City Council plan would target Seattle leaf blower noise


Autumn Sidewalk, originally uploaded by sea turtle.

Buried in the line items of the Seattle City Council’s changes for the 2014 budget is a “Statement of Legislative Intent” that will make Capitol Hill resident Dan Savage very, very happy. “The Council requests that the Department of Planning and Development (DPD),” it reads, “provide recommendations describing options for regulations and incentives to reduce or eliminate leaf blower noise and emissions in Seattle.”

Amen, sister.

The statement, part of the process to declare potential planning that could impact a department’s budget, provides DPD with six requirements for the final recommendations:

  1. Evaluate the older models of leaf blowers still in use in Seattle and the new models available for sale in Seattle to identify the noise and emissions associated with those models.
  2. Identify elements of the City code, state law and federal law that apply to noise and emissions from leaf blowers, and how models used and available for sale in Seattle compare to those standards.
  3. Identify the regulatory and incentive approaches used by other jurisdictions to reduce or eliminate noise and emissions from leaf blowers generally — and gas-powered leaf blowers specifically — and the advantages and disadvantages of those approaches.
  4. Identify stakeholders (including other City departments and other agencies) who use leaf blowers in their work or who might be involved in the implementation and enforcement of any new regulations or incentives. Stakeholders may include property owners, yard maintenance and property management businesses, stadiums, major institutions and Seattle Public Schools.
  5. Recommend regulations and incentives for reducing noise and emissions from leaf blowers in Seattle, including a schedule for developing and implementing the regulations and  incentives, a stakeholder outreach strategy, enforcement procedures, staffing needs for  program implementation, and other costs.
  6. Coordinate with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Seattle Center, the Department of  Finance and Administrative Services, and other City departments to share leaf blower recommendations, so that City departments that manage properties can consider incorporating relevant recommendations into their own practices and equipment purchases.

According to the document, DPD officials say the department “will need to reevaluate its 2014 work plan to eliminate, delay, or reduce the scope of other tasks so that this work can be accomplished.” CHS approves, whatever the cost.

The recommendations are to be delivered by September 2014.


Untitled, originally uploaded by Keith Caswell.
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45 thoughts on “City Council plan would target Seattle leaf blower noise

  1. Well, okay, I get it.

    Here are some better ideas. We need a new police chief. We need the SPD to start complying with the consent decree. We need help for the homeless. We need help on crime. We need the city council to start paying attention to the real priorities of the city.

    Leaf blowers can wait.

    • Just because there are more important issues to consider does not mean that the leaf blower problem should not be addressed. The City Council, and other government departments, can “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

      The leaf blowers are getting increasingly common and can be very noisy at times, disrupting the peace and quiet of a neighborhood. Full disclosure: I use one occasionally in my yard….but it is battery-powered, therefore much quieter than the ones used commercially, and I only use it for a few minutes at a time.

      • I agree wholeheartedly!

        It IS possible for the City Council to walk and chew gum at the same time, isn’t it?

        Maybe the city council can give rakes to all of low-lifes in Cal Anderson and make them rake in the park ;)

    • Completely agree, JayH ~ Let’s solve what’s on our plate first. I can’t help but notice Cal Anderson Park is still not being dealt with…so…leaf blowers? Really?

      • ^ off subject [for which I apologize], but one of my many issues [it’s quite a list] with the Park Rangers at Cal Anderson Park is it isn’t fair to them either. You think they signed up for that profession to deal with city folk? OMG…that “solution” isn’t fair to any of us. Just sayin’.

      • Heh…[no, I’m not quite finished yet…] I very often envy people with trees this time of year. I’ve been an apartment dweller my whole life [and I’m olde], and I see those leaves needing to be raked [after they stop being beautiful and become mulch] and if anyone feels the same way, heck, we could just rake it all up and bag it ourselves, ya know? I dunno…sounds like fun to me.

  2. Maybe Dan Savage can donate revenues from one of his books/blogs/NPR appearances to pay for this effort if it’s really so precious as all that? Seattle is such a joke in that it pays attention to these tiny issues that merely annoy some people while ignoring the broader, more meaningful needs of the city and its population. God forbid any one in government truly try to enact real change to make life better for all. That means they would have to actually work though.

  3. Pay people minimum wage (whatever that might be) to rake the leaves? And bag them so that the leaves go away rather than just moving around the place?

    • I agree. The businesses and others that hire or use leaf blowers themselves are complete idiots. It’s ridiculous to blow the leaves off of your precious sidewalk and right out into the road, where they get rained on and cars drive.

      Leaf blowers have become a problem in my neighborhood to the point that drivers skid over slimy leaf piles when they attempt to stop. How can this be a legal practice? It’s a public nuisance, hardly “green,” and flat out dangerous! Just rake and bag the darn things up!

