Recently San Mateo Mayor Brandt Grotte has come out publicly for banning leaf blowers in our city, according to a Daily Journal article.
I can understand his dislike of the contraptions. They are noisy, when used improperly blow dust about, and are many times (though not all) gas powered thus emitting pollutants.
So, Mr. Mayor, I have a couple of questions:
- Will we be banning street sweeping vehicles? They blow more dust around than you would believe. In fact, it requires me to use precious water resources to clean after their twice monthly visit. In fact, if you happen to be out walking on the adjacent sidewalk, you are covered in dust as the sweeper moves by. And they are very noisy.
- This means the city does not use any kind of gas powered blower right? Not even in our parks? After all, we lead by example.
- Is the goal purely to help the residents go green? Or is it about the noise, the interruption of your peace and quiet. As far as going green, I have some input to share later in this opinion piece. The noise is really about courtesy. Rude people with a lack of consideration towards other people are a sad fact in this world. However a ban to help them learn to be polite seems excessive. But please, do continue as we have so much excess money in the coffers to waste on a whim of manners.
If I sound pissy, it is because I am. In San Mateo we have actual crime, actual hunger, actual infrastructure issues. I am paid to write an opinion. My opinion is that the crows screaming from the tree incessantly are a far noisier interruption to my daily life than leaf blowers. However, I don't want them removed. Although I have been known to run outside yelling shoo crow and waiving my arms from time to time, they are part of the flora and fauna of my neighborhood. Sometimes the solution is more annoying for my neighbors than the problem.
Since their development in the 1970s, to a large extent, leaf blowers have supplanted brooms, hoses, and rakes. Leaf blowers even perform functions that no other tool can handle effectively, such as cleaning areas covered by rock, gravel, bark, or mulch.
Leaf blowers save enormous amounts of time. Ignoring the landscaping blogs of the same opinion, I found it took 5 times longer to clean 2 yards with a broom and rake than it does with a power leaf blower.
Time is money. We could reasonably estimate that landscape costs (and therefore charges) would increase if operators must perform the same functions without a leaf blower.
As many landlord clients can’t afford or are not willing to pay for the additional costs of performing lawn and landscape maintenance without leaf blowers. They would either allow their landscapes to deteriorate, do the work themselves, or find companies willing to violate the law. Let's use 25th Avenue for an example, After working on 25th for 20 years I found only 1 landlord even bothers to perform outdoor maintenance and it includes a leaf blower. The Patio Shops Courtyard is cleaned and watered by a hired company each Saturday morning before the local businesses open. I suspect this pride of ownership cost increase would be passed on to the shop renters after a ban.
The leaf blower is an alternative to hosing down walks and driveways with water. Using water in this manner is an unreasonable waste of a precious natural resource. The reality is that people always will take the next easiest course of action when one course of action is closed to them. Hosing down walkways and driveways is much easier, quicker, and more efficient than broom-cleaning those surfaces.
Leaf blowers make no more noise than many other types of power equipment. So if we are serious about the noise reduction, please include chain saws, power saws and the like. I hear those all through the week at my home.
Of course, I acknowledge that leaf blowers can be a nuisance. However, I believe the culprits are good old common courtesy and education of proper use of the equipment. Both problems can be remedied by means other than indiscriminate bans. For example, generally speaking, leaf blowers should be run at half throttle most of the time. Low throttle speeds not only significantly reduce noise, but they also provide the operator with maximum control. Full throttle is seldom necessary.
So in my humble yet loud opinion I add the following:
- Leaf blowers should not be used in residential areas at unreasonable hours — early in the morning or late at night when people are likely to be disturbed.
- Debris should never be blown onto adjacent property, the street, vehicles, people, or pets.
- Leaf blowers should not be used within 10 feet of doors or windows.
- Crews should operate only one leaf blower at a time on small residential sites.
- Rakes or brooms should be used to loosen heavier debris.
- The full nozzle extension should be used so the air stream can work close to the ground.
- The muffler, air intakes, and air filers should be checked routinely to make sure they are working properly.
- Leaf blowers should not be used to move large debris piles from one spot to another.
Most of these common sense suggestions are already covered in our San Mateo City Code.
In closing, let me invite you to my home.
I live on 24th Avenue in a modest house. The yards include a Silk Oak tree, Apple tree, Apricot tree, 2 Hawthorns, 3 Pines, 2 Locust tree, a Crab apple tree, 2 lawns, vegetable beds, flower beds, 2 patios, 1 beehive, and a partridge in a pear tree (Just check to see if you are still awake). I work full time plus write for our San Mateo Patch. My spouse, having recently had 2 bypasses in 5 weeks, is temporarily disabled. I allow my lawns to be mowed every other week. And every other week I allow use of a leaf blower. The landscapers are not allowed to work earlier than 10am and no later than noon. They also sweep and rake.
Without them the overall appearance to my home's front and back yards would deteriorate drastically unless I took up raking in my sleep. (This is where the invite comes in) Unless you are going to come on over and sweep and rake for me...
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