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Santa Monica City Council Bans Leaf Blowers


After a whirlwind of complaints, the Santa Monica City Council blew off leaf blowers.

Citing criticism that the gas-powered garden machines are deafening, pollution-creating menaces that are sometimes used to blow debris into a neighbor's yard or into city streets, the council early Wednesday banned blowers by a 6-1 vote.

Despite citizen outcry and attempts to rid the city of the machines since 1985, there was some resistance to the prohibition early Wednesday.

Councilman Robert T. Holbrook, who cast the lone dissenting vote, and several gardeners said the ban would remove a cost-effective tool from local gardeners and, thus, hurt their livelihood.

"You're talking about cost efficiency," said Roy Imazu, a representative of the Southern California Gardeners Assn. "If they ban the blower, it will increase the cost of the city's gardening."

Gardeners say it is cheaper to blow away lawn and garden debris with leaf blowers than to sweep it or, given the drought, wash it away. "It's illegal to wash off driveways in Santa Monica," Imazu reminded a council observer. "With the ban, people will wash off with the hose."

But most council members insisted that the bad outweighs the good when it comes to leaf blowers, despite improvements in muffling their noise. "This equipment is inherently environmentally obnoxious," said Councilman Dennis Zane.

He added: "The (gardening) industry did quite well before these gasoline leaf blowers, and it will do quite well without them."

The city dealt its first blow to the wind machines in March, 1987, when it made leaf-blower operation illegal before 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. Residents had complained that while gardeners in protective headsets blew away debris, they were being jolted out of bed by the chain saw-like rattle.

Wednesday's ban follows a trend of blower intolerance in the Westside. In 1978, Beverly Hills became the first Southern California city to outlaw leaf blowers, followed in 1986 by West Hollywood.

But lobbyist Imazu predicted that leaf blowers will be back once cities realize that the machines save precious water that gardeners and residents would otherwise use to rid their grounds of debris, he said. Palos Verdes Estates recently introduced a measure to rescind its ban on leaf-blowers in light of the drought.

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