(Update) Ban on gas-powered leaf blowers to be discussed at City Council

The topic brings environmental, small businesses, and immigrant community issues to the forefront

(Update) Ban on gas-powered leaf blowers to be discussed at City Council
Redlands City Council to consider next steps in considering a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. (Photo: Gpoint Studio)

UPDATE March 6, 2024 – The Redlands City Council took no action on banning gas powered leaf blowers during their meeting on March 5. The City Council voted 4-1 to focus on promoting rebate opportunities to transition away from gas-powered lawn equipment.

Supportive funding avenues to assist residents and commercial landscapers in transitioning away from gas-powered equipment, include:

  • Residential Lawn Mower Rebate Program allows residents to receive a rebate of up to $250 by purchasing a cordless, battery/electric lawn mower.
  • Commercial Lawn and Garden Equipment Incentive & Exchange Program is available for commercial gardeners and landscapers, local government agencies, school districts, and colleges, and non-profit organizations.
  • California CORE voucher program to help offset the cost of replacing gas-powered landscaping equipment. The state has allocated $30M to facilitate the transition following a new law that goes into effect in July prohibiting the sale of new gas-powered outdoor equipment, including lawnmowers and leaf blowers.

The City Council also agreed to move forward with researching the feasibility of transitioning city landscaping equipment to electric alternatives.

Council member Mario Saucedo voted in opposition to the action.

March 3, 2024 | REDLANDS, Calif. — The City Council is poised to deliberate on the usage of gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, March 5.

Why it matters: The push for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers stems from growing concerns over air pollution and noise disturbance. In 2021, California enacted AB 1346, prohibiting the sale of new gas-powered outdoor equipment, including lawnmowers and leaf blowers, starting July 1, 2024. Announcing the regulation, the California Air Resource Board pointed to the shocking statistic that one hour of leaf blowing is the equivalent in emissions of driving 1,100 miles in a car. 

In addition to the toxic output, gas-powered leaf blowers produce a damaging level of noise linked to hearing loss and other heart-related problems for operators.

However, as communities across the country implement bans on gas-powered leaf blowers, there has been blowback. A community in Florida has recently delayed the enforcement of its 2-year old ordinance for landscaping companies.

A city in Illinois is considering a pause of its ban to 'create more robust provisions for landscaping businesses,' according to local news reports.

The primary concern with enacting local bans on gas-powered leaf blowers is the unfair burden placed on local landscape businesses to transition their equipment. Landscapers, who primarily come from immigrant communities, say even when the rebates and funding are made available, language barriers or upfront costs can cripple smaller landscaping companies, pushing them out of the market.

On the agenda in Redlands: On Tuesday, City Council is expected to discuss how to address the environmental concerns of gas-powered lawn equipment, as well as potential legal hurdles, implementation strategies, and avenues for supportive funding.

The move, spearheaded by Council Member Denise Davis, was identified by City Council as a project priority during a planning meeting in August 2023. The staff report included in the meeting agenda outlines research conducted by city staff into similar ordinances enacted in neighboring jurisdictions.

According to findings presented in the agenda report, numerous cities in Southern California, including several in Riverside and Orange Counties, have already implemented bans on gas-powered leaf blowers. The majority of the bans, including one in Claremont, were enacted in the 1990s.

However, experiences from cities like Palm Springs and Newport Beach, which enacted bans in 2019 and 2011 respectively, underscore the challenges of enforcement and compliance. Despite penalties and rebate programs offered in Palm Springs, compliance struggles persist due to staffing limitations, response times and landscape companies operating without city licenses. It is estimated that compliance is only about 50%.

Possible ordinance in Redlands: The proposed ordinance in Redlands would require a comprehensive outreach and education campaign before implementation, according to the report. Options for enforcement range from infractions to misdemeanors. However, the staff report anticipates enforcement challenges due to current staffing constraints.

Supportive funding avenues could be explored to assist residents and commercial landscapers in transitioning away from gas-powered equipment. The rebate programs outlined in the staff report include:

Moving forward: As the City Council meets, they face a range of options outlined in the agenda including:

  • Prepare the ordinance to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, with community outreach and awareness campaigns on the city website;
  • Promote existing subsidy programs to encourage the voluntary transition to electric lawn equipment; and
  • Research the feasibility of transitioning city equipment to electric alternatives.

The City Council also has the option to take no action.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5 at 6pm. Public comments can be made through email ahead of the meeting or during the meeting in person or via Zoom.

The full agenda and Zoom access can be viewed at the agenda here.

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