In Los Angeles, leaf-blower blowout in full howl
Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Richard Price
LOS ANGELES -- This is a story about a man, a woman and a leaf-blower.
The man is George Andrade, 35, a married father of four. He makes $700 a week
gardening for wealthy homeowners who, he believes, want perfectly manicured
The most important tool in Andrade's bag is a gas-powered leaf-blower. With it,
he averages 10 yards a day. Without it, ``I will lose half my customers.''
The woman is Susan Ziesman, a 56-year-old homemaker who is worried about
losing her mind -- and her health. What drives her wild is the relentless roar and
dust blasting up her street.
``I feel like I'm under attack,'' says Ziesman, who suffers from asthma. ``They
come from all sides. Every day it's another yard. The noise is unbearable, and the
fumes are disgusting, blowing dust and filth everywhere.''
Together, Andrade and Ziesman represent one of this city's loudest and
seemingly interminable fights.
For almost 15 years, the predominantly Hispanic and Asian garden industry has
been fending off furious attempts to shut down the blowers. The battle has
produced marches, fist fights, screaming matches and accusations of racism.
On Wednesday, the gardeners won the latest round.
Two weeks after enforcement of a ban on blowers went into effect, the City
Council gave gardeners a six-month reprieve. No citations or fines will be levied
until they re-examine the issue.
The fight over blowers has raged up and down this state for years, and dozens of
municipalities have banned them, usually through enforcement of noise
In southern California alone, about half the communities have some kind of
But in Los Angeles, the sheer number of those affected and a unified front forged
by gardeners have combined to make the issue more politically sensitive.
The blowers showed up in the 1970s when water conservationists complained
about gardeners using hoses to wash away leaves. That led to an ordinance
banning the practice.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the complaints shifted to the issues of noise and
pollution from leaf-blowers.
The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have long argued that gardeners
themselves suffer most from the blowers. Over time, they say, the fumes and
dust can be lethal.
The matter first went to the council in 1986. Gardeners won a string of victories
until last December, when the council finally broke through with an outright ban.
On July 1, when the ban went into effect, as many as 1,000 gardeners and their
families marched through downtown to City Hall demanding a postponement.
They won support from the police, who complained that the ban was too
complicated and expensive to enforce.
For one thing, it includes a provision for warning tickets before anyone draws a
citation. Police say the record-keeping would be an impossibility.
Adrian Alvarez, president of the Latino American Gardening Association, says
gardeners just need more time until a better leaf-blower is invented.
``If we can put Sojourner on Mars,'' he told the council, ``we sure as hell can
make a better leaf-blower.''
Aleady available are electric blowers, ranging in price from $30 to $450.
But gardeners complain they're dangerous -- gardeners routinely work around
pools and lawn sprinklers -- and not nearly powerful enough.
So the search, and the fight, go on. And the blowers keep blowing
PHOTO,b/w,Bob Riha, Jr., USA TODAY