The City’s aggressive pursuit of leaf blowers in Santa Monica seems to be paying off – cases were down in 2016 and in the beginning of this year. At the moment, 86 leaf blower cases are under investigation, according to an information item posted on the City’s website.

For 2017, Code Enforcement has averaged about 50 leaf blower cases a month – about half the rate of previous years. The City says that could because of significant rainfall during the early part of the year or because of a previous crackdown: officers have been issuing fewer warnings and more tickets.

Of 163 cases opened during the first quarter this year, 8 tickets have been written and 85 remain under investigation. The rest of the cases have been closed because the violation couldn’t be verified (the officer has to actually catch the leaf blower in the act).

While the vast majority of Code Enforcement cases involve substandard living conditions, work permit issues and noise violations – nearly a quarter of all cases handled by officers involve alleged leaf blower violations.

It is illegal to operate any kind of leaf blower in the City whether gas, electric or battery powered. The local law allows Code Enforcement to cite either the property owner, management company, landscaping company or the operator. In practice, it’s usually the man or the woman caught holding the blower who gets hit with the $500 fine.

That’s because of a 2015 case where a property owner was written the ticket after an officer observed a gardener operating a leaf blower on the property. The property owner appealed the citation and won because the City couldn’t prove he knew the blower was being used.

Santa Monica has one of the strictest leaf blower ordinances in the area. Malibu has a ban on gas-powered blowers but does not issue fines for violations. Culver City requires a permit to operate a blower and restricts the hours of day. The fine for operating a gas-powered leaf blower in Los Angeles is just $100.

The City’s public information officer says the ban dates back to 1991 and underscores the City’s commitment to sustainability and overall wellbeing.

“Leaf blowers pose a health risk by blowing contaminants up from the ground and into the air, which can provoke asthma and other respiratory issues,” Constance Farrell said. “The ban, which many other cities have also adopted, including our neighbors in Los Angeles and Malibu, reduces noise and air pollution.”

In 2016, Code enforcement wrote 206 citations related to leaf blowers out of 1,118 cases. That number was down from 2015, when officers wrote 254 tickets out of 1,272 cases.

kate@smdp.com

 

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