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November 29, 2009

Should Walnut Creek ban leaf blowers? What do you think about them?

It's a timely question to ask, now that many of our streets, walkways, lawns, and gardens are carpeted by newly fallen leaves. How do we address what some of view as a blight on carefully landscaped yards? Or what can definitely be a safety hazard—as when a layer of leaves left on a walkway becomes wet and slippery from rain?

Some of us get out our gas-powered leaf blowers, or hire guys who have these gas-powered blowers, to come out and clean up the mess.

One reader who lives in the Northgate area is not wild about leaf blowers. In fact, this reader, who works at home, has been driven—if not crazy in suburbia, then into fits of irritation—by the incredibly loud noise these machines make when they are being used to clean up neighbors' yards.

"My complaint is noise," writes this reader, who shall go by the name Leif Earacheson. "Most leaf blowers produce a penetrating, irritating, and grating, noise. There is nothing else like it – not freeways, garbage trucks, lawn mowers, chainsaws, low flying planes, garage bands, or Harleys. ... Every weekday there are various gardeners who come and violate the peace in the valley."

Mr. Earacheson contacted me to find out if others in Walnut Creek are similarly irritated--or driven crazy--by leaf blowers. He also shared his contact with Mayor Gary Skrel about the issue. It doesn't sound like the city is inclined to deal with it:
“The City discussed banning them in 2006 during the preparation of General Plan 2025," Skrel wrote Mr. Earacheson (or, it would probably be easier to write, "Leif.). "And it was acknowledged that, since the Bay Area Air Quality Management District continues to permit the use of leaf blowers throughout our region, the City of Walnut Creek will also allow their use...”

Leif has done considerable research that shows that a number of cities around the state have come to recognize leaf blowers as major pollutants of the noise and air—and have passed ordinances limiting or banning their use. Those cities include, according to Leif: Belvedere, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Carmel, Claremont, Del Mar, Indian Wells, Laguna Beach, Lawndale, Los Altos, Malibu, Mill Valley, Piedmont, Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, West Hollywood, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Sunnyvale.

I had no idea about what pollutants leaf blowers could be before Leif sent me his “dossier.”

Here’s some key points about the hazards of leaf blowers, from a document, posted on NoNoise.org. This document discusses the situation in Sacramento, our state’s capital, but it could also apply to Walnut Creek as well. This document also provides scientific and public policy statements regarding the hazards of leaf blowers.


In Sacramento’s General Plan, the normally acceptable ambient noise level in residential areas is no more than 60 decibals; levels higher than 70 decibals represents an unacceptable level.

The average blower measures 70-75 dB at 50 feet according to a manufacturer's lobbyist , thus louder at any closer distance. Leaf blowers are routinely used less than 50 feet from unconsenting pedestrians and neighboring homes that may be occupied by home workers, retirees, day sleepers, children, the ill or disabled, and pets.


Noise seems to be a form of pollution that we often overlook, when we’re considering the quality of our drinking water or energy use. But, according to this same site, “Noise interferes with communication, sleep, and work. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says noise degrades quality of life by impairing communication and social interaction; reducing the accuracy of work, particularly complex tasks; and creating stressful levels of frustration and aggravation that last even when the noise has ceased."


Besides noise pollution, leaf blowers also contribute to air pollution: “Leaf blower motors are inordinately large emitters of CO, NOx, HC, and PM. … Two-stroke engine fuel is a gasoline-oil mixture, thus especially toxic. Particles from combustion are virtually all smaller than PM2.5. According to the American Lung Association, a leaf blower causes as much smog as 17 cars.

As Leif asked, what do you think about leaf blowers? And about leaf blowers in Walnut Creek?

Personally, I had never seriously considered the nuisance and polluting factors of leaf blowers until Leif shared his research. I’m usually never at home when neighbors have their landscapers, who regularly use leaf blowers, come to clean up their yards. I’m at work. I understand wanting to have a leaf-free walkway, for safety reasons, especially if the resident is elderly. But wouldn't a rake do just as well for that purpose?


