city's attention on these issues, but I'm guessing not an article or a comment in Palo Alto Online...


4 people like this
Posted by Stanley
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Yup, First World Problems here......sheesh!


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

"along the same lines, there would be no drug cartel or drug crimes, if we simply stopped using drugs. problem solved--"

Excellent point. And if we made it illegal for anyone to own anything but one jumpsuit--the same design as everyone elses, it there would be no thievery because there would be nothing to steal.


3 people like this
Posted by Glenn C.
a resident of Escondido School
on Aug 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hanna has it right: the PA police don't enforce dog lease laws nor do they investigate leaf blower noice complaints. After the 2008 recession, employee numbers with PA police have been returned to previous levels, yet no complaint investigation increase on above violations. If Palo Alto is not going to pursue these violations, why not just remove the statutes from the City's charter. I do think that laws that are on the books and not enforced are actually worse than no rules about them at all. The current situation encourages police disrespect and 'us vs them' feelings.


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Stanley - "first world problems" isn't an argument. We live in a very first world part of a first world country, so the problems we have tend to be first world. Unless you are sending 100% of your income over sustenance to africa to feed starving people, you probably spend most of your day working on first world problems (lawyer? engineer? artist? retired? professor?) as well.


7 people like this
Posted by tired of the noise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 5:43 pm

It seems the only time I get a break from the near-constant airplane noise is when the neighbor's leaf blower drowns it out!


2 people like this
Posted by Ignore this non story
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Ed Hillard
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2015 at 6:22 pm

I have been baffled by the lack of enforcement of the leaf-blower ordinance for several years. I notice in your report that Lt. Zach Perron of PAPD says that a reason for non-enforcement of this law is that the police can't respond while the activity is in process. But these guys are all on a schedule, usually weekly. In my neighborhood when I am in Palo Alto, every day except Sunday predictably the leaf-blower operators arrive. I know exactly which property is getting gardened by their noise and the schedules, usually weekly, don't vary. One operator does four or five properties in a row on Clara moving in from Colorado over a period of 2 hours every Saturday morning. It would not take much waiting on the part of the police. A similar amount of waiting might occur for catching people who run stop signs. I am not opposed to this work. I just think it should be done with a rake or a broom. If there are extra costs, the homeowners who bring them into our neighborhood to begin with should be able to pay them. Or, a better idea, do the work themselves. All blowers creat noise and clouds of air-borne debris. The gasoline powered ones are worse only in the fumes they add.


2 people like this
Posted by scraping the bottom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

The City has no regard for neighborhood ambiance and aesthetics, public health and safety. That dilapidated house on the corner on Middlefield at
Everett that is rat infested held up by posts that sold months ago has a huge pile of trash in the driveway right near the sidewalk. Trash, ugly
streetscapes are a dominant theme in our neighborhoods. What you see in
Palo Alto is shocking. The City just doesn't get it and doesn't care.
We are far below norms in this respect and are scraping the bottom.





3 people like this
Posted by Stanley
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm

@Slow Down--You're right, "first world problems" is not an arguement, it's more of a statement of how trivial this "life altering problem" of leaf blowers is....When the ordinance was first instituted some 10 yrs ago, the comical "fix" was having a gardener use an electric blower powered by a gas generator on a cart. For me this "problem" is right up there with the supposedly deafening noise from SFO air traffic----a joke IMO. IF the "problem" of leaf blowers is SO bad why don't people get out and do their own gardening with a rake and broom....but then again, the dust is alittle scary as well. Life must be really good if this is such an issue.


2 people like this
Posted by Carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Don't be surprised if our bright City Council members and the City Arts Department hire an "artist" to put together a " Sounds of Palo Alto" project.


1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Stanley - "Life must be really good if this is such an issue." Yes, that is totally true, so what? Do you think Palo Alto is so perfect that everyone should shut up because things can't get any better? I'm grateful we can argue about leaf blowers and air traffic and not water safety and the murder rate. Things should be better here, and things are a lot better than Palo Alto in many cities that are in worse positions.


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:52 pm

The street sweepers stir up an enormous amount of dust. Why don't they fill up with water from one of the many houses under construction that are currently in the dewatering phase?


