Leaf blower ban goes back to commission

Leaf blower ban goes back to commission
The Encinitas Environmental Commission will revisit a possible ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the city. Photo by Tony Cagala

ENCINITAS — Encinitas’ environmental commission will revisit proposed restrictions on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Encinitas, amid concern that the ban would financially strain homeowners in large planned communities.

Back in November, the city’s Environmental Commission discussed the potential restrictions and were prepared to finalize the report and present it to the City Council.

Earlier this month, however, the commission unanimously agreed to bring the report back to the commission so that staff can better research the financial impacts of a ban, after a representative of one of the largest HOAs in the city told the group that the restrictions could potentially double the fees homeowners pay for maintenance.

Dick Stern, the president of the Encinitas Ranch Community Association, a 500-home community adjacent to the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, said the community’s landscaping contractor said the monthly cost for their maintenance services would skyrocket from $26,000 to $52,000 if a ban went into effect.

This increase would be passed along to homeowners, Stern said.

“Our assessment fees may double if we wanted to maintain the same service level for landscaping,” said Stern, who also sits on the board of the golf course, which he said would also be hurt financially by the proposed restrictions.  “I can guarantee you that homeowners would be extremely upset.”

Stern said that in 12 years of records, no resident in the community had complained about the noise or pollution associated with leaf blowers.

Stern also said the association has concerns about how the ban would be enforced, and the unintended consequences of such a ban, including increased water usage.

Commissioner Jud Warren echoed some of Stern’s concerns.

“I know we are trying to make the community better, but we are sort of picking on one particular noise-making device, and I think that we also picked something we didn’t know what the fiscal impact to the community was going to be, and I am really concerned about that,” Warren said.

Commission Chairman John Eldon and James Wang, who said they were comfortable with the work done at the commission level and the proposal, said they believed that while financial costs should be weighed, they need to be weighed against the long-term environmental benefits of such a prohibition, which doesn’t have a price tag.

“It is like leaded gas, there is short-term cost, but clean air is better,” Wang said. “We are doing the same thing here.”

Eldon also expressed skepticism over Stern’s doubling estimate.

“This is the first I’ve ever heard of a 100 percent increase, and frankly that doesn’t sound credible,” Eldon said.

In spite of these differences, the commissioners agreed that additional information, study and community outreach could lead to a better proposal.

“I think feedback can be informative to creating a better proposal,” said Commissioner Joy Lyndes, who said she felt the commission skipped the step of receiving community feedback.

Encinitas currently bars the use of the blowers between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday and federal holidays in areas adjacent to homes and apartments.

The commission’s current recommended options include reducing the time blowers could be used to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday though Friday and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturdays; or a gradual ban of all leaf blowers.

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