Are Leaf Blowers Giving you a Headache?

by | May 31, 2017 | ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, CITY SERVICES, NUISANCE LAW | 20 comments

The weather in SoCal is perfect, but the air quality is another story.  According to one 2016 study,Southern California leads the nation in air pollution deaths. Gas powered leaf blowers not only add to pollution levels, but they also cause direct harm to tenants and neighbors.

In 2011, testsconducted by Edmunds’  found that a consumer-grade leaf blower emits more pollutants than a 6,200-pound 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.  These pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and hydrocarbons which escape from the engine in large quantities. To preserve air quality and the health of citizens in residential areas, most SoCal cities have banned the use of gas powered leaf blowers. The following SoCal communities ban the use of leaf blowers. Contact information for filing a complaint is included.

Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles bans the use of gas powered leaf blowers.

Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 112.04(c) states:

(c)   Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection (a) above, no gas powered blower shall be used within 500 feet of a residence at anytime.  Both the user of such a blower as well as the individual who contracted for the services of the user, if any, shall be subject to the requirements of and penalty provisions for this ordinance.  Violation of the provisions of this subsection shall be punishable as an infraction in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), notwithstanding the graduated fines set forth in L.A.M.C. § 11.00(m). (Amended by Ord. No. 171,890, Eff. 2/13/98.)

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Gas-Powered Leaf Blower:

Department:  Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services

Website: www.myla311.lacity.org

Phone:(213) 473-3231

Email:311@lacity.org

 

Santa Monica

The City of Santa Monica bans the use of all powered leaf blowers.

Santa Monica Municipal Code 4.08.270 states:

No person shall operate any leaf blower (gas, electric, or battery powered) within the City. A leaf blower is defined as any motorized tool (gas, electric, or battery powered) used to propel fallen leaves and debris for removal. Infractions will be punishable by substantial fines to property owners, property and landscape management companies, individual operators, and/or water customers.

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower:

Department:Santa Monica Code Enforcement

Website:smgov.net/go

Phone:310.458.4984

Email:code.enforcement@smgov.net

 

Laguna beach

The City of Laguna Beach bans the use of all powered leaf blowers.

Laguna beach Municipal Code 7.25.070(D) states:

The use of electrical or gasoline powered blowers, such as commonly used by gardeners and other persons for cleaning lawns, yards, driveways, gutters and other property is prohibited at any time within the city limits.

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower:

Department:Laguna Beach Code Enforcement

Website:www.lagunabeachcity.net

Phone:(949) 497-0301

 

Beverly Hills

The City of Beverly Hills bans the use of gas powered leaf blowers.

Beverly Hills Municipal Code Section 5-1-209 states:

It shall be unlawful for any person within the city to use or operate any portable machine powered with a gasoline engine used to blow leaves, dirt, and other debris off sidewalks, driveways, lawns, or other surfaces. (Ord. 11-O-2613, eff. 10-31-2011)

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower:

Department:Beverly Hills Code Enforcement

Website:www.beverlyhills.org

Phone:(310) 285-1000

 

Dana Point

The City Dana Point bans the use of powered blowers during certain hours and holidays.

Dana Point Municipal Code Section 6.20.012states:
(a) In residential areas, the use and operation of leaf blowers is prohibited except during the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The use and operation of leaf blowers is further prohibited on any day which is a legal holiday identified in this Code. For commercial, industrial, and recreational areas within two hundred (200¢) feet of a residential area, the restricted hours of operation noted above shall apply.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person operating a leaf blower to create any noise exceeding the following decibel levels when measured at a distance of fifty (50¢) feet from such leaf blower:

(1) New leaf blowers purchased, leased, or rented on or after a date three (3) months from the effective date of this Chapter shall not exceed a noise level of 70 dba.

(2) New leaf blowers purchased, leased, or rented on or after forty-eight (48) months from the effective date of this Chapter shall not exceed a noise level of 65 dba.

