The Glendale City Council recently voted to move forward on banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers to get ahead of state regulations that prohibit the sale of emissions-creating landscaping equipment by the start of 2024.
Regulations passed in 2022 by the California Air Resources Board require all small-motor equipment primarily sold for landscaping use to be zero-emission, such as battery operated tools, by the target dates.
Although the ban is not yet passed, the council reflected optimism about the direction and pace of their progress.
“I despise gas leaf blowers, and I would love to see all two-stroke landscaping equipment gone tomorrow, but I’m a realist, and I know it doesn’t work that way,” Councilman Daniel Brotman said. “I also understand that no city has really cracked the code on this yet. … I think it’s really important to pass an ordinance now, or soon, because that creates a compelling event that focuses the mind.
“I want to get there,” he added. “I want to be the first big city that actually moves the needle, not just has an ordinance on the books that makes us feel good, but will actually change the situation on the ground, and I think we can do that if we are careful and thoughtful about it.”
The initial elements of the proposed city ordinance, which were discussed at a Feb. 28 City Council meeting, will include placing the responsibility to discontinue the operation of the gas-powered leaf blowers on property owners, while implementing a two-year grace period before passive — or complaint-driven — enforcement takes effect. In that timeframe, city staff will drive the outreach effort to residents and landscaping professionals and assess the need for a third party to provide demonstrations or similar educational events.
Additionally, a city report will be issued three months prior to the completion of the grace period, along with an annual report to follow — to allow the council time to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the ordinance.
South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board Vice Chair-elect Michael Cacciotti gave an air quality presentation to the council and their constituents on the environmental impacts of living with unhealthy air conditions such as ozone, an important component of smog, which forms in the atmosphere through chemical reactions of air pollutants like nitrogen oxide and volatile organic chemicals.
Cacciotti explained that stationary sources like cleaners and solvents, paint, auto body shops, gas stations, power plants and refineries contribute 20% of air pollution, while mobile sources like oceangoing vessels, airplanes, trains, trucks, cars and off-road equipment such as lawnmowers and other gas-powered landscaping equipment contribute 80%, emitting large amounts of nitrogen oxide.
These fine inhalable particles emitted into the air, he noted, have shown to aggravate respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues and even impact the brain. Some symptoms are chest discomfort, throat irritation and increased effort to take a deep breath, as well as increase aggressive asthma, heart disease, heart attacks, cancer risk and bronchitis. Meeting air standards is a major public health benefit that can prevent premature deaths and hospitalizations, Cacciotti said in his presentation.
Monica Campagna, who takes care of the landscaping needs of a 4-acre school campus, called in to the meeting during public comment to express her gratitude to the council for their support in steering away from gas and toward alternative modes of powering landscaping tools.
“I would never put myself through having to inhale gas fumes all day,” Campagna said. “I wouldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t want that for anyone else either. So, I really hope we can get beyond this whole technology barrier. It would be much healthier for everyone.”
Furthermore, Cacciotti said using battery-powered tools will curb the cost in the long run.
“Instead of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for gas, you can have a couple of batteries that will last two to three years guaranteed,” he said. “You never have to buy gas again — no spark plugs, no filters, no oil.”
Councilwoman Paula Devine proposed making literature available, among the various forms of outreach needed to ensure community members are not only informed, but ready to make the shift away from gas-powered leaf blowers.
“I think one of the most important things is that we get letters out to the public, to our residents, that this is going to occur,” Devine said. “Inevitably, they are the ones who are going to be responsible, the ones who are going to be paying fines, so they have to know exactly what we are doing, why we are doing it and how they can assist and make sure the transition happens in an easy enough way. So, education is absolutely relevant and important.”
South Pasadena, according to Cacciotti, was the first city in the nation to maintain all parks with electric equipment, and he praised the city of Glendale for surpassing them.
“No other city as big as Glendale is doing as many parks as you are now,” said Cacciotti, who is a councilman for the city of South Pasadena. “Hopefully, you could convert your whole city and be the largest city in the United States by maintaining your parks — soccer fields, baseball fields — by all electric equipment.”
The council expressed the desire to eliminate the use of gas-powered landscaping tools altogether in hopes of cleaner air; however, this ban would be the first step in a multiphase plan that would gradually ease Glendale away from reliance on gas-powered landscaping equipment.
First published in the March 18 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.