leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws
 
Follow-up Hotline Reports

Propose, Support, and/or Follow-up on Legislation

The Power of Caucus Groups

Read Every Version

Be Prepared

Write Letters

Investigate Legal Options

About 10 printed pages.

 


Educate your Legislators

click here

 

With “term limits” comes the need for continued education of politicians and other elected officials, as new people take the place of those who have years of background information behind their decisions.
 
Rather than wait for an urgent situation to arise, make the education process an ongoing endeavor.  A simple letter, sent soon after they take office, requesting their ongoing support of the blower ordinance.  A “thank-you” for something they have done, or a point they have made in the press, even if it relates to another matter.  You might, or might not, add that your own special interest is in blower regulation.  Or, highlight specific points in press clippings about noise, emissions, or air quality, and send them, with a short note relating them to leaf blower problems.
 
If your community does not have specific blower regulations, point out how current noise or nuisance regulations relate to these machines.
 

Some of the following suggestions also relate to the Press.

Presentation Materials
See our Action:  Educate the Public section. Legislators are more likely to listen to facts and suggestions that already have broad public support.
Demographics
Present legislators with demographics that support your position regarding their constituents, in terms of population, income, race and ethnicity, for instance.
Background Information Information regarding local, state and federal government calendars, roosters and committees can be found for free on official government sites. Los Angeles City, CA State Assembly and Senate, and for all states
Local Follow-Up To follow the progress of your own reports with officials, check the report hotline to be sure your report was registered.  You may have to push through politely, for this information.  Wait for a live operator to come on the line, and ask what you can do to follow up. 

You may have to call your local police station to find out if a citation was issued.  That information may not be available.  The City Attorney’s office wrote a letter to LAPD, the Department of Building and Safety and the Department of Public Works on March 1, 2001, confirming the need to enforce the ban.
If you find the law is not being complied with and/or enforced, and your reports to the city Hotline do not stop violations, contact your city representative.

In Los Angeles, that is the City Attorney’s office, and/or your City Councilmember.

The front of your phone book should have a Government section that lists the City Attorney and your Councilmember.  If you aren’t sure who to call, ask the information operator at the local or downtown city hall number, or go to the L.A. City website.

Make your complaint.  Ask and keep a record of: Who will follow up your complaint?  When should you expect a response or call back?  What else can you do?  How can you find out if your reports resulted in a citation?

As noted previously, a source for contact numbers and web sites for other cities throughout the nation is on our Reference Links page.

Complain to your local law enforcement agency, your City Attorney’s Office, your City Council Member.
The California Air Resources Board’s Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers points out that,

“Municipalities regulate leaf blowers most often as public nuisances in response to citizen complaints.” (California Air Resources Board)

Besides an initial phone call, which may be made only because you are aggravated with blower noise and odors, send a follow-up letter asking what else they can do for you.  Ask what other recourse you have, besides complaining.  Ask what needs to be done to permanently solve this problem.  Have like-minded friends complain to the same people.

These complaints will form the basis for later pursuit of and enactment of laws.
Propose Legislation See Graphic, How a Bill Becomes a Law (in California).

Work with one or more local or state legislators, their staffs, the City Attorney’s office or other legal advisory entity, and other like-minded groups to propose an equitable law that will still serve your purpose. 

You may as well put in your own “wish list” for you’ll probably have to accept that it will be deflated somewhat before it’s final vote.  Give yourself room for compromise with opponents of the legislation.  If there could be any question of the intent of the ordinance or bill proposal, reword it, or it may be challenged in court.  Spell out the intent, if necessary.
Definitions of blowers in other cities.

Be sure keywords are fully explained.  Consider the strength of both positive and negative phrasing.  For instance, “gas blowers are banned” could be turned around to, “only electric and battery operated leaf blowers are allowed to be used on lawn, gardens, other planting areas and hardscape.”

Opponents may make suggestions that sound reasonable.  Indeed, manufacturers are trying desperately to avoid total bans, as well as attacks on other landscape equipment.  Some of their suggestions may work in your neighborhood.

