Close to Home: Disarming the dust bazooka

  • 12/26/2010: B7:

    11/14/2009: B1: Landscapers say all gas-powered blowers are not equal -- some are quieter and cleaner than others.

    PC: The city of Sebastopol is considering a ban on gas powered leaf blowers.

I've lived in Pennsylvania, New York, Washington and in several California communities and sojourned in France, Italy and Mexico. I once lived in Ojai, in an area called "The Arbolada," which means "groves of oaks." I've lived on an island thick with cedars and firs. In none of those varied locales did anyone cling to the leaf blower as a necessity of life. In fact, I can't remember ever hearing one.

Sonoma is the only place I've ever lived where the residents seem to be at war with nature.

How goes the battle? The mercenaries have the upper hand. They fire at will. They chase down leaves and raise dust with the force of a category five hurricane. The rest of us are considered collateral damage, if we are considered at all.

Covering my nose and mouth with a white flag, I've approached them and asked if what they are doing makes sense to them. Invariably they will smile and admit that it doesn't, but it is, after all, their job. I ask them to try a rake, just for the fun of it. They laugh and say they have only so much time. I tell them I can rake it better and faster than they can blow it. They laugh again but don't disagree.

I've tried talking to their employers, but that didn't go well.

Until coming to Sonoma 14 years ago, I've never lived in a place where three leaves on a driveway constitute a personal affront, where clouds of toxic dust and the annoying revving of two-stroke engines spewing raw gasoline into the air are thought of as acceptable hazards in the quest for a spotless gutter.

This is clearly a war of preference, not necessity. Do civilians desirous of peace and quiet and clean air just have to put up with it?

Apparently not. Beverly Hills and Carmel sued for peace 38 years ago. Since then, cities across the state — Walnut Creek, Mill Valley, Santa Monica, Ojai, Berkeley and others — have done likewise. How? By the simple expedient of outlawing the big guns. They discovered what was already there: alternatives.

But what of those three leaves on the driveway, or those leaves hiding in the hedges? What if you can't chase them down without heavy artillery? D?ente.

Given a chance, leaves on the ground will come to appear, well, natural. When there are too many of them, you can rake them into a pile, or hire a "green landscaper," currently a rarity around here, to do it for you.

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