Say 'Nimby' to Environmental Injustice | April 8, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 8, 2022

Say 'Nimby' to Environmental Injustice

by Scott Carlson

I propose two solutions to the gas-powered leaf blower problem. First, have the Stanford Linear Accelerator open up its tube or whatever it is they have, once a week, and blow all the leaves in town into the San Francisco Bay. If we all know when this is going to happen we can hunker down behind our radioactive shields and be safe. Yes, we might lose a few folks here and there to a nasty atomic particle, but my guess is it would be fewer than we will lose, in the long run, from gas leaf blowers.

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Scott Carlson is a freelance writer living in the Community Center neighborhood. His email is [email protected]


Posted by Matt Passell
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 8, 2022 at 10:16 am

Matt Passell is a registered user.

Thank you for the article. All I had to do was politely ask our gardener to switch to electric and they did so. Our neighbors have also made the switch.

Posted by Dean Samos
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 8, 2022 at 11:00 am

Dean Samos is a registered user.

Excellent opinion piece Carl! I agree wholeheartedly with your comments.

Your suggestion to use SLAC is brilliant, we would only have to put up with the noise for one hour a week. Much better than noise and pollution every day.

Posted by TLM
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 8, 2022 at 3:24 pm

TLM is a registered user.

I watched a Palo Alto landscape contract worker fire up a gas blower yesterday in Bol Park (the landscape truck says Brightview). If the city isn't even going to require their own contractors to abide by the gas blower ban, it's highly unlikely they are going to enforce it on private properties. I have also seen a team of 3 landscapers with gas blowers working at once on the sidewalk/bikepath on Hanover at Varian. I had to walk by them all. The air was pretty awful for me, so I imagine it's horrible for them to do that every day.

Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 8, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Sunshine is a registered user.

Better yet, leave the leaf blower whether gas or electric and use a rake. Usually someone with a rake can clean up leaves and such just as fast (sometimes faster) with a rake as with a blower. Blowers just create air pollution. A rake is more environmentally friendly and does a better clean up job.

Posted by Sgkritzik
a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 9, 2022 at 7:27 am

Sgkritzik is a registered user.

Excellent article on the problems of leaf blowers, Scott.
The Town of Portola Valley outlawed gas blowers. It is a substantial investment for a gardener to buy a high quality blower and extra batteries. The Town offered a rebate to purchasers of electric blowers. We also gave our gardener substantial help with his purchase of an electric blower. Some residents keep an electric blower charged for use on their property by their gardener. There is such an difference when you cut the noise and fumes, not to mention health and environmental impacts. Also, we have an app that permits residents to notify the Town about non-compliance. A letter reminding the owner is usually sent out and usually works. There are definitely solutions to these problems in our communities.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2022 at 10:58 am

Citizen is a registered user.

I just don’t understand the penchant for having one’s dirt, weed seeds, and pesticide residue blown around every week and deposited on the houses and plants nearby. It’s gross long after the clouds of dirt settle on everything. I usually don’t see gardeners wearing adequate lung protection and it doesn’t go away the second the machines are turned off. We are trying to encourage kids to bike and walk but insist on making their routes home from school minefields of dust clouds and noise.

As a Community, we should decide, in consultation with gardeners, what is the acceptable surcharge for raking, and just break it out as a line item and pay it. Raking and sweeping has got to be better for the environment than either. It also leaves houses much much cleaner.

In the many years I rented, I always asked landlords to ask gardeners they hired to rake and sweep. Inevitably, new people would rotate in and forget. Gardeners think blowing around dirt—which is particularly awful with dirt paths—is expected. It sounds like making an effort by a lot of people to break this expectation will help save the earth.

In this area of innovators, could we please get some attention to redesigning rakes and brooms? I’m sure part of the reason for rake resistance is the nails-on-chalkboard sound and visceral experience of using rakes on sidewalks, and the unnecessary strain on certain muscles. Brooms can stir up a lot of dust, too, and be ineffective. Solutions shouldn’t just drop more micro plastics in people’s yards (to be breathed in the next time someone forgets and resuspends it in the air). The situation is crying out for improvement and innovation.

Maybe offering your gardener co-inventor status in addition to paying the community standard raking surcharge could be a way to get great development and testing, while encouraging a more green and workable, attractive option than gas or electric blowers.

Posted by Barry Winslow
a resident of University South
on Apr 9, 2022 at 11:16 am

Barry Winslow is a registered user.

Leaf blowers also spread allergens and should be banned altogether.

They are noisey, dirty, and create air pollution.