However, it is your job to point out either why they are unworkable, or what will be needed to make them workable and fair. 

For instance, the idea for decibel level restrictions came from manufacturer.  However, these restrictions are difficult to enforce without regular readings conducted by an uninvolved third party at what could be regular annual licensing renewals through local government entities.  As machines age and/or are not well maintained, the noise level changes.

If you propose decibel levels, be sure they are registered five-to-fifteen feet distance from the machine, the distance at which many people are disturbed.  The oft-quoted ANSI standard is an average of several measurements taken at 50 feet in an open field.

Manufacturers have also requested ‘certification’ programs, but wish for the lawn and garden industry to do the certification.

The portable power equipment association pushed for hour restrictions instead of bans.  This would help with some quality of life issues, but would not improve the emission and fugitive dust air pollution problems associated with blowers.

NOTE:  A manufacturer claimed that “bans” (but referring specifically to the L.A. ban) are “unenforceable.”  The snag in L.A. is that electric blowers are still used, so violators using gas blowers are not as noticeable as they would be if Los Angeles had a total ban of all blowers. 
Propose Counter-Legislation
Proposed legislation may take years to work its way through the system.  If you are fighting proposed legislation, use this time to make proposals of your own that will cancel-out or weaken your opposition’s position. Be sure your suggestion does not pre-empt stricter ordinances or bills.

California legislators had five proposals (two or three at once), nearly carbon copies of each other, which sought to remove blower bans throughout the state.  Blower opponent and supporter “facts” provided to legislators were conflicting. Finally, State Senator John Burton proposed that the Air Resources Board make a study of health and environmental effects of blower use, so legislators would be able to make informed votes.

(California Air Resources Board ) Soon thereafter, efforts to remove blower bans throughut the state ceased.
Support and Follow-up on Legislation.
Try to review the original proposal and all amendments before they are presented in final form, in order to correct misrepresentations or wording which may have more than one interpretation.  Where that is the case, the courts will have trouble enforcing the law.

Your legislator will count on your input for facts and your help to gain public support of the proposed legislation.

The Internet and faxes have made it possible, in many cases, to keep informed from your own home or office.
Be alert to efforts at opposition legislation.  These may pop up even before your own legislation gets moving.
Don’t count on the press.  Legislation may be well along before it is reported.

If you have formed a group, make one person responsible for doing a local and state computer word-search for this topic on a regular basis.  Go to the websites of your own community, and to the State Government site, or specifically to the State Assembly or State Senate sites.

Again, we have a page to Locate definitions of blowers in other cities. Notice the drawbacks and limitations in some of these ordinances, so you can avoid them.

Use words such as leaf blower, landscape, garden, ban, noise or noise regulations or restrictions, nuisance, air quality, air pollution, machine, emission, gas or gasoline, health.
Check regularly for additional “new” proposed legislation.
While one proposal is making its way through the state Senate, another similar proposal or an opposition proposal may pop up there, or in the state Assembly.

Sometimes old bill proposals are “cannibalized”.  Technically, they are “gut and amend” bills, which are completely rewritten as a new bill, with the old number.  They do not have to go back for review and another vote in committees or the Assembly or Senate as a whole, if they have already been passed along. 

One legislator responded to our urge of a “No” vote on such a bill by stating that the bill couldn’t be so bad, since it had already passed the California State Assembly.  We responded that he should, perhaps, read the bill again, for it had been “cannibalized” after passing the Assembly as a jury service bill, and now regarded only the removal of all leaf blower bans throughout California.
ZAP did not hold demonstrations or rallies

ZAP presented facts to elected officials and to the press, expressed concern, and fought for the right to a healthy and peaceful existence. 

We used phone calls, faxes, emails, personal conversations with elected officials and their staffs, attendance at City Council and State Senate and Assembly meetings.

Demonstrations and rallies held by blower supporters resulted in press coverage that, while it may have demeaned ban advocates, also included health and environmentl facts that supported our point of view.