7 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:27 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

I have come to dread gas leaf blowers since they first came into common use in my neighborhood in the 80's. During that time I had a night job and slept during the day. In later years I've worked at home as a mother and writer. The sleep deprivation and loss of peace and quiet when I desperately needed it were crazy making.

I could write a book about all the problems I had with neighbors and groundskeepers about it. When blowers were legal during certain daytime hours, the groundskeepers where I lived routinely started them up before the legal start time, waking me and filling my apartment with gas fumes. I repeatedly spoke to them about it politely, with a smile, asking them to please start after the legal start time. Every week for months they refused. I brought them all cookies, asking again. They ate up the cookies and said they would start later. Next week, same thing. I marched out in my pajamas, bare feet and stringy hair, mad as a hornet and yelled at them to not ever start too early again, and I make quite a scene. They didn't dare start too early after that.

It was better for a while with the enforced ban. Now it's gotten bad again. All four in my family have asthma/allergies. I agree that Palo Alto needs to get on the ball with code enforcement, especially regarding blowers. Each groundskeeper uses them for about 30-45 minutes per property, and it’s off and on somewhere all day. I cannot enjoy my own yard, my own garden without one of those things ruining it. I agree that Palo Alto needs to be proactive and not only complaint-driven, increase the fines and make homeowners as well as groundskeepers responsible. I also agree that wealthy PA homeowners can afford to pay more for greener services. We hire TeamWorks Landscape Cooperative, and they don’t use gas blowers. We have them use brooms and rakes. I recommend them.


9 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 22, 2015 at 4:53 am

If I had to prioritize additional police department expenditures, I would want traffic enforcement to be the first one on the list.


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2015 at 7:03 am

I've worked in Palo Alto for over 20 years years and have spent many lunch hours eating and reading while parked on Palo Alto residential streets. I've noticed leaf blower operators walking around houses and parked cars, stopping, and obviously looking into windows of both, while carrying running leaf blowers. It took a few calls before I found anyone at the police dept. who was interested, but I eventually left a message for the (former) police chief and received a message back, saying that it indeed appeared as if the sound and presence of the leaf blowers could be being used as a "cover" for checking out robbery possibilities.

Obviously, neither the police dept. nor I was suggesting that all yard workers are suspicious. I was impressed that the police dept. cared enough to respond to me and I believed that they would carry out their own check of this issue. When given the address, day, time and a license plate number, they had something to work with. The next lunch time that I returned to that street, I noticed some men in a truck parked right behind the same luxury car that was being "checked out" previously. It could have been a coincidence, but I hoped that it was the car's owner or the police doing their own surveillance. I reported it and found another place to have lunch.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2015 at 7:58 am

There were utilities workers trimming the branches around tree lines in my neighborhood recently. They were there with the chipper and the noise was all day. I was trying to work at home but it was much too noisy so went out to somewhere quieter for a few hours. On my return, they were still there and so was the noise.

The point is, we have a lot of noise being generated all day long every day.

Even at weekends, when it is usually weekend homeowners doing their own work.

I would like to see the noise curbed but I know that is unrealistic. At least they should not work before 8.00 am and after 6.00pm. The dust is annoying too. If we could water our landscaping it would do a lot to help with the dust.


1 person likes this
Posted by ceci Kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 22, 2015 at 8:41 am

I am wondering if anyone can compare the noise associated with lawn mowers to the decibel of gas leaf blowers?


3 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2015 at 8:59 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Ban the Blow
Rakes do create clouds of dust when I rake pine needles (a fire hazard) from the unpaved parking verge.

What is absurd is the Gardeners who do comply by using an Electric Blower, must Run it from a Gas Generator. Where is the ordinance that would require property owners to have a WORKING power OUTSIDE outlets within 75 feet of any point of their yard. (the 75 number allows for a 100' cord to go around most obstructions. Longer cords drop too much voltage or are very thick)

No one has mentioned the other issue of Mow And Blow, Non-stop Gardener vehicle traffic on your street. DozenS of trucks (many with trailers) loaded with yard care tools pass by in front every day. How many PA residents even OWN a full set of basic yard care tools? (Mower, rake. push broom, shovel, pruning shears)


4 people like this
Posted by Overworked
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:03 am

When and if we ever retire, we will take care of our yard ourselves. Until then, we have tried to find/convince gardeners not to use blowers. They all laughed and said they would lose money they could not afford to lose, because time = money, and they have a rather small profit margin.

