First published in the July 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
La Cañada Flintridge plans to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers by next summer, fulfilling the promise it made to residents to combat greenhouse gas emissions when establishing the climate action plan six years ago.
City staff introduced an ordinance that would not only prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, but also the hours during which landscaping maintenance and tree trimming are allowed. The only exceptions would be maintenance to the school district’s fields as well as medians and public right of way on Foothill Boulevard.
Though the City Council commended staff for presenting an ordinance that shows LCF’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are harmful to the environment and noise pollution, some of the council members expressed concern with the implementation process.
“I think this is a good idea, and we need to make progress to make this work,” said Councilman Mike Davitt. “I think what staff has done, in my estimation, is we’re biting off more than we can chew.
“It’s not good policy just to create something that appears will be helpful to answer our responsibilities on the [climate action plan] and the noise and things like that, but we can’t make something that’s not fair and responsible and prudent.”
Davitt also felt that banning tree trimming on the weekend would not be fair to residents and businesses that offer that service. “It’s not fair if I call a tree-trimmer to trim my trees … and they say, ‘I can make it on Saturday,’ and then I say, ‘No, Saturday doesn’t work because we’ve got a ban on that,’” he added.
Mayor Pro Tem Keith Eich echoed his colleague, stating that the ordinance is tackling too many issues at once and does not have a proper enforcement plan. He asked that staff look at South Pasadena’s ban because it included a more precise implementation plan that included a budget and additional information.
“I feel like we’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit,” said Eich, who went as far as to suggest banning all leaf blowers, including those that are electric and better for the environment.
“I actually would rather recommend we just ban outright leaf blowers, and not get into two-cycle, four-cycle or electric,” Eich said. “Just ban leaf blowers, because it’s noise that people complain about when I hear from them, not the environmental concerns, which we should care about.”
Councilman Rick Gunter agreed with Eich and Davitt that revisions will need to be made to the ordinance but that they must begin the work needed “to correct a thousand years of mistakes we’ve been making to get us where we are.
“I don’t want perfect to be the enemy of good,” said Gunter, who asked city staff to detail how it will communicate to residents its intent to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Several residents chimed in supporting the city’s plans along with some revisions to the ordinance. David Haxton suggested that all gas-powered landscaping tools — not just leaf blowers — be prohibited and landscaping maintenance hours be similar to those of construction.
“So it’s OK to have noisy construction at 7 a.m. but you can’t do landscape maintenance? That doesn’t make sense,” said Haxton, who added that fines for gardeners using gas-powered leaf blowers should also be imposed on the homeowner who employed them.
City staff will now consider the feedback given from council members and stakeholders and present a revised ordinance next month.
“I think this was a great first step … but I think we need to go back and think about the comments, maybe separate the other issues out, and really deal with getting this one thing — the leaf blower — through,” Mayor Terry Walker told LCF staff. “I don’t want to see us say, ‘Let’s not do the ordinance for a year.’ It just drags out. I think you made great progress on a tight timetable, and I think that we could come back in another month and address these things that really aren’t crosses to die on and move forward with this and still have our July 2023 deadline.”