Leaf blowers have been outlawed in Santa Monica for a decade, but after receiving thousands of complaints from residents who claim the ban is not strict enough to prevent the machines from being used, the city is cracking down on the motorized mechanisms.
Instead of issuing two warnings to leaf-blower users before ticketing them, as was the city’s previous policy, violators found to be using leaf blowers now will be fined on the spot. Gardeners who are caught using motorized leaf blowers will be ticketed and fined between $250 and $1,000.
Some 12 gardeners have been ticketed over the past two years for using leaf blowers, but city officials have received more than 2,500 complaints.
Dozens of California cities have ban motorized leaf blowers due to concerns about noise and pollution.
The law has rarely been enforced in the coastal city, and gardeners claim a crackdown will be detrimental for business.
“The blower is the most important tool we have, so in that sense I think it’s a very unjust law,” said Sam Calderon, whose gardening business has operated in Santa Monica for some 20 years.
Calderon said having to sweep or rake leaves takes twice as long as blowing them and that increases costs.
While some homeowners insist he follow the rules, Calderon said others simply ignore the ban.
“I have half-acre to one-acre estates where to not blow is outrageous,” he said. “We can’t maintain the property without a blower, so they agreed, if we get fined they’ll pay half and that’s the way it is.
City officials contend the ban is necessary to cut down on noise and pollution and they’re not convinced it’s a hardship to gardeners.
“I’ve seen gardeners using leaf blowers and slowly walking back and forth. If you take a wide broom, you can be just as efficient,” said Neal Shapiro, with the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
But disagreement over the issue is pitting neighbors against each other. Some are even spying to catch gardeners in the act.
“There are people who go with cameras and roam the streets looking for gardeners who are using leaf blowers,” said Cheryl Raiss, Santa Monica resident.
The ban includes gas and electric blowers and affects all properties, including homes, businesses and government buildings.