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Gardeners Blast Coming Blower Ban

Ordinance: Use of gas devices in city neighborhoods will be outlawed Tuesday. Lawn service workers warn of price increase.

June 26, 1997|EFRAIN HERNANDEZ JR. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gardener Bulfrano Villasenor is getting rid of his gas-powered leaf blower, even if it costs him money. Albert Cedano, who runs his own landscaping business, is not so sure, despite the prospect of up to $1,000 fines, beginning next week, for using the devices.

"Honestly, I really don't know what to do," Cedano said Wednesday. "I think it's silly. People have been using them for years."

On Tuesday, the city of Los Angeles' new ban on using gasoline-powered leaf blowers within 500 feet of a residence goes into effect. More than 40 other California municipalities have restricted blowers out of concern about noise, dust and exhaust.

Yet many landscapers and gardeners are still trying to determine how to comply with the law without losing business. Some insist that prices must go up, contending that using brooms instead of blowers to clear away leaves, weeds, twigs and grass will cost them time.

Those who successfully lobbied the City Council and Mayor Riordan to approve the ordinance in December said adjustments are manageable. For example, quieter, cleaner electric blowers are exempt, they said.

"You just have to use some common sense," said Glenn Barr, a deputy for City Councilman Marvin Braude, the author of the ordinance. "There are options that people just don't want to explore."

Gardeners and others should have had time to prepare for the change by now, Barr said.

Penalties for violations apply to both the person using the blower and the employer, including homeowners. Violators can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to six months.

City officials said the Los Angeles Police Department will begin enforcement Tuesday, treating violations as misdemeanors. Officers are to issue two warnings to any violator before issuing a citation, officials said.

The city itself is likely to spend an extra $1.5 million a year to make up for the gas-powered machines its workers use.

Cedano, owner of AC's Landscaping & Maintenance in North Hollywood, was among those who questioned whether enforcement would be possible at all. Many small outfits may choose to take their chances rather than lose business or time, he said.

"I don't think they're going to listen to the law," he said outside a Northridge home. "Of course it will hurt business. Timewise, you're not going to be able to do as many properties."

Villasenor, owner of Bul's Garden Service in Lake View Terrace, said breaking the law is not an option.

"Some [property owners] are going to allow me to wash the driveways with a hose or use the push broom to sweep," he said outside a Winnetka home. "Some of them say the water is too expensive."

Villasenor, like several yard workers, said the cost to homeowners would probably increase by about $20 to $25 per month.

"Some of them are still thinking about it," he said. "They haven't said if they'll pay or not."

Frank Ceballos, who runs his business from Van Nuys, said the higher costs are unavoidable.

"We have to eat. We have to try to make an honest living," said Ceballos, who nets about $300 a week after expenses. "What do they want us to do? Go on welfare?"

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