After years of debating a ban on leaf blowers, the city of Newport Beach is, well, debating it some more.
The city announced Thursday an online poll to gauge residents and business owners' take on the matter. Options on the survey range from a ban on gas-powered blowers to some sort of restriction on the quieter electric-powered leaf blowers, as well as restricted hours of use.
Most people who complain about leaf blowers cite noise or how they stir up harmful particles in the air. Others say it's a cost-effective way to keep landscaping clean. And at the heart of the debate is the question of the government's role in regulating environmental impacts.
"I hear this motor long after it's gone," said Granville resident Carole Wade. "It's always in your head. It's just so loud."
The survey is a result of years of residents' complaints that culminated in a February City Council session about leaf blowers. Residents made suggestions at the meeting and registered their gripes.
"There are some issues that you continuously get comments about, even when they're on the back-burner," said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, a member of the Environmental Quality Affairs Committee, "and leaf blowers are No. 1."
Gardner estimates that for every e-mail message she gets defending blowers she gets 10 messages opposing them.
One of the issues the city is considering is the economic impact of a ban: Would it burden gardeners who couldn't rake leaves fast enough to be profitable? Would the cost get passed onto residents and business owners and be too much to bear?
"I don't think any of us want to put a bunch of gardeners out of business," Gardner said. "They don't have that cushion."
People who hire gardeners also have a stake in the debate — the homeowners associations and property managers. The city is contacting them to get their response to a potential ban, Gardner said.
Irvine Co. spokeswoman Smooch Reynolds said her organization is waiting to see the results of the survey before taking a position. Irvine is the city's largest commercial landlord and owns many apartment buildings with stretches of grass and concrete.
"We, of course, are monitoring the issue," Reynolds said.
One option on the survey is a ban just in residential districts. But many homeowners want their yards and driveways to be as tidy as any mall or sidewalk.
"You have to have a curb appeal to any company, and to any home," Wade, the blower opponent, acknowledges. "The problem is that when these machines blow these leaves they don't go anywhere. They're just blowing dirt into the air."
Studies have found they kick up dust, harmful spores, pollen and other matter.
Some other cities, including Laguna Beach and Santa Monica, already have some sort of leaf blower ban in place.