AHH, summer mornings. My husband gets up and takes a shower, getting ready to leave for work. The children and I are snuggling, discussing our plans for the day. It is a peaceful, quiet morning.
Then there's a whir and a rumble, the cacophony of multiple engines. The noise is loud and jarring.
Then I remember.
Wednesday at 7:20 a.m. That's when the leaf blower guys go to work.
The leaf blowers have woken up the kids when they're sleeping in sick. They've woken up my parents when they're visiting from out of town. They've woken me up when I've worked long hours and tried to grab a bit of morning sleep.
They're there, every Wednesday, on or about 7:20.
I pull on some clothes and walk over.
"It's too early," I say to the man with a blower. We have to talk loudly over the roar of the mower a second man is using. "Seven is too early," I say. "Don't come this early," I say. I threaten to call the police, even though I'm pretty sure that there's no ordinance on my side. Otherwise why would they be here?
"Go ahead," he says. "Call them."
"There are people sleeping in this house and that house." I am gesturing wildly. We are not perhaps our most persuasive when we are angry. "Everyone is sleeping!" I yell. I imagine myself cartoon-like, red-faced.
"No one else complains," he says calmly.
Just because no one complains, doesn't mean they like it, doesn't mean it makes sense, doesn't mean it's right. Heck, I've hated the early-morning noise for years and this is the first time I've bothered to walk over.
But I'm not the first to take issue with the noise of blowers. At least 20 California cities, including Palo Alto, Santa Barbara, Piedmont and Berkeley have enacted some sort of regulation on the machines. And nationally, hundreds of cities have done so. Noise is not the only negative: The tiny particles the blowers stir up have been linked to asthma and other respiratory ailments. Not to mention the exhaust from the two-stroke engines.
And it's not even clear leaf blowers are more efficient. A group that worked to outlaw gas blowers in Los Angeles (they've been illegal there since 1998) ran a test in which a grandmother with a broom was able to clean a patio more quickly then a young man with a blower.
In Alameda, the leaf blower issue came up at recent meetings of the Climate Protection Task Force, though I'm told a ban didn't end up in the final plan because of concerns about enforcement.
But there are already some ordinances on the books relating to the blowers. Section 24-1.1 of Alameda's Municipal Code disallows "the maintenance of any real or personal property "... in such a manner that dust, sand or any other foreign material shall be caused to be blown into the atmosphere or spread or drift upon property or premises of any other person, firm or corporation in such a manner as to be a detriment to the public health and safety and/or the property of such others."
Surely leaf blowers are out of compliance?
And section 4-10.4 of the code defines "exterior noise standards," regulating how loud, long and during what hours noise can be made. I suspect many blowers exceed the maximum permissible decibels.
I say it's time for Alameda to explicitly ban the beasts. It'll be better for our peaceful small town, better for our air and, not the least, better for the people who wield them, forced to endure the noise and breathe the particles all day long.
Bring back the rake!
Eve Pearlman also writes the Alameda Journal Blog. Look for news, impressions and opinion at www.ibabuz.com/alamedajournal.