With 60 hour work weeks, it will be a while before we can fire them.


2 people like this
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

@SteveU: I don't want to minimize your concern about the gardener vehicle traffic, but I think it would be unfair to tell residents they can't hire gardeners and must now do their own yard work. Many people are not physically capable, and many others work outside the home so much that they already have precious little family time and don't want to take more time away to do basic yard work. Probably need to choose battles we can actually have an affect on.

I think many of us have issues with different sorts of vehicle traffic - for me it's the ridiculous excessive speed with which cars travel on my street, and the increasing volume of non-resident employee vehicles speeding through town.


12 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

Honestly people get a grip of reality. Really your precious ears are being attacked by sound, oh my call the police.

You have reached a level of absolute ridiculousness that highlights how petty and vain Palo Alto really is. It is e NIMBY capital of the world. You all need to go take a Xanax and have a lie down. Kick the cat or do something productive. To complain about leaf blowers is ridiculous. And you'd be the first to cry about increased government interference and regulations into businesses. Pestulant hypocrites.


3 people like this
Posted by leaf blower
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:23 am

lots of noise but no answer from anyone about --WHAT does a leaf blower actually accomplish?? the only thing we can tell--is to get the leaves and other off one's property onto another or into the street---all great--until the neighbor's leaf blower blows right back where it came from. WHAT is being accomplished-=-other than paying leaf blowers to do WHAT??


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Posted by sparty 2
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:33 am

yes, Sparty-- make fun of a very serious situation that could be solved with diligence and will power. here is his response

"along the same lines, there would be no drug cartel or drug crimes, if we simply stopped using drugs. problem solved--"

Excellent point. And if we made it illegal for anyone to own anything but one jumpsuit--the same design as everyone elses, it there would be no thievery because there would be nothing to steal.

do you have any idea how many lives are lost, ruined, gone for ever due to drugs? do you have any idea how many billions of dollars are spent buying drugs, selling drugs, and stopping drug crimes? do you know how many innocent children are enticed into buying their first "hit" of some minor drug--its ok, its cool, everyone does it? these lives are ruined forever. do you know how many hooked people are trying to quit after coming to the horrendous realization as to how low their lives have gotten? let's see, i wonder if the same can be said for your one jump suit? this isn't about stealing a jump suit--it is about lives being lost forever--either dead or wandering hopelessly. BIG DIFFERENCE!! it starts with one decision maker at a time--an individual (no matter what age) to stand up and say "NO" to drugs, and then another and another--whether these are leaders, parents, children, or... instead of the blase attitude--its ok everyone else does it. we don't see cartels running around selling jump suits. if lives dont matter to you--then keep doing what you are doing.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Leaf blower

Accomplish: Get debris out to where a rake or broom can be used without damage to drip irrigation or bushes, or humans (YOU reach into my rose bushes :) and you will change the tune fast).
BTW Rakes or Brooms are NOT recommended to clean leaves off of roofs. Blower, toward the edge only, is OK)

Note: Leaving Yard Debris in the street is illegal. So is dumping onto others property without permission (Right!).
My (now mostly unused because it is brown) Lawnmower has been Electric since 1973. Electric line trimmer (replaced a Bladed edger) and an Electric Blower, even an Electric Chainsaw, are also frequently used.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ SteveU - roofs, lawns, and gardens predate leaf blowers by several millennia and cleaning hasn't required a leaf blower until recently. We deal with drip irrigation and rose bushes and rakes without issues. Bury the water line, and be careful with the rake where it is above ground.


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2015 at 11:35 am

The gas-powered leaf blower ban in residential neighborhoods in PA was passed by the city council as "complaint based"...which is code, by our council, for non-enforcement. If PAPD was told to just ticket them, when they see them (even without a prior complaint), this problem would have ended years ago. There was never any serious intention by our council to ban the blowers. They still don't.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 22, 2015 at 11:43 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Before leaf blowers people used to hose down walkways and driveways - require less noisy leaf blowers and then move on.


