Town Square

Post a New Topic

Police Chief removes enforcement on leaf blowers

Original post made by nat on Feb 3, 2007

The Police Chief has just nullified the law passed by the Palo Alto City Council to ban gasoline powered leaf blowers at residences.

She told me that the reason is budgetary. However, those following the issue the past several years remember that she fought to prevent this ban from being passed. Now, she has the authority to unilaterlly rescind the ban by removing all enforcement.

Comments (26)

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm

More important issues than enforcing this ban on leaf blowers- robberies, murders in East Palo Alto (this effects us too).

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2007 at 8:01 pm

The onus should be on residents to make sure that landscapers are not using gas powered leaf blowers. Residents should also be cited once they are made aware of the law.

Also, electric blowers are nearly as bad as gas blowers. They all need to go, as both clearly operate well outside noise abatement limts.

Posted by Concerned about enforcement of important lawbreakers, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 3, 2007 at 8:52 pm

I have been told by police dept that there are no police officers operating in South Palo Alto most days/nights of the week. There is essentially no law enforcement of important laws. Spending time chasing down leaf-blower violations is a waste of time

Posted by Colin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2007 at 8:56 pm


You say that both electric and gas leaf blowers operate beyond the current abatement limits. I am not sure about that, but I could be wrong.

The current noise limit:

"General Daytime Exception. Any noise source which does not produce a noise level exceeding seventy dBA at a distance of twenty-five feet under its most noisy condition of use shall be exempt from the provisions of Sections 9.10.030(a), 9.10.040 and 9.10.050(a) between the hours of eight a.m. and eight p.m. Monday through Friday, nine a.m. and eight p.m. on Saturday, except Sundays and holidays, when the exemption herein shall apply between ten a.m. and six p.m."

Most leaf blowers are used within the time constraints mentioned. Also, most electric leaf blowers are below the 70 db limit. Do I have this wrong?

Posted by John, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2007 at 9:34 pm

No one has 'nullified' anything, let's get real here.

The police department has limited resources to address what are essentially unlimited requests. Not all potential violations of the law are going to be able to be investigated.

But when you prioritize the importance of laws that should be investigated and enforced, the law regarding leaf blowers should fall somewhere between spitting on the sidewalk and cursing at the ballgame.

I think the chief is just verbalizing what actually goes on in every police dept: the need to prioritize where resources are used since resources are not unlimited.

Be that as it may, 'nat', what exactly do you propose? Are you suggesting that police resources be pulled from other issues to address leaf blowers? Which current police duties do you suggest go unaddressed now?

Posted by sarlat, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2007 at 8:55 am

I'm completely puzzled by Johnson's statement. The police never enforced the ban in the first place. Gardeners would use gas leaf-blowers in broad daylight with a police squad car passing by without ever bothering to stop and give them a citation. The only way to file a complaint would be for a resident to note down the gardener's truck license number and the address where the violation occured and call a phone number or fill out an on-line complaint form. The gardeners would supposedly receive a warning. Three warnings would mean a $100 fine. Suffice it to say that a very small number gardeners were ever fined. Very few gardeners ever bothered to switch to electric blowers which are almost as bad as the gas powered anyway. Because gardeners could get away with three violations before receiving a small fine, and because the police never intended to enforce the ban in the first place, this ban was meaningless and doomed to failure from the start.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:01 am

Is this the same way that a ban on wood fires on spare the air nights would be treated? A much more dangerous practice that is rife in Palo Alto.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:59 am

How about a bounty?
The logical solution, to go back to the water sweep which is quiet and controls dust, was never given consideration. The burden of backpack leaf blowers will give us a generation of spinally deformed, deaf gardeners. Chavez did away with the short handled hoe and got a holiday named after him. I am modest, just cut out the noise and dust. Hold the applause, some folk ar still sleeping.

Posted by Gardener (in mind), a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:06 am

Careful on that one Walter. What about water conservation? What about leaves being swept into the Bay and causing pollution? What about leaves blocking the drains? What about the pollen dust causing environmental problems in the Baylands? What about the mosquito problem in puddles of water not being able to drain away?

What about a rake?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Most of the water stays on the lawn reducing the need for other irrigation. Th rest holds down dust, a beneficial use at the least. The leaves are no more likely to flow to the bay than they do now when blown toward the drain. Wet windrows are far easier to collect than dry leaves and less likely to blow in natural breezez. You just rake them up. The pollen is more likely to stay with the leaves if they are wet down. And if there are pools for water they are there from irrigation, too.
You are reaching. Do you sell leaf blowers?

Posted by Gardener (in mind), a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2007 at 8:32 pm


I hope you didn't mind me winding you up a little. I actually quite agree, however, there are always pros and cons with everything.

Posted by Jay, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2007 at 11:14 am

The fact that there was an officer working enforcing this ban full-time while Palo Alto suffered an epidemic of house break-ins is what we should really be upset about. They should start by putting more police on the streets, period.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2007 at 4:26 am

I think the leaf blower ban is unbelieveably petty. I will never complain if I hear a gas powered leaf blower on my street. Our Police Department has better things to do than run around satisfying a lot of petty complainers. Gardeners are hard workers who are only trying to make a living so they can feed their families - give them a break.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2007 at 8:35 am

One advantage of noisy leaf blowers - it warns asthmatics not to go outside for a while. A fixed source industry with the emmissions of a leaf blower would be shut down immediately. Dust is a pollutant.

Posted by nat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2007 at 1:47 pm

The officer whose job it was to enforce the leafblower ban is now in charge of vehicle and bicycle abandonment. She is not patrolling the streets or fighting crime.

