Q: As I understand it leaf blowers are illegal in Santa Monica? They kick up dust and make a horrible noise. I always see the police drive right by them, why aren’t they stopping those things? Are the electric blowers legal? Are there any legal alternatives?

A: You are absolutely right. Leaf blowers are illegal in Santa Monica. Section 4.08.270 (a) of the Santa Monica municipal code bars “motorized” leaf blowers within the city. This prohibits their use at all times and includes gas and electric blowers. When we receive calls from citizens of leaf blower violations, the typical response time from an officer is usually greater than the average time the device is being used (Presently the average response time is about 24 minutes to leaf blower calls). Combine that with the fact the last thing gardeners do before they finish a job is use the leaf blower, many times the violator is gone before we arrive on scene. If the gardener is still on scene we cite the person who we observe using the blower. If the leaf blower is not actively being used then we typically advise the gardening crew. Simple possession of the device is not a violation, so if it is not actively being used or operated then there is no violation of the law.

When officers are out on patrol and see violations they make every effort to stop and enforce or warn gardeners regarding the law. We have to take into account gardeners are otherwise engaged in lawful — community beautifying activity. Gardeners frequently tell me using a leaf blower saves time, effort, water and money. They get more done in less time so they can keep their fees as low as possible. Violations of the leaf blower ordinance are important, but they are not an immediate life or property emergency. If an officer is responding to a potential life or property call for service they typically will not stop to cite or warn the violator.

The City Council has recently looked into holding the employer responsible (property owner, home owner association, or property management company) as well as the operator for violations of the ordinance. Any potential change in the law has not been codified and is not enforceable at this time. There is no exception for electric blowers, they are illegal as well. Legal alternatives are rakes and brooms, and leaf vacuums.

If you want to report an active leaf blower call SMPD dispatch at (310) 458-8491. Provide the exact address, a description of the violator, and the license plate of the violator’s vehicle, if applicable. You can also e-mail me at adam.gwartz@smgov.net or leave me a message at (310) 458-2201 x4135. I will need the exact address where the violation is occurring, the day of the week, the time of day, and the license plate of the violator’s vehicle, if any. Gardeners usually go to the same location on the same day at roughly the same time. I will make every effort to intercept the violator the following week. I also periodically coordinate operations specifically focused on leaf blower violations. I post all leaf blower operations on my blog at santamonicapd.org/nro

Q: Do I need an alarm permit for my home alarm system? Are there fees for false alarms?

A: No, an alarm permit is not required. However, it should be noted that an audible alarm must automatically shut off after 15 minutes. If the audible part of the alarm does not reset after an hour it may be considered a public nuisance and prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Automated alarms that call the police department with pre-recorded messages are not allowed.

Only a very small fraction of alarm responses called into the police turn out to be good alarms, most alarms are false. When the police respond and determine the alarm activation to be a “false alarm,” the first two police responses in any fiscal year are free. The third response is $134.70 and the fourth and subsequent response in any fiscal year are $180.40. These amounts are adjusted annually. Alarm billing is generated monthly. Nonpayment may result in civil action and/or the police department may be instructed not to respond to alarm calls.

Tips for reducing false alarms:

n Always make sure all of your doors and windows are locked, even if you are only leaving for a short time. That includes second story windows. Unlocked windows and doors can be blown open by the wind and cause false alarms.

n Ensure interior motion detectors are adjusted so they don’t activate when pets or other natural movement occurs within the house. (Air conditioners/fans blowing drapes, etc.)

n Routinely have your alarm provider service your system, If an issue with your system develops, address it immediately.

n Consider adding the security response to your alarm plan; you may opt to have the security staff respond before the police to determine if an activation is a false alarm.

n Constantly update your contact and password information with your provider; in case there is an emergency the alarm service or the police can immediately contact you.

n If an accidental activation occurs when you are arming or disarming the system, immediately notify your provider.

n Make sure guests, employees, or others using your system have the password and know how to use the system.

If you have police related questions or concerns, we’d like to hear them. Send your questions or comments to NRO@smgov.net and you may see your question in our weekly column accompanied by valuable feedback for the rest of the community. While not all questions will appear in the column, all questions submitted will be answered by a department representative. Also, please note that we will supply as much information as possible without jeopardizing any legal proceedings or investigations. Remember, if you have a question, chances are, another reader may be wondering the same thing. So don’t hesitate to ask!

This column was prepared by NRO Adam Gwartz (Beat 5: Montana to the north city limits, and Ocean Avenue to 26th Street). He can be reached at (424) 200-0685 or by e-mail at adam.gwartz@smgov.net.

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