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Darryl Ponicsan's quest to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in the city of Sonoma could form the plot of one of his Hollywood screenplays.

The pitch goes like this: An accomplished writer working at his home in a leafy neighborhood a few blocks from Sonoma's Plaza is interrupted frequently by a leaf blower's tell-tale roar. The writer confronts gardeners with a sound meter, calls police and in exasperation airs his grievances for months at City Council meetings, including one in which he confesses that he has had to flee downtown to one of the city's wine salons to escape the maddening noise.

"So you can say this is driving me to drink," the writer tells city leaders.

Surprisingly, a majority on the City Council, which two years ago rejected calls for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, buys it this time around. Following a Sept. 3 public hearing, during which 19 people spoke in favor of the ban — including one woman who had a small dog perched on her shoulder — the council orders an ordinance that would make the city of 10,000 the first in Sonoma County, and one of the very few in the nation, to ban gas-powered blowers.

The move would represent a happy ending for Ponicsan, 75, whose screenplay credits include "The Last Detail," "Vision Quest" and "Nuts." He also is the author of a series of crime novels featuring a 50-year-old woman suffering through menopause.

Ponicsan said in an interview from his France Street home this week that the noise from leaf blowers is so distracting that he sometimes talks on the phone with one finger in his ear. He said he's gathered more than 300 signatures in support of a ban, mostly from people in attendance at the city's Tuesday night farmer's markets, where Ponicsan has manned a booth.

"I don't have any organization. It's just me and whoever shows up," he said. That included, at the Sept. 3 City Council meeting, his wife, Cecilia, who recounted the horror of "mothers trying to outrun clouds of dust" kicked up by leaf blowers.

Sonoma's draft ordinance returns to the City Council Oct. 7 for a first reading. Such efforts have had mixed results in California, where roughly 25 cities, almost all of them in relatively affluent areas, have bans on gas-powered leaf blowers. The city of Carmel was the first in 1975, followed by Beverly Hills in 1978. Berkeley's ban took effect in 1991.

Sebastopol city leaders voted to draft an ordinance in March 2011, but then backed away from a ban amid a public outcry over the decision. The city subsequently enacted a noise ordinance that prohibits sounds above 55 decibels as measured from a person's property line. Sonoma currently caps noise from gas leaf blowers at 70 decibels.

Questions inevitably arise over how to enforce such restrictions. Sonoma relies on the city's police force to respond to complaints; other cities make use of a code enforcement division or other city department.

Ponicsan, who has an artist's studio on First Street East, said a Sonoma police officer a few weeks ago responded to his complaint about a leaf blower being used at the Little League field across the street. Using a sound meter, the officer determined the noise exceeded the city's ordinance and told the leaf blower's operator to shut it down, according to Ponicsan.

Sebastopol, which also relies on police, has had relatively few complaints about leaf blowers since the dust-up in 2011, City Manager Larry McLaughlin said.

That may have something to do with the City Council ordering city employees to discontinue their use of leaf blowers of any kind. Employees now use rakes and brooms, if they use anything at all.

"Our level of service went down," Rich Emig, superintendent of Sebastopol's Public Works Department, said of the blower ban.

Emig said he respects the City Council's decision. "But I honestly have to tell you, I wish we could use them (leaf blowers)," he said.

Kem Loong, a supervisor with Berkeley's Public Works Department, said city employees get along fine without gas leaf blowers and use a street sweeper or rakes to clean up.

Nestor Otazu, code enforcement manager for the city of Beverly Hills, said employees there are able to get the job done using electric blowers. "There's a little bit more time involved, but it's not enough to create a major impact, at least, not for the city," he said.

He said electric blowers aren't always quieter than gas machines, however. Unlike gas models, which have a throttle, electrics usually have two speeds — low and high. Otazu said Beverly Hills still receives about 300 complaints annually about leaf blower noise, ranking it near the top of all city complaints. He said the city in the early days of the ban on gas machines used to chase offenders around town and issue citations right off the bat. Now, the city employs a softer approach that Otazu said has helped with compliance.

First-time offenders receive a letter from the city explaining the city's ban. Otazu said that usually takes care of it, and that some homeowners have even installed power outlets outside their houses so that their gardeners have a place to plug in.

Professional landscapers who get caught receive an information card. The company also is entered into a database the city uses to track landscapers, which have a high rate of turnover. Companies that continue to flout the ban receive citations and must appear in court. Otazu said the city issues about 10 such citations every month.

"They really learn their lesson," he said. "They pick up a rake or broom, or buy an electric."

Leaf blowers increasingly are targets of public scorn, not just for the noise but also because of the pollutants they emit and their effectiveness in scattering potentially harmful particulates into the air. Leaf blowers first burst onto the landscape in the 1960s in Japan, where the devices were used to disperse pesticides onto fields and fruit trees.

Ponicsan compared the public's growing awareness of problems with leaf blowers to that of the dangers with cigarettes and second-hand smoke. He said predictions that a ban on gas leaf blowers will put landscapers out of business or drive up costs are as off-base as predictions that outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants would shut those establishments down.

He said the only argument for leaf blowers is, "It's convenient for me, screw you."

But Conny Gustafsson, who's owned Scandia Landscaping in Sonoma since 1982, predicted that costs for gardening services will increase in the city if a ban on gas blowers is enacted. "You suddenly give me a task that's going to double that time, and I'm going to have to pass that extra hour on to you," he said.

In 2011 when the issue was debated in Sonoma, the city's Community Services and Environment Commission advocated against a ban on leaf blowers, in part out of concern it would be difficult to enforce and result in "undue economic hardship on small landscape contractors."

The city's Public Works Department also has outlined concerns about a ban possibly increasing the amount of time it takes workers to clear away debris. It would cost the city an estimated $10,000 to convert to electric blowers.

Gustafsson, who has contracts to maintain six city parks, said electric blowers might require the use of gas generators in places without electrical outlets nearby. "Now you have another noise and you're still blowing dust and leaves around," he said.

He said he'd rather not have to strap a leaf blower on his back. But he considers it an indispensable tool.

"I know they're not nice to hear and that they cause dust. That's why we try and be courteous. When people walk by, we turn them off," he said.

Some critics say concerns about leaf blowers amount to an affliction of the well to-do, who are willing to pay for someone to maintain their yards so long as they don't have to see or hear the work.

But Ponicsan scoffed at that notion, saying everyone who owns a house desires to live in a quiet neighborhood. He said he is acting on the belief that he represents a majority opinion in Sonoma.

"What's elitist about using a rake instead of a gas-powered blower?" he said.