Leaf blower ban proposed

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday discussed bans on gas and electric-powered leaf blowers and directed city administrators to draft a proposal regulating the devices.

Officials asked for a proposed ban of both gas and electric leaf blowers that would apply in areas not governed by homeowners associations, which would either opt in or opt out. Limits would apply only to residential areas, not parks or commercial districts.

Residents have long shown concern about the use of leaf blowers, primarily those that are gas-powered, due to the pollution and noise they create, as well as the dust they kick up.

"There are certain parts of the city, like Corona del Mar, where this has been a big issue and we need to figure out how to address the people in Corona del Mar that are concerned about this," Mayor Keith Curry said.

The council was approached Feb. 19 by the Environmental Quality Affairs Committee, which gave four options to the council in its recommendation: a complete ban, a limited ban, more restrictive noise and air pollution regulations, or no change.

Steve Bunting, a project analyst, provided survey results from landscapers, homeowner associations and residents and businesses.

Of the 25 landscapers polled, 76% opposed a ban, and 74% said it would affect their business operations.

ValleyCrest, one of the largest landscape companies in the U.S., reflected the majority opinion in its category, estimating that costs would increase by about 25%.

Raking leaves would mean jobs would take longer and being more expensive, survey respondents said.

Resident Hunter Cook said the focus should be on citizens, not landscapers.

"We're the ones that live here and we're the ones that hire the maintenance companies," he said. "I have personally told my gardener to not use leaf blowers. I do hope that you do adopt the ban."

Residents and business owners who responded largely favored regulations. Out of the 306 that answered the survey, 71% wanted the ban and 57% favored limiting hours of use.

Thirty-two of the city's 151 homeowner associations responded, with 68% supporting the ban.

"They have a governing structure in place," Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said. "They have a homeowners association in place. They manage issues very well. It seems to me, if they want to have a ban, they can do that and the members can vote that … as opposed to [a] command-and-control city saying you must ban them. Respecting that governing structure needs to be part of the distinction."

One issue about the survey, which Councilwoman Nancy Gardner pointed out, is that there are 151 homeowners associations in Newport Beach and only 32 responded.

"I have to admit my ignorance. I was not aware of the survey. I never saw a survey so I'm not sure where it was...," said Frank Hughes, president of Big Canyon Community Assn. "I anticipate that our costs would be increased. All I would ask is that you consider option No.1 … that we'd be able to govern ourselves rather than have a citywide ban."

The council agreed that the homeowner associations could make their own decisions, but there are plenty of areas, such as the flower streets in Corona del Mar, not governed by such panels

.

Councilman Mike Henn has implemented the ban at his own home and hasn't heard much from his landscaper.

"A few weeks back I told my gardener to stop using the blower on my house, and he didn't charge me any more," Henn said. "Now, I have a house that has a very small area that needs to be cleaned, so I'm not sure that's totally indicative."

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