(3) All leaf blowers other than those specified at Subparagraphs (1) and (2) hereinabove shall not exceed a noise level of 70 dba on or after one year from the effective date of this Chapter.

(c) Any person using or operating a leaf blower shall not cause dirt, dust, debris, leaves, grass clippings, cuttings, or trimmings from trees or shrubs to be blown or deposited on any adjacent or other parcel, land, lot, street, alley, or gutter from which the leaf blower is being used or operated. Deposits of dirt, dust, leaves, grass clippings, debris, cuttings, or trimmings from trees or shrubs shall be removed and disposed of in a sanitary manner, to prevent dispersement by wind, vandalism, or similar means.

(d) Each commercially operated leaf blower shall have affixed on it the business name, address, and telephone number in a clear, identifying manner.

6.20.014 Violations–Infractions.

(a) Any person violating any of the provisions of this Chapter shall be deemed guilty of an infraction, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in an amount not exceeding fifty ($50.00) dollars. Each day such violation is committed or permitted to continue shall constitute a separate offense and shall be punishable as such.

(b) Any person convicted of a violation of this Chapter more than three (3) times in any calendar year shall be deemed guilty of an infraction as defined in Section 1.01.220(b) of this Code and subject to punishment in accordance with Section 1.01.220(b) of this Code.

6.20.016 Violations–Additional Remedies–Injunctions–Public Nuisance.

  • As an additional remedy, the operation of any leaf blower in violation of any provision of this Chapter which operation causes discomfort or annoyance to reasonable persons of normal sensitiveness or which endangers the comfort, repose, health, or peace of residents in the area, shall be deemed and is declared to be a public nuisance and may be subject to abatement summarily by a restraining order or injunction issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    (b) Any violation of this Chapter is declared to be a public nuisance and may be abated in accordance with law. The expense of such abatement may be by Resolution of the City Council, declared to be a lien against the property in which such nuisances are maintained, and such lien shall be made a personal obligation of the property owner.

 

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower:

Department:Dana Point Code Enforcement

Website: danapoint.org

Phone:(949) 248-3573

In person:

The Community Development, Development Services Counter is located at:

33282 Golden Lantern, Suite 209
Dana Point, Ca 92629-1805
(949) 248-3564

COUNTER HOURS

Monday through Thursday 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM
Fridays 7:30 AM through 4:30 PM

Lawndale

The City of Lawndale bans the use of all powered leaf blowers.

Lawndale Municipal Code Section 8.20.075states:

A.  Definitions. The term “mechanical blower or vacuum” means a portable device which is used, designed or operated to produce a current of air by mechanical, electrical or other means to push, propel or blow dirt, dust, leaves, grass clippings, trimmings, cuttings, refuse or other debris.

  1. The use of gasoline-powered mechanical blowers or vacuums is prohibited within the city after July 1, 1997.
  2. Mechanical blower or vacuum operations (for non-gasoline powered blowers) shall not cause debris to be blown or deposited on any adjacent or other parcel of land, lot, or public right-of-way/property other than the parcel, land, or lot upon which the mechanical blower or vacuum is being operated.
  3.   Mechanical blowers or vacuums (for non-gasoline powered blowers) shall not be operated in close proximity to any operable window, door, or mechanical air-intake opening or duct of any building unless with the permission of the occupants of the building. (Ord. 1115-15 § 1; Ord. 814-96 § 1; Ord. 713-92 § 1)

 

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower: 

Department:Lawndale Municipal Services

Website:www.lawndalecity.org

Telephone:(310) 973-3220

 

San Diego

The City of San Diego bans the use of all powered leaf blowers.

San Diego Municipal Code Sec. 59.5.0502 (G) states:

(g)  Leaf Blowers

(1)  A “leaf blower” means any portable, hand–held or back pack, engine powered device with a nozzle that creates a directable airstream which is capable of and intended for moving leaves and light materials.

(2)  No person shall operate a leaf blower in any residential zoned area between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends or on legal holidays specified in section 21.04 of this Code.

