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Sweeping Protest Averts San Marino Blower Ban

September 13, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

SAN MARINO — The City Council dropped its plan to prohibit leaf blowers after hearing strong opposition at its meeting last week.

Instead of routinely adopting an ordinance that it had unanimously approved in a preliminary vote last month, the council agreed Wednesday to present a revised ordinance in December, based on proposals by professional gardeners.

About 20 gardeners and a dozen residents criticized the plan to ban gasoline-powered blowers except on city and school property and on the grounds of the Huntington Library and a private boarding school.

Calling the ban extreme and unnecessary, opponents asked for a more lenient measure that would restrict the use of blowers to certain times of day, limit the length of time they could be used and require low speeds to reduce noise, education programs for gardeners and permits for both gardeners and their equipment.

During the hourlong discussion, no one spoke in favor of prohibiting blowers. Several residents criticized the proposed ordinance as discriminatory because it exempted public and some private properties while applying to all homeowners and businesses.

A spokesman for two gardeners' organizations likened it to "decapitation as a cure for dandruff."

One gardener wore a T-shirt saying "Use a blower, go to jail."

Andrew B. Hallum Jr., acting as mayor in Rosemary Simmons' absence, said the council has heard complaints about blowers for more than a year, even though San Marino has a noise ordinance requiring gardeners to use the machines at low speeds.

Because the city has had trouble enforcing the noise ordinance and because residents have complained about air pollution and debris from blowers, the council approved the ban on first reading last month without prior discussion. Such measures must be formally approved on a second vote.

At the August meeting, two people in the audience spoke against the proposal. One, Edwards Huntington Metcalf, also wrote a letter asking the council to put the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot.

At Wednesday's meeting, however, Councilman Ben Hammon said: "This is something we can handle very nicely at the council level."

Speaking for the Crown City Garden Assn. and the Southern California Gardeners' Federation, Nat Read called leaf blowers an economic necessity for professional gardeners.

Read said the added expense of cleaning lawns and pavement with rakes, brooms or hoses would have to be borne by gardeners or their employers. Since blowers were invented, he added, many yards have been planted with ground covers that require their use.

Robert Ida, another spokesman for the gardeners, said they will volunteer to teach a mandatory course on blower techniques in English, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

Ida said that in Beverly Hills, the first city in Los Angeles County to prohibit blowers, the law is seldom enforced and many gardeners still use them.

A few other cities, including West Hollywood and Lomita, ban blowers, but several have restrictions similar to those proposed in San Marino.

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