14 people like this
Posted by Lucy
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Palo Altans have become the most whiney people I've ever met. I've lived here 50+ years and the sound of leaf blowers aren't bringing the quality of life down, it's the people who live here.


6 people like this
Posted by Stanley
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Lucy and Bunyip have said it best!!Thank You!

Time to start putting your energy into something a little more important.....Get a grip on reality


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2015 at 5:59 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Create a system where a person who regularly sees these violators to have a DEPUTY STATUS that allows an actual ARREST AND DETAINER CAPABILITY. That was why we had DEPUTIES IN THE FIRST PLACE! There goes the PAPD excuse for non-enforcement of existing law!
The Santa Clara County Sheriff has that capability, if they would get off their butts and enforce existing laws!
Colorado has several types of special deputies. They can even write tickets that fine the handicapped space abusers! These volunteer people use police radar speed guns to document speeders in residential areas and around school zones. BTW, Golden had a dummy squad car that got posted in high speed violation areas!( Yes where Coors beer is made )Since the PAPD claims to not have the people to keep those extra squad cars busy, why not do the same thing Golden does!

I note that there are some yuppies out there that do not take their CITIZENSHIP DUTIES seriously. Maybe a course in CIVICS is needed before they are allowed to live anywhere in the U.S., especially in Palo Alto.

( I could say something inflammatory about ILLEGAL ALIENS here but I won't waste my breath )

Remember, every law that is not enforced breaks down every other law...and we are supposed to be a Nation of Laws, not Men.


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2015 at 8:19 am

Ye all are just blowing hot air unless you adopt the Santa Monica solution. No cops involved at all, just money coming in and an end of the problem. So first fine the home owners. Then send out violations based on cell phone evidence from the neighbors. Accused perps can request court dates to contest the ticket and the folks who sent in the pictures would have to testify they took the pictures. Repeat offenders would get BIG fines. Problem solved.


3 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

The Palo Alto school district still uses them at our public schools during school hours when children are there. I doubt your going to see much change in residential neighborhoods as long as they are ok to use at schools. They are also used extensively on weekends by the work corps sent to the schools for community service.


1 person likes this
Posted by darn near deaf.....
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 23, 2015 at 11:11 pm

I almost got evicted from our apartment as I had to stay on calling the police to get them to respond to my noise complaint...actually it was a combination of the gardener using the loud leaf blower (and having to wash my car once a week) and the use of the blower blowing the gas fumes right into my apartment windows and doors. I had to leave my apartment as the fumes were all consuming, leaving me gasping for air. I complained to the police, the managers also. The managers got mad at me for complaining and having to respond to the police and threatned to evict me. I am not an habitual complainer, but I sure had to complain that I couldn't breathe! The managers finally had to tell the gardeners to use their apartment electricity for the leaf blowers...obviously made them upset all the more but they finally conceded. It now has been 4 years ago and I noticed the gardeners are using the gas blowers again....oh brother.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Folks, the real power behind the gardeners (I prefer lawn janitors) is the real-estate industry. The gardeners are contemptuous of the PACC's ordinance, because the real-estate industry holds the servile PACC in contempt.


2 people like this
Posted by Ban The Blowers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2015 at 9:34 am

>> "Folks, the real power behind the gardeners (I prefer lawn janitors) is the real-estate industry."

Huh? How is the real estate industry (which, btw, includes practically everyone in the city) responsible for gardeners using blowers?


1 person likes this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 24, 2015 at 9:49 am

I'm happy to see that most people on this post are not only against gas leaf blowers, but ALL leaf blowers.

I don't see why some folks are spending a lot of time on this post to denigrate posters that would rather not breathe all the kicked up dust. Leaf blowers are easier than raking but are unnecessary. By the way @Stanley, most 3rd world places use a rake!

A good gardener could clear leaves nearly fast as one using a blower. Gardeners would adapt and would charge more if the market would bear it. Not much to pay for clean air and quieter environment.


6 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 24, 2015 at 10:16 am


Contact me to make something happen - noblowers@hmamail.com
Here is what I propose.

1. All citations should go to the home occupant. Never to the gardener. I guarantee the home occupant will then educate and instruct the gardener to rake.

2. Any city official, but especially police should be able to hang a citation on the home occupant's door by seeing the violation while passing by.

