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Leaf blower dustup returns to Sebastopol council

Proposed city ban on power tool could evolve into compromise; crowd expected at Tuesday meeting

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

There is nothing quite like a leaf blower to create a swirling controversy in Sebastopol.

After an earlier decision to ban the noisy, but labor-saving, machines, the Sebastopol City Council may be seeking middle ground at its Tuesday meeting, which is expected to be packed with residents on both sides of the issue.

“I am expecting a pretty good turnout. There has been a lot of attention to the issue,” Mayor Guy Wilson said.

To ban or not to ban has been an issue in Sebastopol for the past two years. On March 1, in what critics say was a surprise decision, the council voted 3-2 to ask staff to draw up an ordinance prohibiting leaf blowers for all but emergency uses.

The decision was reached after a presentation by Sebastopol Peaceful Air Effort, a group that claimed the machines were noisy, polluting and contributed to respiratory problems.

That action sparked the formation of Sebastopol Citizens, which got 200 petition signatures opposing a ban as unnecessary and had members speak during subsequent City Council meetings.

Dan Swedenborg, one of the group’s founders, said if there are restrictions, they should be reasonable, such as tying them to a noise ordinance, but not enacting an entire ban.

Jonathan Greenberg of Sebastopol Peaceful Air Effort said its members are willing to allow some personal use of leaf blowers, subject to neighbors’ complaints, but still want severe restrictions for city workers and what would amount to a virtual ban for landscapers.

“We would eliminate 95 percent of leaf blowing in the city,” Greenberg said.

Wilson said he expects the council on Tuesday to seek a compromise, perhaps by limiting times or days of use or specifying the use of newer, quieter equipment.

“We do have to have some standards, there is some value in enacting something to have some limitations on blowers,” Wilson said. “Where we go I can’t quite say.”

Sebastopol Citizens is also concerned the council is reacting to a vocal minority who do not represent Sebastopol’s overall population.

“Most of us that are part of the group have lived here 15-plus years and have quietly forborne the kind of issues that we view as a little wacky and there are such bigger issues the city of Sebastopol needs to deal with,” Swedenborg said.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Sebastopol Community Center Youth Annex, 390 Morris Street.

—–O—–

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13 Responses to “Leaf blower dustup returns to Sebastopol council”

  1. The Hammer says:

    Love those leaf blowers. You can blow the crap on your property onto you neighbors property where he can sweep it up with a broom.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  2. Richard Ruggles says:

    the smell in sept is a lot worse then leaf blowers do something about that sebastopol

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. Dan Fox says:

    Sebastopol’s City Council kowtowing to a vocal minority? Surely you jest. Let’s see, there was the council resolution against the war in Iraq … the banning of smoking in apartments … and best-known of all, banning free wifi from the city because … um, er, it might cause problems of some sort. (Although the exact nature of those problems was never stated.)

    At least the council was sensible enough to realize that it didn’t have the power to ban PG&E’s smart meters within the city’s boundaries. And they were up against a VERY vocal minority on that one, who continue to ask for reasonable accommodations for the “electrically sensitive”. (Would you believe one of their complaints is that council meetings being held under electric lights? I am not sure what they think the alternative is – candles? darkness?)

    I consider myself as green as anyone, but I have to say that I’m really glad to see the rank and file of Sebastopol residents finally speaking up against extremist minorities. That’s the essence of our republican (little R) form of government, after all – “Let everyone be represented”. It’s not “Let he who whines loudest wins”.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  4. Stop Crying says:

    Obviously nobody in Sebastopol has done much research. It is long settled that you can’t ban leaf blowers you can only limit the times of use. See Section 209(d) of the Federal Clean Air Act; Ca. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 39602; Engine Manufacturers Association vs. South Coast Air Quality Management District, 541 U.S. 246 (2004); EMA vs. Robert Huston, 190 F. Supp.2d 922, (W.D.
    Texas, 2001); Central Valley Chrysler-Plymouth v. California, 2002 U.S. Dist.
    Lexis 20403, No. CV-F-02-5017 (E.D. Cal. June 11, 2002).

    Hence, any such ban would be easily defeated and not accomplish the goals. An electric leaf blower obviously makes less noise than a gasoline powered lawn mower or chain saw right?

    So come on you SebAsToPloIans get real. Just realize that we live together in a small community, if you don’t like community noise, then go move to Camp Meeker on top of the hill.