Another thing I don’t understand: This need people have to blow the leaves off their lawns or out of their shrubs and flower beds. Does it hurt the grass or those plants to have them covered with leaves? Could the decaying leaves actually provide natural and useful nutrients? My father always thought so. He tended to let the leaves stay.


Gardening experts? Please chime in.




Personally, I like seeing a carpet of leaves covering a lawn or shrubs. It makes me think of the beauties of autumn. If the leaves don’t hurt the underlying vegetation, then I suspect that people’s need to have pristine, leaf-free lawns, even in the heavy leaf fall of autumn, is another one of those interesting examples of human beings needing to control nature. Even if it means using an air and noise polluting leaf blower to do so.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should read eastbaydaze.com,
orinda, lafayette, moraga have 8 BANNED days.

Im all for "rake those leaves"

Anonymous said...

Now Hiring: Experienced leaf blower. Suckers need not inquire.

Anonymous said...

I DESPISE leaf blowers!!! The landscape service at the Walnut Place complex where I own uses them on a regular basis, and condos up the street from this complex also have them. They are horrible! The noise is incredible, and the smelly fumes from them are also bad.

I would love to see Walnut Creek BAN leaf blowers. They're bad for the environment and detract from people's quality of life.

LeftCoast said...

They area loud annnoying pain in the ass, especially when used by gardening services who do little more than use them to blow leaves off the client property onto everyone elses. Seriously, how often do you see someone with a blower using it to get the leaves into a pile so they can bag them? I thought so. Ban them, a rake is a wonderful tool.

Anonymous said...

LEAF BLOWERS ARE INVASIVE. THE NOISE THEY CREATE INVADES YOUR SOUNDSCAPE. THE AIR POLLUTION THEY CREATE INVADES YOUR LUNGS, NOSE AND EYES. THE POLLUTION THEY CREATE MAKES MY ALLERGIES WORSE. THEY MAKE ME RETREAT INSIDE MY HOUSE AND EVEN THERE I CAN HEAR THEM SOMETIMES. THIS IS A QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUE! BAN LEAFBLOWERS!

Anonymous said...

the leaf blower people in MANY cases just blow the leaves into the street, or down the sidewalk to the next property. Nice huh?

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

The leaf blower people blow the leaves down the street, then the neighbor down the street hires another leaf blower guy (or gal) to blow them further down the street.

Its a comspiracy. The leaf blower people bank, I mean really BANK on this season of money-making opportunity.

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

I despise leaf blowers. It will be a nice day in our town when they finally ban them. Noise. Nuisance. All of the above.

Anonymous said...

The information below (from Soccer Mom's post) makes me curious where the Bay Area Air Quality Management District gets its mandate, its marching orders, so to speak. Isn't this the same agency that gets after people for using their fireplaces on still nights, due to air quality concerns? If fireplace use can be against the law, why can't use of leafblowers?

“The City discussed banning them in 2006 during the preparation of General Plan 2025," Skrel wrote Mr. Earacheson (or, it would probably be easier to write, "Leif.). "And it was acknowledged that, since the Bay Area Air Quality Management District continues to permit the use of leaf blowers throughout our region, the City of Walnut Creek will also allow their use...”

Anonymous said...

Gas leaf blowers are noisy and they stink. I hate them!

I was given a small electric leaf blower. It's much quieter, and doesn't stink. But I still end up raking a lot of leaves up. Some I can use for mulch, but some end up in the green toter. I do not blow leaves into the street or onto other people's property.

Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek can have my leaf blower when they pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

Anonymous said...

No, don't ban them. How about some controls on them? I use our electric leaf blower every week this time of year, sometimes daily. With a bad back, there is no way I can rake the leaves. But the electric one is quieter and I usually use it late in the afternoon, between 3 and 4. We have a lot of trees and leaves that cover our sidewalk and driveway, so we have to clear it for safety. We then reverse the blower to suck up and mulch the leaves and put them into our compost pile.

I have no problem with our neighbors gardners using them either, noise is a part of life in a city. But I agree, the electric ones are better, less polluting and less noise.

Anonymous said...

They make working from home a pretty miserable experience. Very hard to focus and concentrate with all the noise, even with every window closed (and we have double-pane windows).

