City Council: Leaf Blower Conversion Approved

Coronado City Council
Coronado City Council

The city council took a small step toward a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and weed whips at its September 5 meeting. It voted 5-0 to replace its gas-powered equipment with zero-emission [electric] ones by December 31, 2018. The decision only applies to the equipment used by the City of Coronado on its parks and medians. Because of cost, the Municipal Golf Course would be exempt. Tuesday’s vote doesn’t apply to residents or their gardeners.

The plan is to “move in direction of zero emission hand tools,” said City Manager Blair King. “Conversion may have problems, so we try it first with city tools before we impose a standard on residents.”

Using battery operated equipment on the golf course was too costly. City staff estimated it would cost the city an additional $90 thousand a year to meet the golf course’s current maintenance schedule.

Just converting the equipment used in city parks and medians will cost an estimated $98 thousand more each year. Though as King noted, some of this would have had to have been spent regardless of the conversion to electric. Commercial grade lawn equipment has a three to four year life expectancy. King estimated that about a third of the leaf blowers and weed whip would have to be replaced by the end of next year anyway.

Once the conversion is complete the staff will evaluate it and prepare a report for the council’s 2019-2020 budget workshop. At that time the city may expand or curtail the program. Staff was optimistic that the program would be successful.

“Technology is advancing. Some of the equipment is comparable to gas powered,” said Cliff Maurer, Director of Public Services and Engineering.

Besides increased equipment cost, there will be some loss of productivity. Because the batteries have to be recharged every 30 minutes or so, it will take longer to mow and weed. Wages will increase. Maurer expects this will be less of a problem in the future. “Over time the batteries will have longer lives; we’re already seeing that with electric vehicles,” Maurer said.

Even now, the increased labor cost will be offset by fuel savings. Electricity is cheaper than gas. There will be environmental savings as well. There will be less noise pollution. Battery equipment is quieter. There will be considerable less air pollution. Batteries don’t generate nitrous oxide or other pollutants.

“It may be hard to believe, but a handheld gas blower has more emission than 10 cars,” Maurer said. “The reason is that unlike cars, blowers don’t have catalytic converters to reduce the emissions.”

Because of the cost benefits, there is also a political component to conversion. The city fully expects the legislator and the governor to ban gas-powered lawn equipment sooner or later, probably sooner. California has long prided itself on being a leader in environmental protection. “This one of those issues. The state can’t help itself. We’ll have a mandate sooner or later,” King said.

Additional Actions:

While the city will be less polluted, with another council action, it will get more congested. The council voted 5-0 to approve the conversion of three bungalows on Ninth Street to six condominiums. One is between G and H Avenues, where two residences will replace one. The other is between C and Orange Avenues, where four residences will replace two. All meet the criteria set by the latest RSIP-3 so the council had little choice but to approve the requests. That didn’t stop Councilman Bill Sandke from trying. He noted that the bungalows near C were across from the church he attends every Sunday and he would miss seeing them. When he asked community development planner Peter Fait if there was any rational for his voting no, Fait shook his head. Sandke voted, albeit reluctantly with the rest of the council.

The council also gave City Manager Blair King a 2% pay increase and added benefits.

An appeal to stop a residence at 1034 Encino Row from being demolished was postponed. The owner’s attorney requested the delay.

 

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A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@ecoronado.com