The local gardener's association is against the banning of gas-powered tools but who cares about their opinion?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 9, 2022 at 11:58 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Go to the Home Depot or ACE and get a Craftsman battery operated Blower and Weed Wacker. The battery can be charged and then you are off to an effortless job. Why is this important? Where I live there is redwood tree droppings on the sidewalk every day. The last think you want is your sidewalk to be a problem for old people and people with young children. You also need to clear the leaves that blow into your entry area so leaves are not tracked into the house. The battery operated blower is my best household tool. I have even blown the kitchen tracked in leaves out the door. Patio? Front of house? The absolute best.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 10, 2022 at 10:41 am

ALB is a registered user.

The city and Stanford land management need to REQUIRE all blowers be battery
operated. Homeowners often use electric —powered blowers as their areas are smaller. The sound is greatly lessened compared to gas blowers. Think of those landscapers whose hearing is harmed. Think of the particles inhaled so suburbanites can have a pristine yard.
Time to get the city and Stanford to change practices. Yes Stanford regulate your various contractors to comply with
health affirming regulations. The city
can do this immediately.

Stanford resists doing the right thing until required to do so. Think Varsity Sports pushback by alum to reinstate valued sports. The optics did not look good so the powers that be relented. The city council had to teach Stanford land management to do the right thing by voting to require mitigating technology be installed in the tract development for junior faculty called University Terrace to prevent TCE from entering the houses. Yes the CC faced Stanford’s resistance to this requiement. Why would Stanford not want to install life saving technology? They did not want to be bothered by discovery where in the future when new home buyers would HAVE to be informed of the mitigating technology and provenance of TCE. Now we have the nurses’ strike. Will Stanford dig in and stubbornly insist that they and their team of lawyers are always in the right?

The examples mentioned here demonstrate a pattern of arrogance and disrespect. Then when public relations sour and Stanford’s prestige is tarnished then and only then do they change their position.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 13, 2022 at 7:36 pm

Rose is a registered user.

We definitely need to make all leaf blowers ELECTRIC. It's a no brainer. Air pollution, noise pollution, and damage to hearing -- unacceptable. There's all this fuss about converting from gas stoves to electric stoves. Well, let's have a fuss about transitioning to electric blowers -- if the City Council truly wants Palo Alto to be more sustainable. This is an easy one!

Posted by Virginia Smedberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2022 at 7:47 pm

Virginia Smedberg is a registered user.

Since according to the article the actual operating cost of a gas blower is twice that of an electric, how about offering your gardener a LOAN for the upfront cost of purchasing one, to be repaid by a reduction in what you pay him or her each visit based on what s/he does NOT have to pay for gas?!
If someone could document the approx cost of an hour's worth of gas use for a blower (and how about a mower as well - there are nice electrics of those too), we could all use that to negotiate w/ our gardeners.
If it's really true that the gardeners' assoc is against the ban, how about someone educating them about cost, in gas and health, for their members?

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2022 at 2:16 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

I enjoy raking. Good exercise and peaceful. It's sort of a Zen thing for me. I think through things while I am doing it. I go back to my desk to work with a clear head and exercised body.

Try raking and sweeping, and let yourself enjoy it. You might be surprised.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Me 2 is a registered user.

"Leaf blowers also spread allergens and should be banned altogether."

So does wind. We should try to ban those pesky breezes.

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring)
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 16, 2022 at 8:44 pm

Eeyore (formerly StarSpring) is a registered user.

@Me 2, you neglect to consider that there are diffuse and acute spreaders of allergens. On one side there is a gentle rain, on the other there is a blast from a hose.

Lately "gardeners" seemed to have adopted the tactic of blowing everything into the street and letting your "pesky breeze" carry their work over to the neighbor rather than bagging and removing the debris.

Require them to rake (gas blowers are already not allowed in PA) and homeowners can pay them for the extra time it takes or maintain their own yards.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2022 at 9:27 pm

eileen is a registered user.

We can use a broom or rake instead of a gas or electric blowers to eliminate massive pollution, dust and noise. They are more efficient tools than many people think. Try a lawn sweeper – these amazing tools clean up leaves and lawn clippings quickly, easily, and quietly They are not expensive to purchase and require no gasoline. Blowing particulates into the air is very bad for all of us! I support a total ban on all leaf blowers!!

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2022 at 5:13 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

All I care about is NOISE pollution in the mornings and all weekends by "mow, blow, and go" so-called gardeners and highly inconsiderate, self-absorbed bad neighbors. Ban all petroleum powered yard and home tools --- including lawnmowers. And, set and enforce strict noise limits upon their electric-powered replacements, whether it be cord- or battery-powered noise makers. Here's a wish. Go after those motorcyclist terrorists who run around at night making as much noise as the can. Sorry, children. Put a muffler on your bike or we'll arrest you and confiscate and destroy your bike.

Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:51 am

Sunshine is a registered user.

Better yet, use a rake. It is better for your health and gets the leaves without any pollution from fumes of gasoline,
The City should follow this direction too.

Posted by Geraldine Brag
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 26, 2022 at 11:01 am

Geraldine Brag is a registered user.

Amazing article, thanks!

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