(3)After October 9, 1991 and through June 30, 1993, no person may operate any leaf blower at a sound level in excess of 70 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet or greater from the point of noise origin. Beginning on July 1, 1993, no person may operate any leaf blower at a sound level in excess of 65 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet or greater from the point of noise origin.

(4)Beginning on July 1, 1993, leaf blowers shall be equipped with functional mufflers and an approved sound limiting device required to ensure that the leaf blower is not capable of generating a sound level exceeding any limit prescribed in this section.

(5)All litter and debris generated by leaf blower operation shall be cleaned up and disposed of in accordance with Chapter 9, Article 4, of this Code.

 

Who to Contact to File a Complaint for use of Leaf Blower:

Department:San Diego Code Enforcement

Website: sandiego.gov

Telephone:(619) 236-5500

 

Filing a Complaint

To make a complaint against a neighbor or landlord for the use of a gas powered leaf blower within 500 feet of your building, contact your local City Department that handles such requests.  Whether you are contacting online, by phone or in-person, provide your City officials with the following information:

  1. Identify the specific complaint or nuisance.
  2. Give your name, address, and telephone number.  There may be times when the Code Enforcement Officer will need additional information. (This information is essential and is kept confidential).
  3. Give the location of the problem, street name, and house number.  If address is unknown, give location of property (i.e. northwest corner of Golden Lantern and Coast Highway).
  4. Give specific description of complaint (i.e. description of vehicle, license plate number of gardener, type of debris, etc.).

After you file a complaint, make sure to write down your case confirmation number as a reference.

City officials will then contact the person in violation of the specific leaf blower statutes and request that they cease the activity.  In most cases, the person responsible for an alleged violation is given an opportunity to voluntarily comply and correct the situation.

If your neighbor or landlord continues to hire staff using a leaf blower, do not despair, you can continue to file complaints and the violating party will face fees, fines and a possible hearing before an administrative judge.

 

Alternative Options

Because yard maintenance workers move quickly, and most city departments do not, it can be difficult to actually “catch” them in the act. This means the offenders are usually long-gone by the time officials arrive on scene, leading to an endless cycle of complaints and inaction.

If you have contacted your local code enforcement department, to no avail, an attorney may be able to help you seek relief. An attorney can contact the offending party and send a cease-and-desist letter, directing them to cease their illegal activity. If the party refuses to stop, you may be able to bring a lawsuit for “private nuisance” and seek additional damages for any resulting illness or lost business.

In California, private nuisance is defined in Civil Code section 3479which states that:

“Anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property . . . is a nuisance.”

While a private nuisance action requires damages related to interference with the use and enjoyment of land, it does not require proof of damage to the property. According to the California Supreme Court, “In distinction to trespass, liability for nuisance does not require proof of damage to the plaintiff’s property; proof of interference with the plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of that property is sufficient.” San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1996) 13 Cal.4th 893, 937.

Activities that can support a cause of action for a private nuisance in California include smoke, noise and odors, or machinery that creates noise and vibration, such as leaf-blowers.

To establish a claim for private nuisance, you must generally prove EACH of the following:

  1. That you own, lease, occupy, or otherwise control the property;
  2. That the Defendant either acted or failed to act, thereby creating a condition or allowing a condition to exist that was either:
  3. Harmful to health;
  4. Indecent or offensive to the senses;
  5. An obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property; OR
  6. A hazard to your property (ie. Fire hazard)
  7. That this condition interfered with your use and enjoyment of the land;
  8. That you did not consent to the Defendant’s conduct;
  9. That an ordinary person would be reasonably annoyed/disturbed/offended by the Defendant’s conduct;
  10. That you were harmed;
  11. That the Defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing your harm; AND
  12. That the seriousness of the harm outweighs the public benefit of the Defendant’s conduct.

Because these issues can be complex, and difficult to prove, we recommend consulting with an experienced attorney before filing any claim for private nuisance. If you need help resolving a leaf blower dispute, contact our office today at 833-4-CAL-LAW to discuss your options.

(edited June 27, 2018).