Contact and try to establish a rapport with the “caucus leaders” immediately.
Political parties, and other group-identification caucuses decide about a new bill early in the new bill proposal process.  Members will vote according to their agreement with other caucus members, no matter what information you present them with at a later date.

Contact the office of your own local representative to determine what caucuses exist, and how to contact their leaders and other members.

For state bills, the League of Cities representative from your own locality may be able to help you find your local lobbyist. In California, the League's Latino Caucus holds three regional meetings annually, other meetings open to the public throughout the year, and workshops and forums for their members.
Read each and every version of proposed legislation, amendments, AND any summaries or analyses. 

These shorter versions are often the only thing a legislator (or legislative aide who recommends a position) has read. 

If these summaries or analyses contain errors or misinterpretations, they must be addressed immediately.

Statements made or provided by blower supporters will take on a feeling of truth when added to a bill proposal or its analysis, or when quoted by a politician who did not check them out.  This is especially so after the bill, or a politician, is then quoted in the press or media by a reporter, who also did not check them out.

  • If possible, find and network with a liaison person in the offices of your elected representative or a lobbyist from another organization who will keep you in touch with the latest developments.

  • See if you can get on a “notification” list.

  • Check the government web site regularly for the ordinance or proposed bill numbers, and also for keywords.

  • To correct errors, contact the author, or sponsor, and all interested parties.

  • Find your own representatives for L.A City Council, CA State Senate and Assembly, and U.S. Congress on the City of L.A. website.

BE PREPARED

Create and distribute to your own group, a list of members of the next government committee scheduled to consider, or “hear” a bill proposal or an issue. 
Include the email, phone numbers, and/or address of representatives.  Make this list available to others who want to voice their opinion about upcoming legislation.

If you are not on-line at home or work, find local libraries where the Internet is available for free, and librarians will help you get started, if necessary.  Look for specific names, titles of committees, words which will lead you to proposed legislation, or the exact number of the proposed bill.  You will be able to find California bills, amendments, past history, and current status on the following sites:.

Find proposed legislation, committee members and contact information on the California and other State websites.
Take notes at public meetings, public hearings, or when a politician or opponent is quoted on radio or television.
 
Audio tape radio talk shows which discuss the topic, especially if your opposition or a politician is being interviewed.
 
Videotape television shows wherein your issue is discussed, or even where a politician speaks of his or her other special interests or strengths. 

Challenge these quotes, or use them to show agreement with the speaker, when you write letters to them, or to the press and media.  Open your letter with their own words, in quotes, then link your first paragraph to them, in agreement, if possible.
 
When speakers are misquoted or misinterpreted, you will be in a position to offer corrections, with proof.
 
A written transcription made by ZAPLA of a Los Angeles City Council meeting clearly shows the intent of the vote to ban gas blowers was to stop the pollution of two-stroke machines.  A report similar to a letter sent by ZAP to the Los Angeles City Attorney regarding this transcription will be made available to government officials at their request.  Please email ZAPLA or send the request on official letterhead.  Include email, post office address and phone number.
 

Ask one member of your group to set their VCR to automatically record your city or state public meetings, if they are televised.
Los Angeles City Hall Council meetings are broadcast regularly.  In some areas they are on the Adelphia Channel 35.
 
You can check each meeting’s agenda on the city website to determine which to watch in order to obtain meaningful information or quotes.

WRITE SHORT LETTERS

Use the knowledge you have gained about specific concerns of, and statements made by, politicians when you write to them in support of, or opposition to the position they have taken.

Urge group members, family, friends and neighbors to write to the committee head, and to their own representative, if he or she is on the committee or in the legislative body scheduled to hear the proposal. 
 
Even if they don’t write, your appeal will educate them about the issue. 

Where time is short, phone or send e-mails.  Faxes take up paper and phone time in a busy office.  However, in light of the tactics taken by “astro-turf” bogus grassroots groups, they may be the only way you have to confirm that you are speaking as a concerned member of the community.  Even if you only speak to a deputy, rather than the legislator, walking into the office to leave a letter will also make your point.
 