I can't imagine trying to get a baby to nap when they're going and my neighbors and their gardeners are always using them. I liken it to someone parking outside your home and honking the horn multiple times over the course of an hour. Plus the pollution. I've always raked and swept and it's good exercise and I don't mind it.

Anonymous said...

I had to let go my landscaper last year when the economy tanked. We bought a cheap, hand-push lawnmower for our small patch of grass and we get out the push broom to keep the drive and walkways clear. The rest of the yard is naturally mulched to keep down the weeds. I think the autumn leaves look lovely right where they are.

It's also healthier all around.

Anonymous said...

Agree that gas leaf blowers should be banned but allow electric, especially for those who are physically unable to rake their leaves. We have closed our double pane windows and still we are annoyed and have left the house on more than one occasion to escape the noise from one neighbor who seems to use his almost daily to blow a few leaves off his driveway. One neighbor has electric and we barely hear it.

Maybe its time for a petition to the city.

Anonymous said...

ban them

Anonymous said...

If the electric ones are quieter, then let's ban the noisy ones and like Orinda, have days when all of these noisy contraptions (even lawn mowers?) are FORBIDDEN...but then, for those who choose to ignore the law or are unaware of it, do we call our already overburdened polce force to enforce the law?

Masterlock said...

Leaves left on grass for extended periods of time will kill the grass underneath by limiting the amount of sun it gets.

Anonymous said...

I'd support banning them. My neighbor's gardeners always blow their leaves onto our yard. It p*sses me off.

Anonymous said...

Ban Em Dano! We live off Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek and have several neighbors that use them every Saturday morning starting at 7 am. They are noisy and smelly. Ban fireplaces and outdoor fires too. Several of our neighbors burn fires all the time. (I don't think they know about the spare the air days) Cough Cough

Anonymous said...

I agree that they are very annoying. I often see people blowing their leaves from their property onto other peoples property, or into the street.

At least place time restrictions.

Anonymous said...

There are some gas powered blowers that seem a lot quieter than others, so maybe this should be addressed by a noise ordinance.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea about a noise ordinance. Could force a move to electric ones (if quieter) or to quieter gas ones. I've also read that if people who operate the gas ones would just do so in a certain way, the decibel range would be greatly reduced. Still would have the darn gas fume problems and the pollution from the gas models, though. So, hmm, that puts me back to a version of my original thought: BAN the GAS blowers at the very least. (Electric blowers are on probation. Heh.)

Anonymous said...

anon 1:51, are your leafblowing neighbors within WC city limits? If so, I'm pretty sure that they are in violation of existing noise ordinances at that hour of the morning on weekends. You might want to check.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say electric leaf blowers aren't much quieter, and blow all the toxic dust back into the air just like gas-powered blowers. Most of the noise from leaf blowers is from the air movement (from 150 to 220 mph)!

Anonymous said...

Electric Leaf Blower video: Starting at 50 feet, sound measured on a lab-grade decibel meter...starts at 75 db and as operator approaches camera, sound increases to almost 100db! Each 10db increase multiplies the loudness by a factor of ten. So in this case, the noise is over 300 times louder close up, as compared to from 50 feet away! At 50 feet away, 75 db, noise is 1,000times louder than normal conversation (45 db)!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paF1KOVaPgo

Anonymous said...

such horse crap. Ban this, ban that, make a law for this make a law for that. If you want to come broom sweep my drive way, drive way frontage, 1000sq foot back deck, be my guest. I will happily stop using my electric blower. I have kids and if it saves me 45 minutes blowing instead of sweeping to spend time with my kids, I will do it. If you want to ban it on certain days, that ban it on certain days, but an all out ban is stupid.

Anyone try raking pavement?? Works great right. So stop bitching about "noise pollution" You want to bitch about something, bitch about the cars that have loud exhausts that race uncontrollable up and down my street. (2x if not 3x a day) Oh.. and the motorcycles crotch rockets guys who also race. WCPD does not speed trap, too busy keeping the shoppers happy downtown.

2 cycle engines are all the same. Lawn mower, weedeater, leaf blower, motorized skateboards.

