CITY HALL — Call it an act of vigilantism for the 21st century.
If you’re fed up with hearing gardeners use noisy, illegal leaf blowers in your neighborhood you can now take matters into your own hands, via e-mail. Not by writing to the cops, but by e-mailing the Web site stopleafblowers.com, the brainchild of an anonymous Santa Monica anti-leaf blower activist.
Started about six months ago, the aim of the site is to create a calendar showing probable times and locations where illicit leaf blowing will occur. Based on observations and tips, the site predicts, for example, that today leaf blowing will take place on the 2200 block of 20th street at 10:15 a.m.
“Since most leaf blowers are used by gardeners who work on a weekly schedule, it is common to see and hear them at the same time and location each week,” the Web site’s homepage says. “Our goal is to compile a list of occurrences so that the police can anticipate future leaf blowing activity and stop it.”
The man behind the Web site spoke with the Daily Press about his project, but asked to remain anonymous to avoid being targeted by the pro-leaf blowing crowd.
He said he was constantly annoyed to hear leaf blowers while he was working out of his home office and decided to do something about it. Santa Monica residents have long complained that the ban on leaf blowers, which dates to the early 1990s, is widely flaunted because of weak enforcement. The Web master said he doesn’t blame the police, he only wanted to help.
“When you call the police, obviously it’s not a high priority, so they’re really not able to get there in time to have a meaningful impact,” he said.
He started by updating the site whenever he heard a leaf blower in his neighborhood but soon started getting e-mails, many of them anonymous, reporting additional leaf blowing occurrences.
The Daily Press on one occasion successfully used the site to locate and photograph gardeners breaking the law.
Though the police are aware of the site, it hasn’t yet led to strategic enforcement operations against leaf blowers.
“I haven’t used it as an enforcement tool,” said Adam Gartz, the Santa Monica Police Department’s neighborhood resource officer for the area north of Montana Avenue. But he has referred leaf blower opponents to the site.
Though the police issue relatively few leaf blower citations, under the existing ordinance gardeners face fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail for violations.
On Tuesday, City Council is scheduled to consider the issue, and could direct city staff to prepare an updated leaf blowing ordinance. A memo to the council last month suggested an ordinance aimed at holding "property owners, rather than leafblower operators, responsible for adherence to the law."
It’s an idea some community groups have long favored.
“This is something we’ve been harassing the council about for years, so we’re thrilled that they’re finally paying attention and starting to take some action,” said Jeanne Dodson, a board member of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition.
The memo to the council also suggested moving leaf blower enforcement authority from the police department to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.