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Leave the air alone: Leaf-blower ban in Davis passes unanimously

Is this issue just blown out of proportion? Some Davis residents might agree, others not so much.
Credit: AP

DAVIS, Calif. — The city of Davis is implementing a temporary ban on leaf blowers due to bad air quality, noise issues, and environmental concerns.

City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the ordinance, which was brought to them from the Natural Resources Commission. While the ordinance will not immediately be put into effect, all leaf blowers, both electric and gas-powered, would be banned until October 31.

Davis residents have long debated a ban on leaf blowers. It may be a controversial issue in the community, but nothing new.

Hannah Safford, Natural Resources Commission Chair and primary author of the ordinance, says there are three reasons why the city decided to adopt this ordinance now: public comment, positive examples in other cities, and the "unique circumstances of 2020."

Posted by Davis City on Saturday, September 12, 2020

"The City of Davis' Natural Resources Commission (NRC), motivated in part by a high volume of public comment, decided to move to fill this gap by preparing a thorough report on updating/strengthening the City's leaf-blower ordinance," Safford said.

Safford said that in addition, the success of other communities that have strict rules or even bans on leaf blowers had been a factor in the decision. One hundred cities in at least 15 states, including California, have passed laws restricting or banning the equipment. 

And, of course, those "unique circumstances" come into play. 

"The pandemic has forced people to stay at home and conduct much of their business outside, so the noise and air-quality impacts that leaf blowers generate are being felt more than ever," Safford said. "And with California's catastrophic wildfire season generating record-breaking levels of smoke and ash, we need to do whatever we can to limit the extra stresses we put on our air."

The ban would be active until the end of October, but that date is subject to change should the air quality improve. However, the city is also looking to possibly take more permanent action, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and wildfire season is only just beginning.

"The noise, air quality, and greenhouse gas impacts of leaf blowers may justify long-term action," Safford said. "In the coming months, the Natural Resources Commission will be working with City staff on proposed amendments to the City's current leaf-blower ordinance."

Davis residents are divided on the leaf blower issue, but a petition on MoveOn.org, "Make Gas Blowers Leave," calling for a ban on leaf blowers has recently received a small influx of signatures. 

Still, not all Davis residents will be ready to shelve their leaf blowers for the foreseeable future. Spafford says it's more about what can be done for the community as a whole, however.

"Part of living in a shared community is balancing people's personal freedoms with the adverse impacts that those freedoms have on others," Safford said. "Regulations that prohibit dumping trash, for instance, are widely embraced by those who value clean public spaces but also certainly infringe on the freedom of people to throw their garbage wherever they'd like."

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