  4. While I agree that noise and emissions are issues related to the leaf blowers, these are not the only issues. A significant problem is WHERE the leaf blowers blow the leaves, and other debris. The default location is the street where the leaves and other debris become someone elses’ problem – with clogged gutters, littered bicycle lanes, dust, etc. This issue should also be addressed and it should be required that leaves and other debris be retained on site for proper disposal, not blown into the street.

  5. Hearing that the city is thinking about an incentive for this just made me as a volunteer property manager think “even though I was thinking about doing this already, I had better postpone my plans and wait for the city to give me a sweet incentive for work I wanted to do already.” The incentive is already there to reduce noise for non-City-owned blowers (lots of people complain) so I hope this consideration applies only to City-owned blowers.

  6. Can we target Dan Savage? He’s noisy too with an air clogging dose of hate, bigotry and vitriol.
    He is an embarrassment to gay people everywhere, Certainly doesn’t represent me or anyone I know who’s gay in Seattle.

    As far as leaf blowers go, they make the world a tidier place. So Im all for ’em.
    I have an electric one. It’s quiet, emission free and runs about 20 minutes on a charge. With electric cars driving new battery tech, there seems to be an opportunity for Black and Decker, Stihl, Craftsman etc. Where is the Chevy Volt of blowers???

  7. I use a battery operated blower to move them into a pile. It’s difficult to clear them from shrubs, grasses and ivy. Then I rake, pile and compost. I hope they still allow non gas powered models.

    I’m really surprised the city is using their mindshare towards something this minuscule when there are much bigger fish to fry.

  8. Interesting! Meaningful quality of life upgrade, or time-wasting feel-good project? Who can say? Perhaps this effort should be guided by a study of noise pollution levels and sources. Although gas blowers create a lot of air pollution too.

    My impressions (as tech guy who is still learning about this meat/plant/rock stuff):

    I use a plug-in blower (Stihl) … relatively quiet with no batteries to fail… but 2 heavy-duty extension cords. However I use the blower as a broom, not as a rake. First I collect leaves in a pile with a metal fan rake (which takes about the same time as with a blower, without the horrible noise). Then barrel/bag the leaves, which leaves micro-debris all over the sidewalk, which is quickly blown into the beds with the plug-in blower. Leaves stuck in the beds can be removed with a hand rake while weeding, or just left to decompose and mulch.

  9. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Seattle wastes its valuable time and resources yet again on nonsensical bs. Why don’t we pump Dan Savage full of helium and utilize a leaf blower to float him to some other county or state or planet?

  10. I think this is great. Unlike some of the issues mentioned above, this is a solvable problem which could improve quality of life without a large investment of time or money. I don’t think that the existence of larger issues in the world means it is wrong or silly to address smaller ones.

  11. Are you F—ing kidding me?! As if the stupidity of green lanes on streets, road diets and the work of a soon to be former mayor to bring gridlock to the city isn’t enough, now the council is going after a leaf blower? I guarantee they won’t have a leg to stand on. If you try and enact a noise ordinance to cover this, then that’ll also take out every gas powered lawn mower in the city as well.

    Wow, just WOW! Stupidity like this is going to make Seattle the laughing stock of the western U.S.

    • Actually, those green lanes and road diets give credibility to Seattle in a national level as a liveable city.

      Maybe that gridlock would clear if more people didn’t rely on automobiles as a primary mode of transit. Just sayin’.

      • and maybe y’all could disengage head from tail end and realize road diets are stupidity in action. Creating gridlock does NOTHING for business or the quality of the air we breathe.

        There’s a reason McGinn was given the boot. It’s just a shame he got into office to begin with.

      • NOBODY except people around here look at these green and incongruous markings and messed up streets as being more than what they have turned out to be. Here’s the news – people are already laughing at this place as a bastion of feel good stupid ideas and politically manifested passive aggressiveness. That is the truth.

        By the way, traffic in LA on average moves a lot faster than it does here. Ever since they timed the traffic lights right, you can move 50 mph down a lot of the streets except during rush hour or along the main touristy drags or on the west side, which gets slowed down, but that is to be expected. What we have is BS.

        So is this nonsense about leaf blowers. Common sense is that one doesn’t blow their leaves into the street. Many cities, however have weekly or biweekly street cleanings where people can’t park on the street during certain times. Considering our weather, the dirt and detritus that end up there and clogs drains, it is strange that it doesn’t exist here too. That might be something worth paying for, not “studying”

    • Along with LA and SF and many other California communities, which banned gas powered leaf blowers many years ago. So the whole west coast will be the laughing stock of the whole west coast. All that laughing would probably be healthy, compared to rants like in this thread.

