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Palo Alto looks to crack down on gas-powered leaf blowers

Original post made on Feb 2, 2023

Nearly 20 years after Palo Alto adopted a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in residential areas, the appliance and the public opposition to them remain as loud as ever. Now, the city plans to take action.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 2, 2023, 9:30 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 2, 2023 at 10:39 am

Eva_PA is a registered user.

So good to hear that the City is switching to electric blowers by end of year. It's been frustrating to see city workers using gas blowers while fining homeowners. Even now to see the crackdown happening before their transition is complete seems off.

Also, what about commercial requirements? Will business landlords be fined too?

Does anyone know details about the offer for gardeners to trade-in their gas-powered blower to electric? There are great rechargeable units these days. Hopefully it is a rechargable model and not a corded model.

Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2023 at 10:42 am

Sean is a registered user.

Suggestion: The threat of fines for homeowners won't solve the problem unless they are given a good alternative. I have spoken to my own 81-year-old mother about this. She depends on gardeners to help her maintain her garden, and they depend on leaf blowers to do their work cost effectively.

Instead of fines, which creates multiple losers (homeowners and gardeners) the city should offer education and a purchase program for approved electric leaf blowers. The city should buy the devices in bulk and provide them at cost to homeowners so their gardeners can use them instead of their own gas units. We all get a cleaner, quieter environment and everybody wins.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 2, 2023 at 12:03 pm

Rose is a registered user.

PLEASE include all of Palo Alto in the requirement to use electric blowers—not just residential! Mixed use districts and business districts suffer just as much from the awful noise and air pollution.

Posted by Puffin
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Puffin is a registered user.

How about training the RPP personnel to observe and report violations. They drive around the neighborhoods looking for people who have parked for longer than 2 hours, so they must see a lot of gas blowers being used. They probably couldn't cite, but that would help.

Posted by sequoiadean
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 2, 2023 at 12:30 pm

sequoiadean is a registered user.

That's great that Palo Alto is going to improve it's enforcement of it's gas leaf blower ban, and it's right that the property owners should be fined, not the gardeners. I'll bet that the minute a homeowner gets a fine, they'll have the gardener switch to electric immediately.

I've found the best way to get local gardeners to switch from gas to electric is to simply talk to your neighbors about how awful gas leaf blowers are and have them tell the gardeners to switch.

And remember, it's good for the soil to leave the leaves there, or at least not blow every spec of debris from your yard. A rake works wonders for yard cleanup.

Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2023 at 1:05 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

Only reporting infractions observed by police has resulted in very few violators being reported, and is ineffective. Years ago when Palo Alto’s ban was first passed, the city cited violators based on witness reports. Living and walking in Palo Alto back then was peaceful and enjoyable!

Posted by D on R
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2023 at 3:54 pm

D on R is a registered user.

Not only are the gas blowers noisy and bad for the soil, they are bad for the air. They create clouds of dust for tens of feet all around. Electric blowers would do the same. Rakes don't make dust clouds.

Posted by Paloaltojon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Paloaltojon is a registered user.

I add a request to include hedge shears to this initiative. Altho not as numerous nor as frequently used, they are especially loud and, I surmise, even more polluting.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 2, 2023 at 7:56 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Oh thank heavens!

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2023 at 9:35 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

What I expect to happen is that most of the gardeners will stop working and we have untidy looking yards as elderly and busy homeowners won't be able to afford the money the gardeners will charge for the extra time involved or be able to go and do it themselves.

Any teens looking to earn money just might get the opportunity to use a rake and earn some spending cash from neighbors as it used to be done in the past.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2023 at 10:00 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Palo Alto has been saying this for more than a decade. In fact, since they first began a campaign to limit leaf blowers, there have been MORE used.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:04 am

Annette is a registered user.

Time to start selling Love Leaves tee shirts, using rakes for the letter "L".

Posted by Julie Lythcott-Haims
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:49 am

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a registered user.

@Annette I love your creativity. I'd wear that t-shirt!

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 2:14 pm

mjh is a registered user.

During a recent council meeting, new council member Julie Lythcott-Haimes argued that council comments should be briefer and more concise since late meetings had an adverse impact on her personal life. Council member Greg Tanaka backed her up also complaining meetings took too long. However, ironically, and as we have come to expect, last night Tanaka once again jumped in toward the end of the discussion with what seem to be pre-prepared remarks that repetitively belabor points he wants to make ad nauseam while ignoring previous council debate. Including as usual questions to staff they had already been asked and answered, or silly questions to which he must know perfectly well staff cannot answer. While Tenaka usually doesn't participate in debate, I'm not sure he knows the meaning of brief and concise.

