After weeks of soliciting feedback from the community and information from municipal commissions, the South Pasadena City Council voted unanimously last week to prohibit the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in town.
“We’re going to be a model for the nation,” said Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cacciotti, a longtime supporter of banning gas-powered leaf blowers and of electrification in general. “This council, the commissioners, the community, I’m just so impressed.”
The decision was made with the health of residents and gardening professionals — as well as environmental impact — in mind, according to council members. The city is urging a switch to electric devices and away from the two-stroke, gas-powered engines of current equipment, and is attempting to phase out its own gas-powered vehicle fleet in favor of electric.
A report from the Public Works Commission noted that electric leaf blowers, by themselves, do not produce emissions, have lower maintenance cost and can be up to 70% quieter than their gas-powered counterparts.
The commission presented a revised ordinance at the council’s meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, after debuting the original draft in July. Commission members looked at similar ordinances in seven cities to develop the final product.
One of the biggest revisions to the original draft was the punishment for violating the ban. Instead of a $50 fine for the first offense and a misdemeanor for the second offense, as outlined in the first draft, there’s now tiered civil enforcement.
With criminalization removed, the first violation will be a written notice. The second violation will result in a fine not exceeding $100, and the third is a fine not exceeding $200. On the fourth violation, the fine can jump to $500.
The revised ordinance also makes it clear that violations are the responsibility of whoever authorized the use of the gas-powered leaf blower, whether it is the property owner or the tenant of a rental unit.
Emergency responders are the only ones permitted to use gas-powered leaf blowers in certain situations, such as when they need clear downed trees and debris.
The new ordinance will begin Oct. 1, 2022, allowing roughly one year for residents and gardening professionals to make the transition from gas to electric leaf blowers or determine another manual way to remove green waste.
The city staff is expected to communicate the details of the ordinance through direct mail, information on utility bills and the creation of a city website that lists available resources. The Public Works Commission asked to appropriate $25,000 from the general fund to cover costs of public outreach.
It also will host a demonstration at which attendees can try out the electric leaf blowers for themselves on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Additionally, the city will team up with the American Green Zone Alliance, which has a bilingual point of contact, to help gardening professionals transition to electric.
“We have the ability to articulate specifics on work production rate capabilities, costs of operation benefits and really guide them to any resources, such as the South Coast [Air Quality Management District] program and then others that may be out there to reduce the cost of procurement,” alliance founder Dan Mabe said in a public comment.
Cacciotti, who is also the City Council liaison for South Pasadena’s Natural Resources and Environmental Commission, was pleased with the discussion of and formation of the final ordinance.
“This is like 98% support. It’s unheard of in South Pasadena for any big issue like this to find that much support,” Cacciotti said. “You’re setting up a model the rest of the San Gabriel Valley needs to follow.”