Q. I read in the paper a few weeks ago that the law and the enforcement of the anti-leaf blower ordinance will be changing. What are the changes?
A. Recently City Hall updated the anti-leaf blower ordinance. Originally created in 1991, the leaf blower law has gone through several updates and revisions. The most current revision renews City Hall’s commitment to effectively stopping the use of leaf blowers within the city. The revised law steps up enforcement activity, adds a training and education component, makes more people and/or businesses responsible for violations, and recognizes the primary problem with leaf blowers is the environmental damage they cause both from the tailpipe emissions and the dust they create. As before, both gas and electric blowers are illegal. In addition to the individual gardener/operator, now the landscape company employing the gardener, the owner of the property, the management company responsible for a property, and/or the homeowners association for a property will be warned or cited as well.
Currently the police department’s average response time to a citizen complaint of a leaf blower is about 24 minutes. Typically when an officer arrives on scene the violator is usually done or gone. To improve effectiveness the primary responsibility of enforcement of the leaf blower law will shift from the SMPD to City Hall’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE). All calls regarding leaf blowers made to the police department will be referred to OSE who will send an enforcement specialist. Even if the offending gardener is done or gone when they arrive, OSE will follow up with citations to the related property owners and landscaping companies. OSE personnel will track complaints and, relying on the fact that gardeners typically go to the same property on the same day at the same time, proactively go to locations where complaints have been received and intercept offenders. Police officers can and will continue to issue citations for leaf blower violations they observe, however, administrative actions to property owners and landscape companies will be handled and tracked solely by OSE. The police department and OSE will work cooperatively to address any enforcement problems that arise.
Education and training will become a significant facet of the revised enforcement. Education will include mailers included in appropriate city literature, an educational website, and leaf blower awareness training added to existing City Hall-sponsored gardener training classes. Water is not a good alternative to a blower. It’s a huge waste of a precious commodity and it’s illegal. Alternatives to blowers are wide push brooms, rakes, and manual leaf sweeping machines. Mechanical leaf vacuums are legal and becoming more and more commercially available.
When you observe a leaf blower violation, note the day, date, time, and exact address where the offense is occurring. Obtain a description of the person using the blower and the associated vehicle. Take a picture if possible. Immediately call or e-mail the OSE with the information (see below). If you call you may have to leave a message. All reports will be investigated. For maximum efficiency it is critical that the address where the offense is occurring is correct; even if the gardener is not present the owner or management company of the property can still be cited. Your personal information will be protected to the fullest extent of the law. If you chose to remain anonymous it may limit the swiftness and severity of remedial action that can be taken. Never confront or contact a gardener using a leaf blower.
City Hall’s new comprehensive approach to the enforcement of leaf blower violations will result in cleaner air and effective, long-term abatement to their use. The key to making this work is prompt and effective reporting of observed violations.
Leaf Blower Hotline: (310) 458-4952.
GO System: www.smgov.net/go
Remember the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL) will be hosting their annual, “Palloween” event at Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport. It is a great alternative to trick-or-treating and is much more fun. Admission is free. For more information see the SMPD website at www.santamonicapd.org.
Crime prevention tips of the week
Over the past few months there has been a slight increase in the number of thefts from automobiles in Santa Monica. Most of the incidents involve unlocked vehicles. To protect your valuables:
• Lock your vehicle (even if you will only be away momentarily)!
• Remove all of your belongings from the vehicle.
This column was prepared by NRO Adam Gwartz (Beat 5: Montana Avenue to north city limits, Ocean Avenue to 26th Street). He can be reached at (424) 200-0685 or email@example.com.