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Getting ready to ban gas leaf blowers, Menlo Park works on outreach

A gardener blows leaves, debris and dust out onto Newell Road on July 22, 2015. Photo by Veronica Weber.

When it comes to phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers, landscape professionals don't have much to say about it, according to outreach efforts by the city of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park has a target date of July 1, 2024 to enforce a ban on the use of gas-powered leafblowers and string trimmers, with a ban on other types of gas-powered landscaping equipment starting in January 2029. But first, the Menlo Park City Council asked staff to reach out to stakeholders before making a decision on implementing the new rule and enforcing it.

Staff sent out 102 emails to landscaping professionals in Menlo Park and received only five responses, with one in support of using electric appliances and one opposed. They did not receive a response from the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), but there was information available to the public from the organization.

The city received 107 total responses including other stakeholders such as landowners in Menlo Park. Of these responses, 35 residents already owned electric leafblowers and 19 stated their support for the regulation of gas-powered landscaping equipment.

One resident, Sean van Dril, spoke about the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers on higher density communities.

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"(In a fourplex) the majority of the days of the week, we have landscaping services in a lot adjacent to ours," van Dril said. "Because we have no air conditioning, that means, especially in the summer, we have to close all of our windows. It gets hot, and when we open them we have the smell of exhaust, not to mention all of the dust that's kicked up."

The enforcement would focus on property owners, on whose land the work is being done, rather than the gardeners using the equipment, as is done with noise ordinances. The city is focused on enforcement strategies, as there are vacancies in the city's code enforcement and community officer ranks.

At an Oct. 18 study session meeting, Council member Jen Wolosin proposed the city add an option to its app that would allow residents to notify the city of violations.

Council member Ray Mueller said enforcement should prioritize a system of escalating consequences, so that residents aren't blindsided by a law they've never heard of. Mueller also said that the city should take hardship into account and be flexible in its enforcement.

"We can do all the outreach in the world that we want to do," Mueller said. "I don't think it's going to reach everybody, and I think what's going to end up happening is when we go to implement people are going to hear about for the first time."

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Leah Elkins, resident and member of the Environmental Quality Commission spoke about moving up the timeline on implementation and enforcement, and instituting the law before July 2024 with a six month grace period.

"(By moving up the timeline) we could at least save some more time where we wouldn't have to be living with these machines that are harming our health and the health of our children, as well as our peace and quiet," Elkins said.

Wolosin was heavily in support of regulating the use of gas-powered equipment.

"I feel like we can't ban these things soon enough, they're horrible," Wolosin said. "For all the reasons that our residents have articulated beautifully They're loud, they're smelly, I can't stand riding into clouds of dust particles when I'm on my bike."

Council member Drew Combs said he's "not unsupportive" of the ordinance, but that the city needs to focus on outreach and helping those most impacted by both the ordinance and the fumes of gas-powered landscaping equipment. Combs asked for a focus on engaging those who work in landscaping.

"The person who has it strapped on their back is suffering the most ill effects, but because of their ... economic station, that's what they have to do," Combs said. "In some generations past in my family, that was my grandfather. That was my great-grandfather."

The City Council suggested that city staff take part in bilingual outreach from December to April, working with smaller gardeners and residents who can work with their landscaping crew before enforcement begins, but no formal vote was taken.

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Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. Read more >>

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Getting ready to ban gas leaf blowers, Menlo Park works on outreach

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Nov 25, 2022, 9:15 am
Updated: Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 9:41 am

When it comes to phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers, landscape professionals don't have much to say about it, according to outreach efforts by the city of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park has a target date of July 1, 2024 to enforce a ban on the use of gas-powered leafblowers and string trimmers, with a ban on other types of gas-powered landscaping equipment starting in January 2029. But first, the Menlo Park City Council asked staff to reach out to stakeholders before making a decision on implementing the new rule and enforcing it.

Staff sent out 102 emails to landscaping professionals in Menlo Park and received only five responses, with one in support of using electric appliances and one opposed. They did not receive a response from the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), but there was information available to the public from the organization.

