One resident called the noise “obnoxious,” a woman said the “terrible noise” stresses her daily, another resident said the noise “degrades life in Palo Alto, a man complained that if he opens his condo window, he can hear those noisy blowers two blocks away. In other words, noise is bad and we must ban it.
Wow! Strong words about a mere gas leaf blower’s decibel level. Does that noise really affect your life so much? Or are you simply noise-intolerant?
I agree that when gardeners come and use powered equipment, it is noisy. Yet they do the “mow, blow and go” work quickly, and help keep our community looking neat and clean.
Five of the council members seemed to agree with those complaints from speakers at the meeting -- I thought the issue was exaggerated. As their council discussion ensued, there was talk or also banning electric leaf blowers. And powered hedge trimmers, And power saws.
Some residents said we should get out our garden rakes and use only them. One sensible council member said raking is hard work, and difficult for the elderly, but that comment didn’t seem to register. Many said the fallen leaves should stay where they land; they help the soil. A few residents scoffed at the idea of manicured lawns in our community, as that was just what elitists do.
It all seemed to me that we have a new enemy in town – noise! And the city was determined to alleviate it. On my scale of importance, leaf blower noise is a very minor concern – we have many more Important Issues to decide.
The council focused on what to do to allay residents’ concerns There was little mention about the ramification of an enforced ban and resultant penalties would have on the gardeners themselves. Electric gas blowers and battery-operated ones that need frequent battery replacements are considerably higher (a couple of hundred dollars for some models) than the gas ones.
Gardeners don’t make gobs of money. Their income is a result of how fast they work and how many homes they can do in a day.
Many gardeners in town (like mine) are independent – they buy their own equipment. My gardener uses his family to help with the work—he sometimes brings along his cousin, or his nephew, uncle or brother, and each has his own gas blower.
The council agreed that electrics are costlier, however, the city would impose steeper fines on homeowners who hire gardeners using gas blowers ($250, $500, or $1.000 fine for first-, second- and third-time offenses). Is that the solution to gas leaf blower noise?
What about the additional cost to gardeners and their possible loss of income? There was a suggestion that those of us who hire gardeners just pay them more – like $30 per visit. That will help gardeners, but could hurt lower-incomers in town who use gardening services, particularly if they are older. That idea did not get incorporated into the council vote.
This same kind of noise complaint arose a couple of years ago when residents demanded the paths of airplanes flying to San Jose or San Francisco airports should be changed so these planes, carrying thousands of people coming and going to the Bay Area, not fly over our back yards -- because the plane noise affects the quality of life here.
As the council discussion continued, several other problems came to view. The city uses gas leaf blowers because the areas they tackle (parks, playgrounds, parking lots) are very large and electric leaf blowers would take significantly longer (and increase labor costs), so the transition would not be easy one. I suspect the city will continue to use the gas blowers, which, to me, makes sense. How long would it take to rake Rinconada Park?
I think we are being a bit obsessive about leaf blower noise. Living in a community means we encounter noise daily– leaf blowers, revved-up teen autos, Caltrain horns, barking dogs, garbage trucks, police and fire sirens, motorcycles, etc. Noise is a part of life, and we just have to live with it.