Phone calls to local offices may make more of an impression than phoning the downtown city or Sacramento office.  Staff in local offices may take more interest in the opinion of a constituent, and have more time to listen to facts.  If you call the Sacramento office, ask for the person who is handling this issue.  In either case, be aware of their time constraints. 
 
Immediately state your position on a specific issue and your affiliation, if any.  Next, ask if the person you have contacted has time to speak to you at that moment, or if they prefer you call back at a more convenient time.
 
These aides or consultants are the ones who read incoming material, handle phone calls, and will pass your views and facts on to legislators.  Educating them, is educating the legislator.  Be respectful.
 
Check the California State web site to find a copy of the bill, amendments (may not be posted yet), the Bill Analysis (which may be the only thing that most legislators have time to read), and schedules of where and when the bill will be addressed in committee or otherwise.  Check the list of committee members, and then go to their web pages to see their backgrounds and special interests.  This information will help you phrase your own letter to them in a more compelling manner.

 
Check with the deputy, aide or committee consultant to confirm when the bill is on the agenda, the date, and ask what dates are best to send them letters of opposition or support.  Your letters need to arrive not so early that they are forgotten, and not too late to be counted.  Address your letter to the chair of the committee, copies to the consultant and to the sponsor of the bill.  Ask the consultant if you should send copies to each committee member. 
 
In some cases, you may wish to do so, even if the consultant has indicated it is not necessary.

Letter Content:
Again, due to bogus letters sent by some industries, you need to show that you are speaking as an individual community resident, or valid grassroots group.  Write short letters in long hand your own stationery.  Give your opinion (I support Bill No. xxx) and share your own pertinent experiences.  You could then attach a typed, easy to read, “fact sheet” of only one or two pages.  This might be presented in a bulleted or table form, but should still be in your own words.
 
Each person should write a personal letter to the legislator who is taking the lead supporting your position, and copy or write a separate letter to the representative of his or her own neighborhood.  Busy legislators may only read letters from their own constituents, so be sure to include addresses of the writers.  However, a slew of mail or phone calls about personal experiences from individuals, even if unread, must make some impression.
 
Include a RE: Subject after the inside address and before the body of the letter.  For instance, “In opposition to Bill No. xxxx”,
 
Have a clear, strong opening sentence, “This bill does not do what its supporters claim it will do.” (Then explain why).  Keep the letter to one page.  Address facts relating to a specific interest a legislator or committee has in the proposed bill.  (Is it a Health committee, or a Business committee?)  Appeal to the special interests listed in the legislator’s biography.
 
Quote and reference parts of the bill you dispute.  Quote experts.  Don’t elaborate more than necessary.  Don’t whine.
 
If the letter absolutely must be longer than one page, make your feelings and requests known in a one page letter, and....
After every vote or discussion, thank elected officials and representatives who supported your position.

Even if they used information you sent to them, quote back something they said that may have influenced other legislators to vote in your favor, or which you especially appreciated.

This also gives you an opportunity to pass on more information to them.  That may be important if the matter might come before them at another time.  For instance, they may vote on it in committee, and again at a later date, in a general vote of all of the Senate or Assembly members.

INVESTIGATE LEGAL OPTIONS

Are the use of blowers, the use of a specific type of blower, the production of air pollution or noise, or the “littering” of your property by a neighbor’s gardener or other “nuisance” an infraction or misdemeanor in your locality?  What difference does that make in its enforcement or in penalties for violations?  Ask how that is applied in the “real world.”  This may be far different from the written word.

People under blower induced stress have asked us if they can “Make citizen’s arrests and hold blower users until the police come to take over.”
The Los Angeles police discourage this, and ZAP has never done this.  If you are considering this action, you should find out if this is legal in your area, and what it entails, from the first approach of the blower operator, through court proceedings.  This should be a consideration only for those schooled in activism, and with large group support and legal advice.   See activism websites for other advice. 