The city received 107 total responses including other stakeholders such as landowners in Menlo Park. Of these responses, 35 residents already owned electric leafblowers and 19 stated their support for the regulation of gas-powered landscaping equipment.

One resident, Sean van Dril, spoke about the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers on higher density communities.

"(In a fourplex) the majority of the days of the week, we have landscaping services in a lot adjacent to ours," van Dril said. "Because we have no air conditioning, that means, especially in the summer, we have to close all of our windows. It gets hot, and when we open them we have the smell of exhaust, not to mention all of the dust that's kicked up."

The enforcement would focus on property owners, on whose land the work is being done, rather than the gardeners using the equipment, as is done with noise ordinances. The city is focused on enforcement strategies, as there are vacancies in the city's code enforcement and community officer ranks.

At an Oct. 18 study session meeting, Council member Jen Wolosin proposed the city add an option to its app that would allow residents to notify the city of violations.

Council member Ray Mueller said enforcement should prioritize a system of escalating consequences, so that residents aren't blindsided by a law they've never heard of. Mueller also said that the city should take hardship into account and be flexible in its enforcement.

"We can do all the outreach in the world that we want to do," Mueller said. "I don't think it's going to reach everybody, and I think what's going to end up happening is when we go to implement people are going to hear about for the first time."

Leah Elkins, resident and member of the Environmental Quality Commission spoke about moving up the timeline on implementation and enforcement, and instituting the law before July 2024 with a six month grace period.

"(By moving up the timeline) we could at least save some more time where we wouldn't have to be living with these machines that are harming our health and the health of our children, as well as our peace and quiet," Elkins said.

Wolosin was heavily in support of regulating the use of gas-powered equipment.

"I feel like we can't ban these things soon enough, they're horrible," Wolosin said. "For all the reasons that our residents have articulated beautifully They're loud, they're smelly, I can't stand riding into clouds of dust particles when I'm on my bike."

Council member Drew Combs said he's "not unsupportive" of the ordinance, but that the city needs to focus on outreach and helping those most impacted by both the ordinance and the fumes of gas-powered landscaping equipment. Combs asked for a focus on engaging those who work in landscaping.

"The person who has it strapped on their back is suffering the most ill effects, but because of their ... economic station, that's what they have to do," Combs said. "In some generations past in my family, that was my grandfather. That was my great-grandfather."

The City Council suggested that city staff take part in bilingual outreach from December to April, working with smaller gardeners and residents who can work with their landscaping crew before enforcement begins, but no formal vote was taken.

Comments

new guy
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 27, 2022 at 9:22 am
new guy, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2022 at 9:22 am

Great reporting here. Love to hear the passion for ending gas leaf blowers. (though electric ones will still create a dust cloud - just a bit quieter one :(. )

Thing is: all the landscapers know this is coming, everyone I have interacted with in the last 3 years, all they want to do is talk to me about it (probably to hit me up with price increases as well), maybe the only thing they don't know is exact date. Current landscaper drives in from Fremont, he knows, most of them know each other. Thinking people in this "economic situation" are not sophisticated enough to understand regulations in their occupation is well... I will leave that to those who know how best to label.


neenee
Registered user
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:28 pm
neenee, Portola Valley: Westridge
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:28 pm

Can’t wait to see them banned everywhere - they are a menace to everybody’s hearing and health.


MP Father
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:54 pm
MP Father, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:54 pm

I am neither for nor against the proposed ordinance and would like to learn more. What exactly is the stated GOAL of the proposed ordinance? I get that people don't like gas blowers, neither do I, but there is a cost to eliminate and how does the importance of these goals compare to the many other goals we have and can we achieve the goals in some other way.

My concern is that the Council is acting ideologically rather than pragmatically, and as usual, largely independent of the wishes of residents and home owners. Thanks again to Council Members Combs and Mueller for considering and representing residents.

"...Council member Jen Wolosin proposed the city add an option to its app that would allow residents to notify the city of violations." This sort of feels similar to Texas allowing its citizens to report and sue individuals suspected of not complying with its newly imposed abortion bans - independently enact an unpopular law and have citizens police.


