Will a ban on gas powered leaf blowers result in loss of jobs for landscape workers?

None of the 20+ California cities with total or partial leaf blower bans reported job losses. None of the cities including Tiburon, Laguna Beach, Santa Monica or Beverly Hills has suffered from a pandemic of untidy gardens and public parks, or lawsuits resulting from slips, trips and falls on wet leaves. Landscape workers are still needed and still employed to take care of gardens, parks and paths using alternative equipment (rakes and brooms). In fact opponents of a leaf blower ban simultaneously claim that jobs will be lost and that there will be MORE work. Which is it?

Arguing that eliminating gas powered blowers (most have a two stroke engine that produces toxic emissions) will hurt landscaping businesses assumes that industry standards for any mechanized equipment are static and that new, cleaner, safer products never come on the market over time and that environmental regulations are not updated to address concerns like air pollution, climate change, soil conservation and restoration, and threats to public health. Transitioning away from gas powered leaf blowers will result in improved working conditions for landscape workers, who are most at risk of hearing damage, and respiratory illness – harmful outcomes that really could lead to job loss.

Are electric really any better than gas powered leaf blowers?

Many opposed to a ban of gas powered blowers argue that electric blowers don’t solve the problem of particulate matter, and they’re really just as noisy, so what’s the point?

Are there some old electric blowers out there that are louder/more annoying than some gas blowers, especially when they are used at full throttle? Absolutely. But it is clearly the exception, based on every objective source we’ve read (see Consumer Reports and Scientific American below). First, Sonoma CALM does not advocate trading in every gas powered blower for a new electric blower. Our goal is really to get landscaping companies and individuals to STOP with the leaf blowers already! Alternatives exist –  rakes and brooms worked just fine from the Middle Ages right up to the end of the Age of Reason when leaf blowers evolved from the crop dusters they were designed to everything dusters.

Noise from gas leaf blowers is more than just an annoyance, but a threat to overall health. Noise from most two-stroke gas leaf blowers in use ranges from 95−115 decibels at the ear of the operator. Since decibels are on a logarithmic scale, these levels are well beyond those deemed safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for workers (80 decibels, assuming hearing protection). If a leaf lower is absolutely necessary, lithium ion battery blowers are far quieter than gas blowers, ranging from 56 to 68 db. The following sources are listed as evidence that they are quieter and the newer ones have been engineered to reduce particulate matter (or fugitive dust).

Will lawnmowers be banned next?

No. Nobody is trying to ban lawnmowers at this time, although water thirsty lawns are on their way out as California enters another year of severe drought. Lawnmowers are generally used on lawns, and not on sidewalks, parking lots and roads (where leaf blowers should also never be used according to manufacturers’ guidelines), so their use is more prescribed. Also the noise generated by a lawnmower may be as loud as a leaf blower but because the quality of the noise is different (see our Decibels for Dummies page, and the “Noise” section on our Resources page) most people are not as bothered by them. It’s worth noting that no one complains about lawnmowers, and people complain incessantly about gas leaf blowers. In other towns across the US with leaf blower bans, no one went on to ban lawnmowers, ever. If opponents of a ban on gas powered leaf blowers continue to say, “What’s next, lawnmowers?” Sonoma CALM may consider a ban on asking this question in the future.

Has the City of Sonoma really spent $100,000 on deciding whether or not to ban leaf blowers?

This $100,000 figure is a number Sonoma Councilman Gary Edwards likes to throw around at meetings to send shock waves through the audience. Where he got this pie-in-the-sky figure is a mystery; no cost estimate has ever been substantiated by  City staff. Calculating the cost of bringing elected officials up to date on how equipment currently in use by City staff affects public health, quality of life (including theirs) and the environment is a priceless gift from Sonoma CALM. You’re welcome, Mr. Edwards.

How will the leaf blower ban be enforced?

The City of Sonoma has recently hired a code enforcement officer to enforce municipal codes including noise ordinance violations, illegal vacation rentals (AirBnB), bringing miniature horses into City Hall, etc. “Protecting Sonoma’s quality of life and maintaining the health, safety and welfare of city residents” (including enforcing a ban on gas powered leaf blowers) is the role of the new Code Enforcement Officer.

In addition to a listed phone number and email address, the City of Santa Monica has an app for reporting violations.

Won’t Sonoma become untidy without gas powered leaf blowers?

In their Argument Against Measure V, “Chicken Jerry” Marino, Gary Edwards, and others wrote that, in banning gas leaf blowers, “Some will allow debris to accumulate impacting aesthetics and the value of surrounding property.”

There are lots of ways to refute this statement, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Notice the diminished “aesthetics and value” of Marino’s Chicken Car Wash property. No leaf blowers were banned at the time these photos were taken.





Well, at least Marino’s politics are in the right place!