Sonoma City Council bans gas-powered leaf blowers

Posted on February 18, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun

In its meeting last night, Sonoma’s City Council voted 3 to 2 to direct staff to develop a leaf blower ordinance which bans gas-powered leaf blowers but allows the continued use of electric leaf blowers. Various provisions for times-of-day for permitted uses were included in council directions to staff. The council agreed unanimously to prohibit the blowing of leaves onto the street, as per a previous council decision. Apparently the use of gas-fueled generators to provide power to electric leaf blowers will, however, be allowed.

The vote represents a compromise between different stakeholder groups; those wanting to ban leaf blowers due to environmental and noise pollution, and those advocating cost savings to residents, a free-market approach, and supporting gardening company employment. The compromise solution may be seen as flawed by both sides, as it is not a pure expression of what either side wanted, but it may serve to finally put this contentious issue to rest.

Council member Hundley offered arguments that noise and wind speed levels for electric and battery-operated blowers were essentially the same or greater than for gas-powered blowers; as such, noise and particulates would be the same. Council member Edwards pointed out that an overall CO2 footprint and e-waste associated with battery-powered blowers was equally deleterious in terms of systemic impacts. Though these points were made to emphasize the inconsistency of the proposed new ordinance, they could also have been used as a basis to strengthen a ban to include all leaf blowers.

Values of residential tranquility and environmental pollution were contrasted against cost savings and gardening company livelihood. Ultimately, the council seemed to accept that this compromise may not be perfect, but for now they are satisfied with having finally set the matter of leaf blowers in Sonoma to rest.

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