Posted by Jerry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2023 at 2:48 pm

Jerry is a registered user.

Cost is a huge factor here. I bought a 40V Ryobi battery-powered leaf blower a year or so ago. It came with a single battery pack. I tested it in my backyard. It was very effective but the battery lasted about 1 hour with continuous usage. So I bought a second battery pack.

The cost of the unit was about $180. The cost of each battery pack is about $80. If your average gardener does 5 houses a day, that's a $580 expenditure. That's more than I pay my gardener per month. Plus the gardener would have to remember to charge all battery packs everyday.

A far better idea than asking your gardener to switch is for the homeowner to purchase the blower/spare battery pack and let your gardener use it when they are at your property. That way your gardener wouldn't have to go bankrupt, as @Online suggests.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2023 at 2:57 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Does the Council think that the Palo Alto Police force have any more time to issue tickets than they did several years ago when this was voted on?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2023 at 3:19 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Mjh, speaking of verbosity and long-winded irrelevant spiels by CC members, I and others were surprised and disappointed to learn that the City Council has nixed the proposal to have an Ask the City Manager session because it would take "too much of CC members' valuable time.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2023 at 6:46 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Sean, I think your proposal to give electric blowers to SFH owners is unfair to MFD owners. Also, it leads to liability issues if a gardener gets injured by a device that the owner asked them to use. Was the injury due to the owner's neglect of the device? I think what you're saying does have some merit though and could be directed to give gardeners a deep discount on non-gas powered blowers.

Non-gas powered blowers only give one benefit, and that is zero emissions. They still make lots of noise, they still blow dust into the air, and they are still a nuisance. I think PA only has as much interest in this issue as ... a landlord registry, after promising to create one over 20 years ago.

You have to look at the bigger picture. After 20 years, if a city refuses to enforce its own ordinances, it just isn't going to happen. But it makes for good campaign fodder. As for CARB being able to enforce a statewide ban ... they are the same agency that allows 40 year old cars to belch smoke and make you gasp for air. They have a website where you can report such a vehicle. You report it, and the report disappears into the ether, much like an elusive gas-blowing gardener.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 8:26 pm

mjh is a registered user.

@Greengables. If I understood correctly, the city has already hired a half-time code enforcement officer dedicated to leaf blower violations, who reported to and responded to council member questions last night about the inadequate process the city has had for pursuing gas leaf blowing violations and how this might be improved upon.

Despite some of the assumptions mentioned above, Council members raised various questions as to how and who should receive notifications of violations as well as the nuances of who should be responsible for paying the fine. Requesting staff to further investigate the ramifications of who should be held accountable and return to them for further consideration of what turns out to be a somewhat thorny issue.

Posted by Eeyore
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 8, 2023 at 10:03 am

Eeyore is a registered user.


I have subscribed to the Ego brand of yard care equipment. I can categorically state that their leaf blower is *much* quieter than the gasoline powered variety and makes no sound when not blowing (no idling of a gas powered engine).

There needs to be a mass mailing to every Palo Alto address outlining the new requirements. Pretty sure all my neighbors will be on board.

Posted by Jim Hols.....
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 8, 2023 at 4:11 pm

Jim Hols..... is a registered user.

Why Can't anyone with a phone take a pic of gas blower violation in progress. The pic would visibly show the violation and property. It also contains digital of time of day and location. Upload the pic to PA app and title holder of property gets a citation. This is similat to red light cameras. No need for an officer.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2023 at 10:36 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

One of the main points for blowing leaves is to clear the street drains of clogging up. We have at the end of the street openings into the below street drains that clears water to the bay during rain. During the recent big rains reports of cities which could not clear the streets of water so had residential flooding. Residential flooding is the end result of clogged up drains which cannot process the water that is coming in. Thank you to the city street cleaners who are trying to clear the debrie and drains under the street.

You can get a blower at Ace hardware that is a battery pack - you do have to keep recharging but you can clear the area for the street cleaner to help clear the area for safe drainage. Maintenenace of your property in a city that has a 100 year flood insurance requirement in specified areas is essential.

Note that we pay for the street cleaner because it is an essential service. The City of EPA has signs on all of it's streets. The City of PA is only partially covered for signage. That is a concession to the overflow parking that occurs on the streets which interfere with good maintenance. Time to fix the signage problem. Residential streets are paying the city here. The commercial entiies need to cover their their parking issues on their own property and on their own dime.

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