    Just restrict the use to daytime hours and perhaps after 10am on weekends. But you will NEVER successfully ban leaf blowers all together, the Courts will shut your efforts down. This is long settled.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  5. Skeptical says:

    The noise is bad and reasonable regulation is in order. And if a person (usually a professional landscaper) blows all the leaves and what not out into the roadway to litter the yards down wind . . . they should be fined.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 9

  6. Chris says:

    Budget crisis? Leaf blowers is the preeminent issue concerning America today.

    And to think people think Sebastopol is out of touch with reality…

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  7. Kirstin says:

    As a rule I favor less government interference in our lives. I also favor the “do unto others as…” way of living. If we expect government to stay out of our business, we need to conduct ourselves as though no law/regulation is needed. Anyone who uses garden implements (leaf blower, power saw, gas lawnmower, etc.) that make a lot of noise should be respectful of their neighbors by using these things at appropriate times and as sparingly as possible. We may exercise our liberty as long as that doesn’t impinge unreasonably on someone else’s liberty. Some people don’t mind noise pollution — but others do!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  8. Dogs Rule says:

    If blower noise is your big problem you best disband your town and re-organize as a really annoying condo association style local government. You could have meetings and donuts and make millions of little rules to terrorize others! Think of the fun you’ll have!! You could ban smoothie shops next! The noise from those blenders are simply unacceptable.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  9. Ray M. says:

    What do you expect. The city was named after a Soviet city.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  10. Dave Madigan says:

    You can have my leafblower when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  11. Skippy says:

    You can have my leafblower as soon as you volunteer to tend to my yard.
    What a bunch of crybaby snots!
    Since they don’t want one, the rest of us should be barred from having one.
    News flash!
    You have no right to not be offended.
    Get over yourselves.

    Thumb up 32 Thumb down 16

  12. @ Jon Bixler: First of all I’d like to say that your comment, as articulate and beautifully written as it may seem, is full of it! While you are pointing out the “why’s” others choose to live the way they do and question if there is a “Freudian parallel somewhere that I’m overlooking?” , you should include yourself in your questioning.

    While claiming you are not “prude”, you turn your nose up and point out your view of absurdity on how others choose to live and encourage everyone to see how silly their choices are. Yes, I think there is a parallel which you are overlooking… …..hypocrisy.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 14

  13. Jon Bixler says:

    As much as I’d like to poke some fun at our brethren (and sistren) of Sebastopol (People’s Republic of), I find myself strangely empathizing with them.

    Every weekend the hordes descend upon our peaceful JC neighborhood, armed with an impressive array of leaf blowers, string trimmers, hedge clippers, and lawn mowers, all gas powered. Stihl and Husqvarna reign supreme and by sundown, there isn’t a blade of grass that stands unmolested. Not a hedge row out of place. The line where lawn meets sidewalk is razor sharp. Two-stroke exhaust chokes the air and freshly blown pollon coats the surface of anything and anyone caught in this afternoon orgy of ridiculousness.

    I have by far the largest lawn on the block at 400 square feet. (my status as a humble renter precludes me from ripping it out and replacing it with drought tolerant foliage). Some of the lawns around here are nothing more than 10 x 10 postage stamps adorning the spot between the front door and the car door.

    At the risk of offending any of you master gardeners and your delicate sensibilities, I gotta ask…. why? Why do you spend the thousands that you do for your sadly undersized lawn-lings. Are your vast emerald expanses just unmanageable sans power everything? Why are you so ferociously protective of your lawn blowers? Is there a Freudian parallel somewhere that I’m overlooking?

    A hundred bucks and 45 minutes at the flea market yields a reel mower, edger, lawn rake, and hedge shears. I stole the broom from the kitchen and made ready to do battle with my ungainly patch. I found the reel mower more than adequate making quick work on the lawn. The edger and hedge trimmers function as well and in an amazingly short amount of time, my front yard is ship-shape. As to the broom and rake, I may have spent more time than my blower toting neighbors, but the end result was the same without the noise and choking clouds of dust and pollen. I found the experience strangely satisfying. Almost a moral victory.

    I will continue to live a horsepowerless existence. I’m not a prude. I won’t begrudge my neighbors their obscene collections of souped up gas guzzling testosterone impregnated solutions to lawn maintenance. I will, from time to time, point out its absurdity and continue to encourage one and all to see the silliness and maybe consider the possibility of excusing yourself from it.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 17

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