First published in the Oct. 15 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
By Gavin J. Quinton
The Glendale City Council took steps toward barring certain gas-powered lawn and landscaping equipment including two-stroke engine leaf blowers, edgers and trimmers during their meeting this Tuesday.
It is no surprise that Glendale is considering such a ban. The California Air Resources Board recently mandated a ban on the sale of small off-road gas engines by 2024 due to their high emissions of air pollutants. Much of California is already seeing some incarnation of that policy on the local level since state lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 1346, doubling down on efforts to do away with the polluting power tools.
“Everyone hates those leaf blowers. The noise, the pollution, the dust … the question is how do we transition to alleviate those problems?” Councilman Ara Najarian asked.
Participants in the public comment section of the city council meeting were widely in favor of a ban on the small gas-powered tools. “The particulate matter from these heavy two-stroke engines is planting the seeds of lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, asthma and other chronic conditions,” said Joanna Pringle, a member of the Glendale Environmental Coalition in a comment.
The council ruled out a blanket ban on all small off-road gas engines, instead favoring one that focuses specifically on leaf blowers, edgers and trimmers. This means that lawnmowers, gas generators and power washers are safe for now, though owners should consider electric alternatives ahead of the state’s 2024 ban.
Council members also touted the importance of taking advantage of buyback and incentive programs made possible by SB 1346, and directed city planning staff to investigate options for the city to reward those who make the switch to electric landscaping equipment.
“I want to make sure that whatever we come up with is hand-in-hand with an incentive program. I wouldn’t be OK with it if it didn’t have an incentive program, a buyback program, a trade-in program that helps these businesses,” Councilwoman Elen Asatryan said.
Perhaps the most challenging issue is enforcement. Council members still need to decide if the ban would be enforced as a zoning violation or as a citation, who enforces the ordinance — police or an inspector — and enforcement resource. The council can choose to cite either the landscaper themselves or the individual who hired them.
“Whoever owns the property, as in the leaf blower, should receive the citation. I don’t think it’s fair to give out a citation to somebody that is not even aware that there is a gas leaf blower being used, because the equipment isn’t theirs,” Asatryan said. Conversely, Councilman Daniel Brotman felt that the homeowners had a responsibility to hire the appropriate vendor.
Ultimately, the City Council directed staff to study the many issues that come with the small off-road gas-powered engine ban. Planners will return before the council at a future meeting to make final recommendations before council members make their final vote.