ALSO SEE specific California Laws and Definitions
|The contentious response
to the issue of blower bans and restrictions results in misunderstandings
and ill will that takes some time to overcome. Many people who
would like bans are no match for the experienced, well-funded, highly
motivated industry forces they will come up against. The industry
works for compromises that make it difficult to enforce even minimal
Some towns have good compliance records. Other towns find that
compliance rate goes hand-in-hand with the rate of complaints to those
in charge of enforcement. How can enforcement officers know
there are repeated violations without complaints and facts?
The Los Angeles report hot line (800 996-2489 or 213 473-4486) asks
for the date and time of violations, as well as the address where
they occur, and the license plate and description of the gardeners
|Laws to take
into Consideration in Los Angeles and California
|Los Angeles City Ordinance.
Chapter XI Noise Regulation, Article 2 Special Noise
Re: Powered Equipment Intended for Repetitive Use in Residential
Areas and Other Machinery, Equipment, and Devices.
[Effective on February 13, 1998]
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection (a) above, no gas
powered blower shall be used within 500 feet of a residence at anytime.
Both the user of such a blower as well as the individual who contracted
for the services of the user, if any, shall be subject to the requirements
of and penalty provisions for this ordinance. Violation of
the provisions of this subsection shall be punishable as an infraction
in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), notwithstanding
the graduated fines set forth in L.A.M.C. Section 11.00(m).
Maximum noise Level of Powered Equipment or Powered Hand Tools.
Between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., in any residential
zone of the City or within 500 feet thereof, no person shall operate
or cause to be operated any powered equipment or powered hand
tool that produces a maximum noise level exceeding the following
noise limits at a distance of 50 feet therefrom:. . . (c )
65dB(A) for powered equipment intended for repetitive use in residential
areas, including lawn mowers, backpack blowers, small lawn and
garden tools and riding tractors.
CALIFORNIA STATE HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE Section 41700:
No person shall discharge from any source air contaminants
that cause INJURY, DETRIMENT, NUISANCE or Annoyance to the Public.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA MOTOR VEHICLE CODE 27156
(c) No person shall install, sell, offer for sale, or advertise
any device, apparatus, or mechanism intended for use with, or
as a part of, any required motor vehicle pollution control device
or system which alters or modifies the original design or performance
of any such motor vehicle pollution control device or system.
(d) If the court finds that a person has willfully violated
this section, the court shall impose the maximum fine that may
be imposed in the case, and no part of the fine may be suspended.
(f) No person shall operate a vehicle after notice by a traffic
officer that the vehicle is not equipped with the required certified
motor vehicle pollution control device correctly installed in
operating condition, except as may be necessary to return the
vehicle to the residence or place of business of the owner or
driver or to a garage, until the vehicle has been properly equipped
with such a device. (g) The notice to appear issued or complaint
filed for a violation of this section shall require that the person
to whom the notice to appear is issued or against whom the complaint
is filed produce proof of correction pursuant to Section 40150
or proof of exemption pursuant to Section 4000.1 or 4000.2.
[Penal Code, Section 7: the word willfully, when applied
to the intent with which an act is done or omitted, implies simply
a purpose or willingness to commit the act, or make the omission
referred to. It does not require any intent to violate law,
or to injure another, or to acquire any advantage.]
|Many compromises were made
by Los Angeles Ban Advocates, both before and after the initial ordinance
was passed. For instance, electric blowers are not banned.
The ban is not citywide, but only within 500 feet of a residence.
An existing noise ordinance limits electric blowers, as well as other
regularly used lawn and garden equipment, to 65 decibels, as measured
50 feet away from the machine. Yet, blowers are often used within
five feet of a neighboring residence. Warning letters are sent
to both worker and employer for the first offense. At the request
of gardener associations, employers were added to the original ordinance,
making them also liable for fines of their own. The 1998 amended
version reduced penalties from a misdemeanor, with possibility of
jail time, to an infraction, and from a $1,000 fine to a $100 fine.
Enforcement was postponed until long after the ordinance was passed,
to give gardeners time to adjust to the change.
Still, gardeners, a gardeners association, and industry went
straight to Sacramento. Three more years of time, effort and
expense went into the defeat of five proposed state bills, which threatened
all California bans and local rule regarding noise levels.
The physical and mental health of all California residents outweighed
the preferences of industry and individual workers.
|Homeowners and other employers
are responsible for knowing the law and making sure it is followed.
Yet, many Los Angeles employers have been told by their gardeners,
and therefore believe, that there is no law; that there is a moratorium
on enforcement. Or, workers may agree not to use a blower, but use
it whenever they feel their employer is not around.
Blower supporters such as gardeners associations claimed that
homeowners and other employers would force them to use
blowers. As previously noted, at their request, the individual
who contracted for the services of the user was included in
the fines assigned for the Los Angeles ban, and therefore, could be
held responsible for violations.
Homeowners and other employers have the right to instruct employees
not to use blowers, even where they are legal. If the employee
protests, or is obviously disturbed, there should be a discussion
about how this instruction can be followed to the satisfaction of
Although some gardeners
have boasted of their violations to the press, in no case is it
acceptable for a worker to ignore the law, just because the worker
does not like it. Years of effort, research and weighing facts
on both sides of the issue went into the final vote in favor of
a Los Angeles ban. The Los Angeles City Councils Environmental
Quality and Waste Management Committee held two public hearings
at which all interested parties had a chance to offer suggestions
for making the ban workable, and formed a task force to review enforcement
and public education.
|What We Learned
with a new law
is more likely . . .
|. . .in municipalities
where all blowers are banned.
||It is easily noticed if a blower
is used at all, fewer violations occur, and complaints are
more likely to be made.
|. . .where the penalty,
as it is actually carried out, is costly and/or inconvenient
for the violator,
|It will outweigh the benefits
he feels he gains by ignoring the law.