Happy Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 1, 2022 at 2:43 pm
Happy Resident, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2022 at 2:43 pm

It is all about money. There is no question that Menlo Park residents will pay MORE for landscaping services. That is just the way it is, if Menlo Park chooses to force the use of electric leaf blowers and other appliances.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 1, 2022 at 7:43 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2022 at 7:43 pm

My gardener has already told me he has to raise his prices in anticipation of having to buy some very expensive equipment. The batteries for these things are over $100 each and may last long enough to do one yard. Maybe. So in order to be able to work a full day they have to purchase over $800 in batteries alone. That doesn't include the cost of the equipment to replace a piece of equipment they already have and that works just fine. All so the council can participate in performative activism. They're going to "save the world" even if we have to bear the cost. The cost for something that will have zero effect on global warming. But, hey, they can pat themselves on the back because they're "doing something" about it.


Stuart Soffer
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 2, 2022 at 1:24 pm
Stuart Soffer, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Many years ago the Menlo Park City Council tried to ban gas leaf blowers. At the council hearing, council chambers was filled with members of BAGA, the Bay Area Gardeners Association. The options were terrible. Council chickened out.

This can happen again.


Roxie Rorapaugh
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:19 pm
Roxie Rorapaugh, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:19 pm

I agree completely with everything New Guy from MP Downtown wrote


David Roise
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 2, 2022 at 4:22 pm
David Roise, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 4:22 pm

I'm with Jen Wolosin that we can't get rid of these horrible devices soon enough. If outreach needs to be done, do it now--don't push back the date.

@Menlo Voter: You're concerned about costs? What about the health costs to everyone (including the gardeners) breathing the crap (literally) that these things blow around? What about the cost to me because I can't do my job with the sound of a jet engine roaring just over my neighbor's fence? What about the cost to our planet from the burning of fossil fuels? You should be relieved not to be charged for the damage they have already done. By the way, rakes and brooms are relatively cheap, they last a long time, and they don't need to be recharged.

@Stuart Soffer: It's time we stop letting people ignore the massive outreach efforts taken by city staff on these issues only to show up at council meetings at the last minute to whine about not being notified. Council members need to do what's right, not just what a few cranky people at the end of a long process would like to like to see happen.


philtenpro
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2022 at 5:10 pm
philtenpro, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 5:10 pm

We shouldn't assume just one or a limited number of effects to occur from switching from gas to electric blowers and lawn mowers. When the first gas blower ban was considered in the 80s, we had a lawn and our gardener begged us not to support the ban. Since then, we have re-landscaped to all plants and no lawn. So, we would not have a mow-and-blow under any circumstance. Our gardens already require hand pruning and raking to be properly tended. Only hardscape requires some blowing -- for which we would gladly pay a premium for electric (in fact, I do that blowing with both battery powered and plug-in electric blowers of my own). I would disagree also with some comments I heard about no environmental benefit from the switch to electric. These ubiquitous little 2-cycle gas engines emit large amounts of toxic exhaust compared with much larger car engines. The switch to electric might well prompt many homeowners to reflect on their need for vast lawn areas and contemplate the value and beauty of planted gardens. Many changes and shifts may occur in our gardening needs in future for a variety of reasons. As an economist, I would note only that life is full of trade-offs in the face of changing priorities and circumstances. Choose wisely for the greatest total benefit to a healthy life ahead.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 2, 2022 at 7:34 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 7:34 pm

David:

stopping the burning of fossil fuels in MP won't do diddly for global warming. Don't like noise? Don't live in a city or an area with millions of people, hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks, and multiple airports exist. By your logic we should ban all sirens so you aren't disturbed. I can't be charged for any "damage" they may have already done as I had nothing to do with it. Banning gas powered leaf blowers is just more feel good nonsense by those that want "do something" without actually doing something.


Westbrook
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 2, 2022 at 9:30 pm
Westbrook, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2022 at 9:30 pm

MV has been correct all along in asking where the new electricity will come from.
Without any answers.