      BTW, gas powered leaf blowers give off significant emissions (more than 10x the carbon monoxide of a high emission pickup truck for example) I feel very badly for the work crews paid minimal wages to breathe the fumes all day. For those who like gas powered leaf blowers so much, shouldn’t we also remove emissions limitations on cars?

  12. I have several responses to this whole thing so please bear with me as I make a short list. 1) No one person can speak for all gay people, so whoever said Dan Savage is an embarrassment to gay people everywhere is not being fair. I’m one of those gay people, and I think he does some great things for the community with his activism (like the “it gets better project”) and does some things I don’t like (like picking on overweight people including Lindy West 2) The leaf thing is an important quality of life issue due to noise and pollution. Can’t they just use a broom? Also, they often put them in the road and sometimes cause hazards for bicyclists.

    • The commercial yard/garden maintenance companies use the powerful leaf-blowers for one reason, and it is that they do the job much faster than they can do by rake and broom. As with many service businesses, time is money. I am in favor of new noise/emission restrictions, but if this goes forward you can expect some mighty opposition from those who use the gas-powered blowers.

      I have not observed workers just blowing leaves into the street, as others here claim. Most of them seem to have been trained to not do this. Homeowners and apartment managers are much more likely to be guilty of this practice.

    • 8 AM is not that early. Just because you want to sleep in late doesn’t mean your neighborhood who is up and at ’em early should have to live by your schedule.

  13. And this upsets Dan Savage?! Christ, he really wants to tackle the tough challenges the city faces. Meanwhile, his Stranger staffers try to argue there’s no crime problem in Seattle. I used to kinda like Savage because he lives in Seattle, but now I find him to pretty annoying

  14. What is needed is a law that says doggy day care businesses are required to contain the noise they create. It sounds like 100s of dogs being slaughtered every day all day. Oh and it would be nice if the constant stream of piss would stop as well.

  15. The sound of a horn is alarming,, it is supposed to be, it is a safety device. The noise is designed to shock you. Why do people have to be constantly shocked throughout the day everywhere they go. Why are we creating desensitization to a safety device? Why do cars honk when I am standing next to it and there is no one in it? Why do people honk under other people windows where there are people living or or sleeping? Noise pollution has gotten ridiculous. This noise is very preventable ! Car Horn Honker . . . I hate you.

    • Orinda, CA is where pinch faced NIMBYs who can’t afford to live in Marin or on the coast go to buy a home in the Bay Area. The median income is over $150,000 a year and the median home costs nearly $1 million.

      The kind of people in Orinda wanting to ban leafblowers are generally the kind of people who either are wealthy retirees or make enough money to hire somebody else to rake their lawn.

  16. There’s a big difference between the noisier gas powered blowers and the electric kind. This sort of thing would mainly affect the commercial landscaping companies I would guess (who are more likely to use the more expensive gas powered kind) as opposed to your average homeowner who can easily get the job done with an electric one.

    I don’t think banning them all outright is a solution though. They have their place – the landscaping maintenance needs to be done, and in a time-effective (and thus cost effective) manner. I don’t think your average renter realizes exactly how much it takes to keep typical apartment or commercial property landscaping in good condition. I’m not talking about anal-retentive pristine condition. Just run of the mill, healthy, growing, relatively-weed free, not mangy looking condition. And that includes leaf detritus which is left unattended will rot, kill the lawns underneath, attract vermin, and clog up/block drainage.

    Similarly, if you are a homeowner with trees on your property or on the street next to your house, then every year you are deluged with an ongoing maintenance issue of needing to dispose of a LOT of leaves – if only to avoid similar problems as above.

    Often that’s not something you can deal with efficiently with a rake. Maybe a retired, gray-hair homeowner has all the time in the world to putter in their yard. But for commercial/multifamily property owners, or working homeowners – its not a solution.

  17. Bravo! Noise pollution is a serious issue that impacts the sanity of neighbors and the economic value of neighborhoods. I’m glad to see this. Besides, leaves should be raked and placed in compost. Next, can we stop with the wood burning in high density urban areas already? In addition to getting some noise free sleep, I’d like some clean air too. Cheers!

  18. Amen. I hate leaf blowers. Especially when I’m walking by and a guy is blowing leaves from one side of the sidewalk to the other, seemingly with the sole purpose of a) contributing to climate change with those emissions, b) making loud and annoying noises, and c) stirring up lots of neato dirt in the air that gets into my eyes as I walk by.

  19. Love my rake.
    Love the aroma of leaves as I gather them.
    Love that I don’t contribute to noise and air pollution.
    Love that I don’t embrace the lazy-ass approach to tidying up my yard.

    c’mon…leaf blowers? Pathetic.

    • Love my leaf blower,
      love the I can clean all 4 street drains out on my corner with it very good before storms to prevent urban flooding, love to use it to clean off my elderly neighbor’s walk that she can’t manage anymore. Love that people get so riled over something so trivial.

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