By Sara Hall | NB Indy
Leaf blowers are about to stir up some attention again.
Newport Beach City Council will be reviewing a staff report on leaf blowers and making some sort of decision (which may simply be more review and consideration) at an upcoming Council meeting.
The staff report will include input from members of the public, homeowners associations and landscape companies, said Councilmember Mike Henn. He added that he thought the Council would be reviewing the report for the Sept. 14 meeting.
The primary consideration will be cost, he said.
The report will cover what the financial impact will be on all those affected and whether a ban would be worth it, said Councilmember Nancy Gardner, who sits on the Environmental Quality Affairs Committee. One thing to consider, she added, is whether gardeners would be able to afford to replace all their leaf blowers or not use them at all.
“We don’t want to put a bunch of gardeners out of work,” Gardner said.
The issue was first brought to the city when the Corona del Mar residents association sent out a questionnaire and received many comments against leaf blowers. The main concern is the use of leaf blowers in residential neighborhoods, Henn said, not commercial areas. So when the environmental committee first looked at this issue it focused on residential areas, Gardner said.
The city is “not interested in adding a whole other cost on business owners,” said Henn.
The complaints have ranged from the noise and smell of the machines to the pollutants in the dust being blown about by them.
“I’ve gotten (comments describing them as) a nuisance and a hazard,” said Henn. The hazard, he explained, comes from the pollution they create and the noise emissions.
Some people have allergies to the dust they blow up, Gardner said.
“(There’s) all kind of stuff in the dust,” said Henn, including bacteria, allergens and other pollutants.
A major part of the problem is that some gardeners don’t maintain their equipment, Gardner said, and that makes them even noisier.
“And the smell can be very unpleasant,” she said.
Other than a complete ban, there are few potential options, said Henn. The city could require electric motors or quieter units, he said, but there is still the problem of air pollution and all the dust being kicked up.
“It seems like all or nothing,” Gardner said. She added that she hoped manufacturers will recognize the problem and soon come up with a better product.
Some cities have adopted ordinances limiting the amount of noise at the property line, Henn said, but the problem with that would be measuring the property line and enforcement. Gardner agreed that enforcement of any kind of partial ban would be difficult.
Another alternative is to do a citywide ban and then allow local homeowner associations to opt out. Most of the complaints are coming from CdM, Balboa and other neighborhoods where homes are close to each other. Some of those places have only informal associations and therefore would not be able to opt out, but it might work out, Gardner said, because those are the places with the most problems and are most likely to want the complete ban.
Other suggestions include requiring the blowers to have mufflers or restricting them to large projects only.
“You really need heavy-duty blowers for certain areas,” said Gardner.
The most common argument against the ban is the expense it would cause, Henn said.
A possible financial consequence would be a cost increase to homeowners because gardeners will not be able to landscape as many houses in one day and would need to raise their prices in order to maintain their income and make up that difference, Gardner said. If they didn’t raise the prices, landscaping companies would lose revenue.
Another possible outcome would be that some landscaping companies may leave Newport Beach and go elsewhere if a complete ban is put in place.
If the ban was just on gas leaf blowers there would be the expense for landscaping companies of replacing all their gas units.
Many residents are for some kind of ban or restriction, though, said Henn.
“I would like to see us be able to ban them and go back to sweeping,” said Gardner, who sweeps her own property, but also understands the issue for those who don’t. “I want to be sure we aren’t creating hardships.”