Posted by Rudolph, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 8, 2007 at 2:36 pm

The city quickly caved and will have someone to handle complaints.
Interesting to read the city link re the leaf blower ban:

Web Link...

A number of things stand out--first of all gas powered leaf blowers are only banned in residential areas--they can be used in non-residential areas at will.
Also there is a ban on sunday use of all leaf blowers--this smacks of an endorsement of a certain religious group which observes sunday as their sabbath.

If Mossar finds leaf blowers "pretty offensive", as stated in the Palo Alto Daily News article, then why not ban them completely--gas or electric.
This is another example of double talk from our elected officials trying to placate the vocal elements in our city.

Posted by Rudolph, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm

For some reason the weblink in my post above is defective
Below is the correct link:

Web Link

Posted by Jay, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2007 at 2:48 pm

What is really funny is that they say they won't enforce the ban unless they get three separate complaints about an incident. That will never happen.

Posted by ????, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Please do not bring racism into this thread as well. There are many things that are not done on Sundays so maybe we should have bans on both weekend days!!

Posted by nat, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 10, 2007 at 1:34 pm

It makes no sense to me that the community officer position responsible for enforcing the Palo Alto gasoline leafblower ban is being cut NOW simply because another officer retired. Weren't the funds budgeted already?

There has been only one officer, who has now been trasnferred to vehicle and bicycle abandonment, to enforce the leafblower ban. Police officers on patrol were instructed to ignore violations of the ban.

It was only this one person, working alone, who was in charge of enforcement. She did a good job considering that she had to catch violators in the act to even give them a warning, and 3 warnings were required for a citation to be issued. Callers gave her the information about when and where to find violators and she went on site to catch them.

There is no way a half time person, working on parking enforcement as well, can do the on site checks of leafblower violators. The law is effectively nullified.

Posted by Rudolph, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 10, 2007 at 1:40 pm

The fact that the law is effectively nullified is a goo dthing. Worthless law brought about by the "yellers and screamers" in this community. If you want a serious law--then ban all leaf blowers and ban gas generators that power electric blowers.
Also do you seriously think that police should be pulled from more important things (i.e considering the numbe rof burglaries going on in PA recently) to enforce this silly law???

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:04 pm

It is time for the BAAPCB to start sampling the air in the vicinity of leaf blower operations to determine whether the practice violates air standards. If the City will not protect asthmatics, someone needs to.

Posted by Walker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:23 pm

It would be a good idea for them to check the air regularly anyway and then tell homeowners who are violating the "spare the air tonight" by burning wood in their fireplaces!!!

Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:43 pm

When I called PA police a couple of weeks ago [b/f the Weekly's recent article updating us on this issue] I was informed by the dispatcher that "we are not enforcing the leaf blower issue right now due to staffing" When pressed, the same obviously scripted response was given. Call me naiive-how is it that "we" pass a law we have no capacity [apparently] to inforce?

As I travel from my home to Palo Verde on school pick up runs, I have seen a minimum of 15 or so consistent violations. Every once in a while I will approach one of these mow and blowers and each time the response is the same. They either pretend they don't know what I'm saying or they are outright rude and continue blowing.

Now that I travel w/ a camera for uploading pix of their license plates and house # where they're working, they barely look concerned. The other day I wrote the license plate of one of them that pretended not to understand me on the sidewalk w/ a rock; I watched later as he went to inspect what I'd been writing and then wash it off the sidewalk.

Is it wrong to request that people who work in a community abide by the laws of said community?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Here's a list of the latest leaf blower violators....

Date Day Time Address Vehicle License Frequency Info

3/12/2007 Monday 8:20 a.m. 3130 Louis 3C91787 weekly
3/12/2007 Monday 1:55 p.m. 3141 Louis 4T10827 weekly Alex General Garden Service, 650.274.3168
3/12/2007 Monday 2:00 p.m. 823 Ames 5R73163 weekly
3/19/2007 Monday 2:20 p.m. 3117 Louis 4U19868 weekly

3/20/2007 Tuesday 1:50 p.m. 871 Ames 6L12084 weekly
3/29/2007 Thursday 8:10 a.m. 3246 Louis 5C20735 weekly
3/30/2007 Friday 11:45 a.m. 975 Colorado 2T69514 weekly
3/30/2007 Friday 11:45 a.m. 981 Colorado 2T69514 weekly

Posted by mother of an asthmatic, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Those of you who feel that "chasing leaf blowers is petty & a waste of money" have never sat through the entire night in an Emergency Dept. with an asthmatic child. And how dare you feel that a comunity law need not be enforced simply because YOU don't care about it? Perhaps you are the same folks who have long thought that global warming, marine pollution, & other environmental concerns were also petty. Maybe you were also thinking 5 or 10 years ago that what happens in the Middle East is not of importance. Time to take a look at the facts, & come to grips that these noisy, polluting wasteful & unnecessary machines impact the entire community.

The community has spoken on this issue many times, & made it clear that we do not want gas-powered blowers in our community. Palo Alto is certainly not unique in banning them; many towns across the country did so a number of years ago.
Get a rake, & pay the few extra dollars it takes to do so!

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Touring the Southern California “Ivies:” Pomona and Cal Tech
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 5 comments | 2,496 views

Chai Brisket
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,780 views

Sometimes "I'm Sorry" Doesn't Cut It
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 965 views

Couples: Parallel Play or Interactive Play?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 866 views

SJSU Center for Steinbeck Studies to Honor Author Khaled Hosseini on Weds Sept 10
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 587 views