City Council piled up more potential violators in a leaf blower ban that will now punish homeowners for allowing yard maintenance workers to use the outlawed machine. The move is in an effort to puff up the lax regulation that has been in effect for almost a decade.
The council unanimously voted at Tuesday, Sept. 14 meeting to allow change, which includes $55,000 for the Office of Sustainability and the Environment to enforce the ordinance instead of police officers. The OSE will be able to cite homeowners as well as gardening and landscape companies, property management services, and leaf blower operators.
Previously, police officers only could write tickets when they witnessed leaf blower operators in action. Fees for the ordinance change will be discussed in a future meeting.
All leaf blowers have been illegal in Santa Monica since 1991, although the City amended the code four years later to include punishment for leaf blower operators, not just companies. The City enacted the ordinance in response to noise and nuisance concerns, as well as health and safety.
In January and again in June of this year, the council discussed proposed changes to the ordinance. In an ongoing saga, City Hall has attempted to give teeth to the ordinance in order to practically enforce the ban and rake in violations. The OSE will treat violations the same as water conservation or urban runoff ordinances. Employees will investigate offenses and respond to complaints with site visits.
Property owners will not get a citation until the third offense, yet any involved party could be cited. Although jail time is a possible punishment, getting time for a misdemeanor in Santa Monica is “virtually impossible,” said the City attorney.
Council member Kevin McKeown explained the blowers rustle up dust, debris, and toxins that can stay airborne for up to three days. He said he had been waiting “for some time” for the ordinance to be taken seriously.
Council members focused on outreach and education in the community for all parties involved to increase compliance in the community. Police officers in the past have been hesitant to cite operators due to the dubious chance of citations, said Freida Dubin, who sits on the Board of Wilshire Montana Coalition, at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Residents are powerless to stop gardener from using leaf blowers, only when this amendment will there be a way,” Dubin said.