David, Can you tell me where all the new electricity will come from to power our homes, commercial buildings, Apt. buildings, cars, lawn equipment and yes one of our soon-to-be biggest guzzlers of electricity. The newly electrified trains,

So start from where we are today (with borderline blackouts) in electricity supplies then multiply that by all the new demand. As for cars that's millions upon millions.

Is the infrastructure there?

Thank you in advance for your answer.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2022 at 8:44 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2022 at 8:44 am

Here's another thing to consider. If a gardener can't afford to buy enough batteries to power his equipment for a full day, how will he recharge his batteries? Hint: by using his truck to charge them. Which means his truck will sit there idling, producing CO2 and other emissions while he works. So has forcing them to use all electric equipment actually done anything? Obviously, NO! It would be nice, for once, if the virtue signalers of the world would do some research and think things through. They don't and we get to suffer the consequences of them forcing others to do things so they can pat themselves on the back for "doing something". I'm sick of it.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2022 at 8:55 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2022 at 8:55 am

Westbrook:

David knows the answer and so do the rest of the virtue signalers that want to force everyone into all electric so they can "save the world". They know the answer is no, but they ignore it, or claim "improvements will be made in the future". BS. So we all have to suffer NOW until some mythical future date when everything will be magically fixed. Of course, the fix won't cost us anything either. More nonsense.

Everything this state has done to reduce carbon emissions has been wiped out by the emissions from wildfires in the last few years. Those fires are both natural and caused by electrical transmission line failures. So PG&E is undergrounding their transmission lines to stop causing wildfires. Guess who's paying for that in higher electrical rates? Electrical rates that are already higher than almost anywhere else in the country already. Even if PG&E stops setting wildfires, there are still fires caused every year by natural causes, so all this pain and suffering the save the world folks are inflicting on the rest of us will have no net effect. But, hey, they can pat themselves on the back for "doing something" while the rest of us suffer.


Stuart
Registered user
Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Dec 3, 2022 at 11:21 am
Stuart, Woodside: Mountain Home Road
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2022 at 11:21 am

Regarding batteries and charging, the most efficient/logical option will be for gardeners to purchase gas generators, most likely the cheapest available - which tend to be really loud, and run said generator at each house to charge batteries while using the mandated electric leaf blowers.

So in reality banning gas leaf blowers will not reduce noise or pollution.


MiddleAged Menlo Parker
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 5, 2022 at 8:07 am
MiddleAged Menlo Parker, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2022 at 8:07 am

@Stuart your comment is spot on. It sounds like the MP City Council didn't really do their homework on this one to understand the entire environmental impact.


Dawn1234
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 5, 2022 at 12:30 pm
Dawn1234, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2022 at 12:30 pm

The idea that we should all have to suffer with unnecessary exhaust because people are too busy to rake their own lawns, it's a bit crazy. Every single thing we can do to reduce the harm to the planet we are passing on is what we should be doing. Just because people whine about a thing doesn't make them right about that thing. Convenience over conservation is why we are having such devastating weather events on the regular. More people need to think about how their personal convenience is ruining our planet for the out generations. Be better.


Stuart
Registered user
Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Dec 5, 2022 at 6:13 pm
Stuart, Woodside: Mountain Home Road
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2022 at 6:13 pm

@ Dawn:
Convenience, sure, lots of people would prefer not to listen to leaf blowers or deal with the exhaust, but the reality is that in San Mateo County thousands of homeowners, renters, and commercial property owners employ hundreds of gardeners/maintenance companies to maintain their properties. Demanding that work being done manually with rakes is simplistic, unrealistic, and frankly a feel-good sound bite.

I am certain that someone could do the math, but I am willing to bet that the total output of exhaust from gardeners in San Mateo County for entire day is far, far, far less than a single coal-fired power plant. The United States is rapidly retiring the domestic coal-fired infrastructure. China on the other hand is constructing literally hundreds of brand new coal-fired power plants - annually.

So yes, I agree, "Every single thing we can do to reduce the harm to the planet we are passing on is what we should be doing", but how about sending a letter to Xi Jinping asking him to "Be better"?


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