Leaf blowers receive city ban

NEWPORT BEACH — Residents and gardeners will no longer be able to use gas-powered leaf blowers once an ordinance a divided City Council tentatively approved Tuesday takes effect.

After lengthy discussion and the failure of a motion to also ban electric blowers, the council voted 4 to 3 to force groundskeepers to use a quieter method to collect leaves and debris.

"I hate blowers," Councilman Rush Hill said. "They just drive us crazy in our house."

Hill is not alone. Residents in Corona del Mar organized a petition in 2009 and surveyed their neighbors. Their complaints were wide-ranging, including debris falling into storm drains.

"It's not just the noise," Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said. "For many people, it's about kicking up all the dust."

Gardner proposed banning all blowers, including electric ones, but that was voted down 3 to 4.

A few residents spoke at the meeting, including Karen Tringali, president of the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. She wanted a full moratorium.

"It doesn't do anything to alleviate the particulate pollution," she said before the vote.

In the final proposal, the council gave homeowners associations the ability to opt out of the ban.

The changes will start six months after the council formally approves the ordinance, which will likely be within the next two council meetings.

In other council matters:

A private company will operate and enforce the city's parking meters, after the council voted unanimously to outsource that city service.

Newport currently takes in about $3 million annually from its meters, and the company, Central Parking System Inc., of Nashville, Tenn., has guaranteed that the city will receive $3.01 million. If new meters end up bringing in significantly more, then the city and Central will share the profits.

Almost seven jobs, including a part-time position, will be eliminated from the city workforce. Some of those positions are vacant.

Drivers will notice some changes in the meters; they will now take coins, credit cards and will be able to accept mobile phone payments.

The council reversed a Planning Commission decision to restrict the alcohol service hours at the under-construction Crow Burger Kitchen.

While the restaurant's owner, Steve Geary, originally proposed serving beer and wine on the patio until 11 p.m., the commission decided it should end at 8 p.m. The council Tuesday settled on 10 p.m.

Geary, who owns the popular Crow Bar in Corona del Mar, plans to serve gourmet burgers, beer and wine in a small dining room and an outdoor patio at the Landing, the shopping center under renovation at Newport Boulevard and 32nd Street.

At the meeting, a representative from the company that owns the Landing said it plans to open the center in mid-June.

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