If the fine is likely to be reduced by the court, the system,
or the payment procedure, for any reason, it should be set
It would be very inconvenient to the violator, to be required
to take time from work or leisure to appear in court for repeated
|. . .where the penalty
escalates for subsequent violations.
|Workers are more likely to think
twice before committing repeated violations.
|. .where public opinion
is strongly against the use of blowers and people discuss
|Neighbors will be more inclined
to speak directly to violators and their employers.
|. . .where employers
specifically instruct that blowers are not to be used,
|It is less likely that a banned
blower will be used when the employer is not home, especially
if the penalty ignoring this instruction is the loss of the
job. It has been found that employers need to repeat
this instruction over time.
|. . .where it is
made known to enforcement agencies that the general public
is behind the law, and wants it enforced.
|Enforcement officers will feel
they are making a difference.
This is most easily accomplished when residents register complaints
and report each and every violation.
|. . .where the law
is immediately put into action.
Workers who are going to
continue to use banned or restricted blowers will do so,
when and where they wish, whether there is a breaking
in period or not.
Residents in Los Angeles became confused by the postponement
of the well-publicized ban.
Those who respect the law, will comply immediately.
It does not take long to pick up a rake and broom, to purchase
an inexpensive leaf vacuum or convert an existing dual-purpose
blower to a vacuum.
|The intent of the officials
who pass ordinances, must be clear. An ordinance must not be
open to more than one interpretation, if it is to hold up in a court
of law. To be more specific than the Los Angeles definition,
consider the following:
- Consider excluding all others from a law that permits
a specific activity or machine.
- No such tools are allowed except for _____
- If only electric blowers are allowed, then a clear ordinance
would so indicate, and then exclude all blowers not run by electricity
or battery, rather than trying to define the fuel used on other
- This type of ordinance should also forbid the source of the
electricity to be a generator. It defeats the
purpose of banning gas blowers to allow electric blowers to be
run by gas generators.
which creates uncontained artificial air flow above
a height of ____ feet at any time and under any condition,
- . . .which airflow can be distributed a distance of ____
feet within ___ minutes;
which redistributes and suspends dust, dirt, particulate
matter, emissions in the air;
(or, . . .which is capable of redistributing and suspending
dust, dirt, particulate matter, emissions in the air.
- which airflow, when viewed by a reasonable adult, appears
to contain dust, debris, and any other matter which, once airborne,
cannot be restrained or regulated by the operator of the machine
Phrasing regarding the term air pollution could include
the fact that it . . .includes, but is not restricted to
dirt, feces, mold, particulate matter, hydrocarbons)
by the machines which are the subject of this act/ordinance/bill.
|There is no
question that further unbiased studies of health impacts of the use
of blowers, and unbiased economic analyses, would be of service to
both ban advocates and blower supporters, even if they differ in interpretations
of the results of such studies. Unfortunately, blowers are a
part of our world. Perhaps such studies would ease specific
concerns on one or both sides. Or, study results might help
one side or the other see that there really are problems that need
to be avoided or worked out.
We know that, Fine particles remain suspended in the air for
long periods and can travel great distances. PM10 may remain
suspended for hours to days in the atmosphere. These are emissions
to which persons in the near-downwind-vicinity would be exposed, for
example, residents whose lawns are being serviced and their neighbors,
persons in commercial buildings whose landscapes are being maintained
or serviced, and persons within a few blocks of the source.
There are no studies on landscape and hardscape fugitive dust as it
affects operators and immediate neighboring properties and their occupants.
It would be helpful to know what the dust drift contains in specific
areas of the city, how far and how high it drifts, how long it is
suspended in the air.
Existing noise studies, together with decibel readings from blowers,
show potential problems for users, bystanders and neighbors alike.
However, studies showing real world distance readings and personal
reactions do not exist, to our knowledge. For instance, blowers
in operation are usually closer to unprotected co-workers, closer
to inhabitants of the property on which they are used, closer to several
neighbors, and closer to pedestrians, than their 50-foot distance
readings would indicate, and they are operated under conditions far
different than is called for by the ANSI
Behavioral studies would show the importance of exposure, including
length of time. Where the work crew is more than one, is it
better to use one machine at a time (more racket for shorter period),
or all at once? Would it be better for neighbors to co-ordinate
work days and get it all over with on one day? What is the best
way for people to deal with the imposition of blowers just outside
As noted, economic studies of work-time comparisons for
leaf, dust and debris gathering investigated by ZAP seemed to be more
opinion, rather than fact, and even those did not relate to residential
landscape practices. It would be interesting to know the pay
range for this type of work in various parts of the country or the
city, taking into consideration how many days a week or month are
scheduled, how long each work visit is, and the comparison of property
If you have read this far, you probably have a personal interest in
this issue. Please come back to participate in the survey we
hope to have available in the near future. At the time this website
was launched, there are two other interesting surveys. The LINKS
survey on lawn care equipment is on the League for the Hard of
Hearing site. The link to the Inventions We Love to Hate survey is
also listed there. Leaf blowers lead this list by November 2001.