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Mayor: Ban leaf blowers
August 02, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Brandt Grotte

San Mateo Mayor Brandt Grotte dislikes leaf blowers so much he is ready to ask his colleagues on the council to ban them outright.

He realizes the community and council may not support such a ban, however.

"I don’t want to be close-minded, but I don’t believe they are a necessity,” he told the Daily Journal yesterday.

The city’s Community Development Department is currently seeking council direction regarding municipal code and the use of leaf blowers with a focus on reducing carbon emissions and noise.

Potential changes to municipal code include the outright ban on all leaf blowers; restricting the types of leaf blowers, such as gas-powered ones; creating zones to allow leaf blower operation on certain days during specific hours; and reducing the hours of leaf blower operation citywide.

Recently, the Burlingame City Council amended its municipal code to restrict the use of leaf blowers by day, hour and zone.

San Mateo could move in this direction if the council does not support a complete ban.

"I use rakes and brooms and clean my yard up pretty quickly,” Grotte said.

Enforcing the current city code related to leaf blowers is difficult, he said. Banning them outright would take code enforcement out of the equation, he said.

But Councilman Jack Matthews is not ready to call for a ban. Instead, he wants to hear from the public first before making a decision.

Deputy Mayor David Lim is also not ready to support a full ban but he knows it is of great concern to many city residents.

Whatever the city does, Lim said, there needs to be better enforcement of city code.

Matthews wants to see how the recent changes to Burlingame code works in that city, too.

"I don’t want to make a decision based on emotions,” he said.

The city’s police department fields between 30 and 40 complaints a year related to leaf blowers, according to a staff report.

Grotte’s idea has found some support in various neighborhoods.

Kara Anderson, who lives in the Beresford/Hillsdale neighborhood, calls leaf blowers a "nuisance.”

"It is bad for air quality, bad for the environment and bad for your health,” Anderson said. "You don’t need a leaf blower to get rid of leaves.”

Leaf blowers stir up particulates that should not be breathed in, she said.

Glendale Village neighborhood resident John Ebneter said the noise leaf blowers create is a big reason to ban them but he has other concerns as well.

"What about the health for the workers who use them. It has to be a concern,” Ebneter told the Daily Journal.

Leaf blowers also stir up animal waste and other unsafe particles, he said.

Currently, leaf blowers are allowed to be used weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Use is prohibited on Sundays and major holidays.

The City Council adopted a leaf blower ordinance in 1997.

The city will conduct outreach through the fall before the City Council holds a study session on the matter in September. If the code is changed, the earliest it will go into effect is January 2013.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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