Novato set to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in 2023

Novato is set to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, joining other Marin communities that have enacted similar bans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to advance an ordinance to ban all use of gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits beginning July 1, 2023.

The city plans to delay the ban until July 1, 2024 for properties of at least 10 acres that have an agricultural designation.

Many public agencies in the city are exempt from the ban, including the Novato Unified School District, Novato Fire Protection District, North Marin Water District, and Novato Sanitary District. The city will be required to respect the ban.

Violations would result in municipal fines ranging from $100 to $500 against the owner of where the gas-powered leaf blowers are used, not against the landscaping company using them.

Councilor Pat Eklund first proposed a ban on all gas-powered landscaping equipment in December 2019. The ban was narrowed down to just leaf blowers after several discussions over the following years and considering the impacts economics of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wish we could expand it to other gas-powered equipment, but I recognize that we have to do it slowly because people take time to change,” Eklund said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Additionally, the order advanced on Tuesday aims to limit the hours that electric leaf blowers can be used.

Use of leaf blowers would be permitted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and federal holidays. The city already enacted time limits for gas-powered blowers last year.

The ordinance must be submitted to council on July 26 for final approval.

If the rules are passed, Novato would be the last municipality in Marin to enact a ban or restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers.

Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo and Tiburon have all enacted bans, with some communities allowing certain exceptions.

San Rafael plans to consider an ordinance next month to ban gas-powered leaf blowers beginning Oct. 1. The Fairfax City Council passed rules in June that would phase out all gas-powered landscaping equipment for residents in early 2023 and for businesses. in 2024.

Novato first considered banning all gas-powered landscaping tools in 2019 to address noise complaints from residents and to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Air Resources Control Board says that running a gas-powered leaf blower for an hour emits as much greenhouse gas as a new car traveling 1,100 miles – the distance between Los Angeles and Denver.

City staff originally proposed enacting the ban on Jan. 1, but voted to delay for six months to give businesses time to switch to electrical equipment.

Residents and business owners said they support the eventual elimination of petrol-powered leaf blowers, but called on the council to delay the ban until 2024 or later.

Lori Bailey, co-owner of Buck’s Saw Service in Novato, told the council that supply chain and manufacturing issues are limiting the availability of batteries and high-powered electric leaf blowers that landscapers will need to replace their gas-powered alternatives. .

“A lot of things are out of stock because everything is battery operated and they’re ordering all these big backpacks that can last longer,” she said. “We get them one or two at a time, three at a time every four months. I see it takes about a year for everything to catch up.

Jesus Santana, grounds manager at Valley Memorial Park Cemetery and Funeral Home in Novato, said he supports the transition to electric leaf blowers, but urged council to allow more time to save small businesses money. for electrical equipment that can cost thousands of dollars per leaf blower and additional batteries.

“The high demand for equipment is going to put small landscapers out of business if they’re not careful and don’t get things done on time,” he told the council.

Tim Blofeld, a Hamilton resident and member of environmental association Sustainable Novato, said the state and his organization have funds to help small landscaping businesses make the transition. While he said he understood the reservations of small business owners, he said those businesses already had to abide by bans in other communities in Marin.

“It has to happen now,” Blofeld told the board. “Anyone with ears, anyone who breathes air needs to put this ban in place as soon as possible.”

Other members of the public wondered why the council was adopting stricter rules than the state.

In 2021, the California Air Resources Control Board enacted a rule requiring all new off-road engines manufactured, such as those used in leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other equipment, to be zero-emissions from from 2024. Older gas-powered equipment is still legal to use after this date.

Mayor Eric Lucan said he favors enacting the ban earlier, on Jan. 1.

“I have significant concerns about the people using this equipment day in and day out and the long term impact on our environment. These are real concerns,” Lucan said. “We don’t usually impose costs on that, but I think those costs far outweigh the costs of upgrading equipment.”

The city’s proposal to impose fines on landowners and homeowners where gas-powered leaf blowers are used, as opposed to people who use them, has also been a subject of controversy. City staff said this enforcement mechanism allows for easier enforcement of the ban rather than having to hunt down landscape companies, but some residents disagreed with the approach.

“I have a 92-year-old neighbor on one side, she has a landscaper tending to her garden,” Novato resident Kevin Jacobs told the council on Tuesday. “She has no idea what he’s using. It is out of the question to hold her responsible for the material he brings.

Lucan supported imposing fines on homeowners, saying landscaping services were a luxury.

“I think the penalty should go to the owner who is probably paying for this service,” Lucan said. “And, here in Novato, living in a house worth over a million dollars, I think they should take the $100 fine.”

Sustainability coordinator Gretchen Schubeck told council that replacing the city’s 31 gas-powered leaf blowers would cost at least $123,000.

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