An attempt to make a citizen’s arrest might cause the blower operator to panic, especially if he or she fears police for reasons unknown to you.  They may, or they may have friends or supporters, who will seek reprisals, and your name will be on a public record.

It might work as a publicity event, if you have previously set up a time and place with the police, and if those plans are not made a public record in advance of the event.  Even notification to the press should be about 5 a.m., so they will not contact opposition groups for their comments.  These groups might then be able to stop your plans, or get more publicity for themselves than you gain for your own cause.  In their eyes, you will be the villain, trying to throw a poor worker (who may not even speak English) into jail!  If you can’t put a positive slant on that perception, think of something else to do.
Others have asked if they could “sue.”

We don’t recommend this, and we don’t give legal advice.  But, ZAP would report on such an action if we were notified. 

Lawsuits are very involved and may bring more tension into one’s life than they are worth.  It is possible that Plaintiffs (those who file a complaint) must show financial loss. 

However, we’ve heard some horror stories whose only answer, if violations of current laws continue, might be to file a complaint.  This might work for those living in a condominium complex, whose board of directors refuses to comply with the law.

Remember, the judge or jury who handles the case may not be as educated about the subject as you are, and may rule against you.  Be sure you can get the facts to them.  If you have a lawyer, or are represented by a City Attorney, ask to review every argument so you can give your own input.  They will know what arguments do not carry legal weight.

First, find out what constitutes loss of income, harassment, and a nuisance.  Read all pertinent laws and ordinances.  Find out whom to sue.  The violator?  The employer?  Get advice from interested parties or groups such as Nonoise.org (which may provide testimony).  See if someone else will join you in filing suit.  A “class action”, filed by several people, would be interesting.

“Nuisance”
(01.8.3)

According to Robert J. Bruss in his Consumer Watch column in the L.A. Times:

A public nuisance affects a large number of people.  Because of this, where local politics does not interfere, a City Attorney might take action to gain a court injunction to stop the activity;  a partial abatement; a negotiated settlement, or payment of monetary damages to an injured party.  Or, a group might take the issue to Small Claims Court, themselves.

A private nuisance affects one or just a few people.  It may affect only one sensitive person.  The problem may be solved by a verbal or written request, or a few letters from a lawyer, to the offender and/or his employer,  Here, too, a lawsuit to abate the nuisance could be filed in Small Claims Court.

This is true even if zoning and local ordinances allow the “offensive activity”, even if there is no violation of a law, and even if there are other public and private nuisances nearby.

However, in order to prove the nuisance exists, be prepared with photos and records you have made.  These are best written down at the times it occurred.  In this case, date, time, location, approximate sound level, license plate numbers of gardener truck, description of workers, names, if possible, and notes regarding any conversation which may have taken place with the violators.  A tape recording, videotape and independent witness testimony would also be of benefit.

Start the audiotape before acknowledging and discussing the fact with others who will be heard on the tape, to establish that you were not doing so secretly.

If you claim a violation of a leaf blower ordinance, and it specifies “65 decibels at 50 feet”, take a sound meter reading at that distance one or more times to prove your point.  Be sure to read the instructions and act accordingly so your information will not be thrown out.  Many nuisance laws seem broader.  You may want to ask the court to consider both the leaf blower and a nuisance code violation.

This information is according to California law.  For other states or localities, consult your City or County Attorney, or find your legal codes by locating your state website.

Press law enforcement to do their jobs, all the way up through the court system. 
The blower operator who violates the hard-won ban seems to be the one at whom to direct your anger, and the employer who pays for the service and allows blower use also seems responsible.  But, remember, it is the machine and its problems that bring about your anger.  It is both the violation and the lack of enforcement that are frustrating. 

The city cannot enforce violations they know nothing about.  If you witness a violation, it is up to you to take action.  Continue to make reports, follow them up with the report line, and see if you can find out whether a citation was issued, whether a repeat violator was taken to court or what fine was paid as a result of each report you made.  Let us know about your efforts.