Letter to the Editor: Please Support the Ban of Leaf-Blowers in San Mateo

A member of the organization Cool Cities of San Mateo explains why the organization feels leaf-blowers are a threat to the community's health, and urges people to sign the petition to support a ban by the City.


Editor's Note: The following article was submitted to Patch by John Ebneter of the organization Cool Cities of San Mateo. The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Patch. To submit an article or letter for publication, please e-mail the editor in the top left corner of the corresponding site.


We are writing to commend Mayor Grotte for his recent proposal to ban the use of all leaf blowers within the City of San Mateo. We are grateful for his bold stance on this important issue and pledge him our full support. 

The reasons to ban all leaf blowers are plentiful: a huge decrease in air quality due to constant churning of dust, pollen and other particulates; obnoxious noise; the spewing of toxic fumes; environmental degradation to the soil; and a detrimental health impact on the operators of the machines.

The negative factors caused by these machines far outweigh any benefits they purport to bring to society. 

We have spoken with hundreds of San Mateo residents who also passionately oppose the use of leaf blowers in our community. We have been told numerous stories of having dust blown into their windows, incidences of watching someone blow leaves and dirt from the adjoining property onto theirs, the disturbance to their daily lives by the noise and reduction of air quality, and the disturbance their young children experience when the leaf blower is being used.

It is true leaf blowers subsidize cheaper gardening services. However, the right of homeowners to save a little money each month should not come at the cost of the health of their neighbors. 

San Mateo promotes itself as an environmentally sound city with an image of being sustainably responsible. If this is in fact the case, it is time to put words into action and become an environmental leader by banning leaf blowers outright.

The entire city council, not just Mayor Grotte, needs to demonstrate that they understand the threat leaf blowers pose to the health and well-being of the community. 

If you support this position please go to Change.org, search for and sign the petition on the “Ban of Leaf Blowers in San Mateo,” and your message will be delivered directly to the mayor, city council and appropriate city officials. 


Thank you,

Cool Cities of San Mateo

d wave September 04, 2012 at 03:47 PM
I helped with a few petitions and got feedback from neighbors in Burlingame. We really need to find out what worked and didn't work in other California cities. The zone thing as an example - means that if a gardener misses on one tuesday (rain, illness) they must wait one week. Also - requiring 4 stroke engines right off the cuff was expensive and mostly benefited the leaf blower salesmen. A previous post on patch from the editor had some sensible comments too. Asking gardeners (public works employees, janitors at apts and commercial buildings) for their input on lowering the number of hours voluntarily should be a part of our consultative approach; for example running at lower speeds, and using electric blowers, and phasing in sweeping machines. I think that an all-out ban is unrealistic, impractical and probably not enforceable. The big issues are turbidity (the permanent dust that remains in the air and coats windows, cars, and worsens asthma); noise; air pollution; and destruction of the soil (microbes, worms, additional watering because of hard soil). Much of this is going to count on changing the types of gardens - and our habits as consumers - instead of simply eliminating a single piece of equipment.
L Atkinson September 04, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Switching to electric blowers will not eliminate the issues of noise and air pollution or the degradation of the soil. By eliminating a "single piece of equipment" maybe we can begin changing consumers mindset about alternative gardens.
DanC September 04, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Here we go again. This comes up from time to time; a few years ago the City of Burlingame wanted to fine the operators of leaf blowers $1000 per infraction, NOT the home owner who hired that person. Do ya get it? It's not about the machines themselves, it's about the people who operate those machines.
Dennis L September 04, 2012 at 09:02 PM
The use of all leaf blowers are not only a nuisance but also pose very detrimental effects on the environment and health of the public at large. A complete ban is the only viable way to stop the soil degradation and accumulation of hazardous dust in the air we breathe. I support an all out ban and hope the city will take it upon themselves to be leaders in this important step forward. Dennis L
Bren September 04, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Leaf blowers serve no useful purpose at all. Whatever happened to using a rake? I look forward to the day when those noisy monstrosities are banned everywhere.
DanC September 05, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Bren - Rakes work on lawns only. Leaf blowers work on concrete, rocks, around trees, in fact, any uneven surface where rakes don't work.
Bren September 06, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Then use a broom or your hands or just accept the fact that there are going to be leaves in places where you don't want them. Those leaves harm nobody. Leaf blowers, on the other hand, are demonstrably harmful.
DanC September 06, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Whaddya mean "you"!
Bren September 06, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Well back to your original point, Dan, I would be perfectly OK with fining homeowners instead of fining the gardeners who use the leaf-blowers. I won't discount out of hand the notion that there may be some component of racial, cultural, or classist prejudice to this issue, but I don't think that's the central issue. My mother, like a lot of people, is very badly affected by noise. She's hypersensitive to it. When a leaf-blower is being operated near her, I believe she experiences something like physical pain. And I don't even want to think about how leaf-blowers affect people with autism. Those machines yield almost no tangible benefit to society, but they do degrade the quality of life in the communities where they're used, and that's true regardless of the skin color or socioeconomic status of the person wielding that infernal device.
Megan Fluke Medeiros September 06, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Thank you John, San Mateo Cool Cities, and San Mateo decision makers and staff for all your hard work on this excellent proposal. It may not be THE answer to climate change and a better natural environment but it is ONE of many answers.
John Mario Chetcuti September 12, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Ebneter has not demonstrated or presented objective research that leaf blowers pose a public health threat. We want public policy based on facts not scare tactics and opinion. As pointed out several times in the California EPA(CEPA) report to the California Legislature, a cost/benefit analysis of leaf blowers and alternatives need to performed before considering restrictions or bans. Until an impartial and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis is presented, it is extremely unfair to pass restrictions based only on biased opinions about the value or worth of leaf blowers. Blanket restrictions are unfair since the issue lies with the individual use or misuse of leaf blowers. Most of the public nuisance is being created by operators who run leaf blowers full blast all day long . I run a seperate business from others and pay my own business tax to the city of San Mateo. I should be held individually responsible for the operation of my business, and not for the misconduct of other operators.
Bren September 12, 2012 at 01:32 PM
First of all, I don't need a study to know that my mother, who is hypersensitive to noise, is very badly affected by leaf blowers. Having one around is like an assault on her nervous system. Is there some reason she should endure that torture so some idiot can use a machine which yields no tangible benefit to anybody anywhere? Secondly, it is ironic that you call for a studies, yet make the claim, "Most of the public nuisance is being created by operators who run leaf blowers full blast all day long." Do you have a study or data to support that claim? I have never seen anybody run a leaf blower "all day long," and I question whether most leaf blowers have any setting other than "full blast." The damage those devices do to the quality of life in my neighborhood has nothing to do with anybody running them all day long. The users of leaf blowers ruin our tranquility in little chunks, but the cumulative effect of their assaults is not negligible.


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