And if you read closely, there are gas blowers that below 65 db(a).

http://www.galttech.com/research/household-DIY-tools/best-leaf-blower.php

Basically, there has to be a happy medium between whats loud and whats useful for home/property owners to keep their dwellings neat, clean and safe. Leaves that are not cleaned up can cause issue for everyone. (do we really need to create a list or state the obvious?)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've got a real cleanup mess on your hands there, ole boy. Tell you what- you can use whatever means you like to take care of those nasty leaves- just don't infringe on my right to the the quiet enjoyment of my property, especially while I rake and broom. In other words, keep your toxic dust, and your wanton and unnecessary noise, on your own property - and we'll all get along splendidly.

Anonymous said...

@9:11pm "I have kids and if it saves me 45 minutes blowing instead of sweeping to spend time with my kids, I will do it."

Or you could spend that 45 minutes outside in the yard playing with your kids as you rake. Some of my happiest childhood memories come from crisp autumn afternoons spent "helping" my Dad rake the leaves. I'm sure we also spent time watching TV, or playing educational board games, or having deep conversations, but the sounds of the rake, the smell of the leaves, and our general happiness at being outside together are the only things that are still with me.

Lisa Mc said...

Yes, 9:11PM, I have had good experiences raking leaves with my kid and we met a bunch of kids from the neighborhood who wanted to come over and help as well. They all became friends with my son and we had a good time raking leaves on a regular basis. Not saying it's for everyone, but we had a big yard and lots of trees (up near Portland) so I appreciated all the helpers. BTW, excessive noise is damaging to children's ears, which are developing and are hyper-sensitive to loud decibels.

Anonymous said...

I approached one of my neighbor's gardeners about blowing their leaves onto my property and leaving a mound of leaves at their next door neighbors property and he became enraged and belligerent. I also approached my next door neighbor's gardener about blowing all the dry leaves and dust etc. over the fence like a dust storm into my yard, where it all landed on my bunny's kennel and polluted my air, making a mess in my yard. He was belligerant as well. Why are we bringing this element into our neighborhoods?

Our neighbors are otherwise respectful of each other's privacy and this contradicts the most basic form of courtesy toward each other.

So many people have issues with this noise as seen in these blogs, that a petition should be initiated to reconsider the last decision made to permit them. A meeting needs to be held with the city nuisance representatives about this.

Anonymous said...

If you want to view the most shocking and informative video about the health dangers caused by leaf blowers, go to www.zapla.org and check out the short video. Their website was started 12 years ago and the group helped to enact a ban throughout L.A. county (no gas leaf blowers with 500 feet of a residence). Full of good research material and links as well..

5th Gen Walnut Creek said...

Crazy, Great Article and some great posts.
The CA-ARB regulations ordered vessel engine manufacturers to build cleaner emission engines meeting increasingly strict standards with steps in 2001, 2004, and 2008. http://www.dbw.ca.gov/Environmental/TwoStroke/TSxp.aspx
Mfg's first reaction was to stop selling two stroke motors, now they are building cleaner version.
I can see the same law being applied to Gas Blowers!!
Hopefully, they will add mufflers as well.

To the guy with the 1000sf deck, Don't you wish you had a 1000sf of mulch - Zero maintenance, better for the environment.

Anonymous said...

The City of Walnut Creek already has a noise ordinance which governs use of leaf blowers and other equipment it states in part;

4-6.203 Prohibited Noises Enumerated.
As used in this article, loud, excessive or unreasonable noise shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(omitted sections a. thru f.)


g. Maintenance Equipment. The use and operation of any noise-creating commercial or residential landscaping or home maintenance equipment or tools including, but not limited to, hammers, blowers, trimmers, mowers, chainsaws, power fans or any engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, other than between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. (§1, Ord. 1753, eff. November 8, 1990)

Chair Education Committee said...

With all the attempted leaf blower legislation going on around the country, I've just seen your article. I'd love to credit you for creating the pseudonym Leif Earacheson. What a laugh! (write with your name if you like) Was glad to see someone gave our site in his comments. See there, why electric blowers are not as good as rakes/brooms. http://www.zapla.org/present/dwptest.html AND, they blow up same debris, particulate matter as gas blowers!