3. Maybe, any photos showing a leaf blower used on a property should be enough for a home occupant citation. This would take care of the problem that gardener is gone before a citation is issued.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Can I be cited for witnessing a crime and not reporting it?
Can I be cited for witnessing a code violation and not reporting it?


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Posted by Reason
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 24, 2015 at 1:22 pm

"The Palo Alto school district still uses them at our public schools during school hours when children are there. I doubt your going to see much change in residential neighborhoods as long as they are ok to use at schools. "

Snort. Good luck getting the school district to care about health issues concerning what children breath.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2015 at 1:40 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
2 minutes ago

Can I be cited for witnessing a crime and not reporting it?
Can I be cited for witnessing a code violation and not reporting it?

In several states, YOU CAN BE CITED for not reporting a crime you witnessed. There are also laws that require a citizen to act as a Good Samaritan and protects the citizen from any actions because they followed that Good Samaritan law.

On code violations: check with the HOA involving the property. Since HOAs are the SS of our time, it maye be A REQUIREMENT as part of your responsibilities as a resident of your HOA. You might have to INFORM ON YOUR NEIGHBORS, just like the SS REQUIRED a German Citizen to do even before WWII even started . And you don't even get to wear a spiffy black uniform with lightning runes and death's heads on your collar.


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Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 24, 2015 at 5:19 pm

If you would like to get involved in getting rid of leaf blowers in Palo Alto, please get in touch with me at noblowers@hmamail.com

Even if you do not wish to actively participate, we could keep you alerted to progress on this issue.
I will not use your email address in a mass mailing, just to get back to you.


2 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Aug 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm

So today, while walking to work on a residential street, a city contracting tree cutting service was using gas powered blowers full throttle. Let me repeat, city contracted tree service.


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Posted by TSpoon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 25, 2015 at 9:34 am

Our gardeners have been using an electric blower for nearly 10 years, and they really don't blow much other than magnolia leaves from the city trees. I think I can honestly say that every other yard service in our neighborhood uses gas blowers.

Leaf blower ordinance isn't enforced, parking on wrong side of street, or the huge amount of delivery trucks illegally parking is not enforced, cell phone driving will never be actively enforced, biking violations will never be enforced. Construction noise and hours will never be enforced. We just deal with these things being unpleasant, and maintain our skepticism when people start talking about enforcing something, or passing a new ordinance to deal with parking issues or what not.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 25, 2015 at 10:49 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The cities where gas blowers bans have been highly successful have been cities where the fine is much higher than a $100(after three warnings), and where the homeowners, not the gardeners, pay the fine. In those cities, police officers issue the citation on the spot, unlike Palo Alto, where only a resident's complain will initiate(or not) the process.

Palo Alto was never serious about enforcing the ordinance.


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Posted by Alan
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm

It wasn't long after the ordinance went into effect that I started seeing city gardeners blowing the square in front of city hall with an electric blower plugged into a gasoline powered generator. Over the years I have seen them several times, and several at other locations in the residental area around downtown.

But, we're the city, the rules don't apply to us.


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Posted by Irish2U
a resident of Palo Verde School
on May 21, 2017 at 10:20 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

I hate to resurrect comments on an old article, but I wanted to ask why the city has laws against gas-powered leaf blowers if almost NONE of the gardeners in the city follow the law (even years after the laws were passed)?

The gardeners who service our apartment almost ALWAYS use gas-powered blowers. It is terrible for us in the mornings because we use window fans and the fumes from the blowers flood inside (and have, on two occasions, set off our smoke detector).

According to Edmunds, gas-powered leaf blowers emit more fumes than trucks and cars.

Web Link

It seems that this is the case nearly everywhere around Palo Alto. Almost every time that I see a gardener in a residential neighborhood using a leaf blower, it is gas-powered. My husband has spoken with the gardeners and they initially pretended that they cannot speak English. So, he conversed with them in Spanish. They claim that the law only applies to certain times of the day.

If the city wants to enforce this law that they've passed, then they need to contact each and every gardening company. They need law enforcement (like the meter maids) to travel through neighborhoods in order to levy infractions against those who violate such laws. The city needs a telephone number by which we can inform the city about those who violate the law -- and which the city will contact those companies.


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