The Encinitas City Council gave its initial approval Wednesday to a proposed ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, saying the change would benefit the environment while reducing neighborhood noise.
The number one benefit is a reduction in the city’s greenhouse emissions, which will help Encinitas meet its Climate Action Plan goals, Councilman Tony Kranz said.
“We are in the fight of our lives right now,” he said, mentioning that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are causing global temperatures to rise. “The planet’s warming to the point that we will not be able to inhabit it (if steps aren’t taken now).”
The proposed ban is expected to allow the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 128 metric tons by 2020 and 142 metric tons by 2030. That’s a small percentage of the city’s general greenhouse gas emissions, which were estimated at 500,000 metric tons in 2012, but every bit helps, city environmental officials have said.
Changing the city’s ordinances to add in the proposed ban will require a second vote — scheduled for the council’s July 10 meeting. If approved then, the ban would go into effect gradually over a period of months, starting first with city-owned properties and eventually covering commercial and finally residential properties.
The ban would only would apply to gas-powered blowers. Battery-operated or electric cord-powered devices, which are considered more environmentally friendly because they don’t produce as much air pollution, would be exempt.
The proposed ordinance calls for first-time violators to receive a warning notice. Second-time offenders could receive a $100 fine. A second fine would cost $200, and after that the fine increases to $1,000, the ordinance states.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the city’s Environmental Commission had sought to ban both gas- and electric-powered leaf blowers and the proposal now being considered is a compromise. Representatives for the Encinitas area homeowners associations have told the city that a total ban on blowers wasn’t a workable option for them.
“This was the path that seemed possible,” Blakespear said, adding that maybe at a later date the council might revisit the issue.
The council voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Jody Hubbard absent, to back the proposed ban with a few modifications. The council agreed to eliminate Sundays from the days that electric-power leaf blowers would be permitted to operate and they subtracted an hour from the other days of the week, making the start time 8 a.m. instead of 7. They also directed city employees to look into starting a rebate or exchange program to help people make the shift to electric blowers.
Before the vote, council members heard from several proponents and opponents. Proponents encouraged the council to ban all types of blowers, while an opponent told the council that the proposed ordinance used outdated, faulty scientific data to make its claims of environmental benefits.
Aurora Mach, a Cardiff resident who has been diagnosed with a heart condition, noted that Del Mar enacted a total ban years ago and asked why Encinitas couldn’t do the same thing now.
“All this dust that I’m breathing I know is not healthy,” she said, her voice breaking as she described why she wanted a ban on all types of leaf blowers.
Heidi Fogo, a scientist who lives in Cardiff, also recommended a total ban, saying leaf blowers pose a health risk for people with breathing difficulties, while fellow Cardiff resident Jill Lingnell said she thought it was “narrow-minded” of the council to focus on the greenhouse gas emissions of gas-powered leaf blowers. She said noise pollution is a problem, too, so electric blowers also ought to be banned.
While proponents focused on air quality and noise issues, opponent Greg Lefevre said the council needs to realize that battery-operated leaf blowers have their own environmental issues because the lithium batteries they use don’t last long and aren’t recycled. The proposed city ordinance doesn’t recognize this fact, he said. It also uses old data from the 1990s to make its claim that gas-powered blowers are significant polluters, he said.
Also, Lefevre said, minority-owned landscape companies will be the hardest hit by the proposed ban, calling it a “crushing blow to those least able to afford it.”
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