Anonymous said...

Hi I am from MA. I read the posts from last year about the leaf blower noise in your community AND I CAN RELATE AND I AM IN THE GARDENING BUSINESS!! I plan and create gardens of all kinds for people, I maintain them too, all without loud and annoying blowers, leaf vacuums and weed trimmers. These "tools" are hideous. I love being outdoors so I can listen to the birds, hear the spring peepers, and perhaps just hear nothing at all for a change!! I am insulted by the noise of these machines and wonder if there is a group that is leaning on the manufacturers of such things to REQUIRE them to produce these products with mufflers that nearly silence them.
The constant high pitch whining and loud low growling are non stop in every suburb in the metro Boston area. IT is time this aggravating noise to stop. Please tell me what you did in your communities to help alleviate this problem. P.S. People used to RAKE beds, and lawns, now they are too lazy, they just grab a blower!!

Anonymous said...

Walnut Heights Pool the leaf blower starts EVERY MONDAY at 0700 and stays on for an hour! I live across the street and get woken up every MONDAY at 0700...called the Sheriff to complain...told them there MUST BE A NOISE ORDINANCE, this is a residential neighborhood! LOL! I am from Marin. We had a noise ordinance. Walnut Creek needs to get one!

Anonymous said...

RE POST:

The City of Walnut Creek already has a noise ordinance which governs use of leaf blowers and other equipment it states in part;

4-6.203 Prohibited Noises Enumerated.
As used in this article, loud, excessive or unreasonable noise shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

(omitted sections a. thru f.)


g. Maintenance Equipment. The use and operation of any noise-creating commercial or residential landscaping or home maintenance equipment or tools including, but not limited to, hammers, blowers, trimmers, mowers, chainsaws, power fans or any engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, other than between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. (§1, Ord. 1753, eff. November 8, 1990)

ascotsgranny said...

Aren't there any existing environmental laws that could be enforced to ban gas leaf blowers? It's the toxic fumes that bother me ... six days a week!! I paid $130 to have my windows cleaned lately, only to have them covered in dust and fumes the next day. Perhaps homeowners should start working from the bottom up since the top-down approach doesn't seem to be effective ... DEMAND YOUR GARDNER TO USE ELECTRIC OR BATTERY OPERATED LEAF BLOWERS, WITH MUCH LIMITATION, then USE RAKES and brooms for the rest ... the gardners would want paid more if it takes more time, so what would they have to complain about? Or, a neighborhood could get together to purchase battery operated leaf blowers for everyone's gardner to share! What do you think?

Anonymous said...

LOOK AT THIS
Amazing service! No Gas Blowers and No Gas Mowers.
In Van Nuys CA, why not in Walnut Creek?
818-755-4647
http://www.gogreengardeners.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Go-Green-Gardeners/109975005709974?sk=wall

Anonymous said...

My Neighbors gardener has the worst polluting gas blower ever. He used to stand for half an hour blowing all the dust through the gaps in the fence and covered my side yard, house, windows - In through the open windows with dust. After repeated discussions and requests for using a vacuum with both the gardener and my neighbor - no results. One day I was hosing it all off my windows and they came by. I found that a circular wall of mist/water can block a lot of the dust and exhaust. But I'd have to be there every day. Finally, one day, I turned the hose to stream and directed at the gardener, yeah I know sounds mean. But it's just water, not toxic, not a pollutant, not dirty sooty or cancer causing. It actually took a few times beleive it or not and the gardener would swear at me but it was worth it. NO More GAS LEAF Blower on the side yard next to my house.
So until they go all electric as noted above, we have a zone of Water vs. Exhaust & Dust between us.
I do recommend this tactic to many of the extreme Blower cases above.
They can complain to the City as well, or the courts but I think they would loose.

Anonymous said...

BAN this moronic invention called the leaf blower. It is nothing more than noise pollution... and it can cause people to become very angry and irritated -- dangerous to ones health all around. I live in an apt. and I have complained left and right to no avail... I think Walnut Creek should definitely ban leaf blowers -- use a rake.

muebles de salon said...

Here, I do not really suppose this will have effect.