When it comes to phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers, landscape professionals don't have much to say about it, according to outreach efforts by the city of Menlo Park.
Menlo Park has a target date of July 1, 2024 to enforce a ban on the use of gas-powered leafblowers and string trimmers, with a ban on other types of gas-powered landscaping equipment starting in January 2029. But first, the Menlo Park City Council asked staff to reach out to stakeholders before making a decision on implementing the new rule and enforcing it.
Staff sent out 102 emails to landscaping professionals in Menlo Park and received only five responses, with one in support of using electric appliances and one opposed. They did not receive a response from the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), but there was information available to the public from the organization.
The city received 107 total responses including other stakeholders such as landowners in Menlo Park. Of these responses, 35 residents already owned electric leafblowers and 19 stated their support for the regulation of gas-powered landscaping equipment.
One resident, Sean van Dril, spoke about the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers on higher density communities.
"(In a fourplex) the majority of the days of the week, we have landscaping services in a lot adjacent to ours," van Dril said. "Because we have no air conditioning, that means, especially in the summer, we have to close all of our windows. It gets hot, and when we open them we have the smell of exhaust, not to mention all of the dust that's kicked up."
The enforcement would focus on property owners, on whose land the work is being done, rather than the gardeners using the equipment, as is done with noise ordinances. The city is focused on enforcement strategies, as there are vacancies in the city's code enforcement and community officer ranks.
At an Oct. 18 study session meeting, Council member Jen Wolosin proposed the city add an option to its app that would allow residents to notify the city of violations.
Council member Ray Mueller said enforcement should prioritize a system of escalating consequences, so that residents aren't blindsided by a law they've never heard of. Mueller also said that the city should take hardship into account and be flexible in its enforcement.
"We can do all the outreach in the world that we want to do," Mueller said. "I don't think it's going to reach everybody, and I think what's going to end up happening is when we go to implement people are going to hear about for the first time."
Leah Elkins, resident and member of the Environmental Quality Commission spoke about moving up the timeline on implementation and enforcement, and instituting the law before July 2024 with a six month grace period.
"(By moving up the timeline) we could at least save some more time where we wouldn't have to be living with these machines that are harming our health and the health of our children, as well as our peace and quiet," Elkins said.
Wolosin was heavily in support of regulating the use of gas-powered equipment.
"I feel like we can't ban these things soon enough, they're horrible," Wolosin said. "For all the reasons that our residents have articulated beautifully They're loud, they're smelly, I can't stand riding into clouds of dust particles when I'm on my bike."
Council member Drew Combs said he's "not unsupportive" of the ordinance, but that the city needs to focus on outreach and helping those most impacted by both the ordinance and the fumes of gas-powered landscaping equipment. Combs asked for a focus on engaging those who work in landscaping.
"The person who has it strapped on their back is suffering the most ill effects, but because of their ... economic station, that's what they have to do," Combs said. "In some generations past in my family, that was my grandfather. That was my great-grandfather."
The City Council suggested that city staff take part in bilingual outreach from December to April, working with smaller gardeners and residents who can work with their landscaping crew before enforcement begins, but no formal vote was taken.