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Using leaf blower a misdemeanor in Manhattan Beach

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Manhattan Beach City Council voted unanimously last week to amend municipal code to make using a leaf blower a misdemeanor in Manhattan Beach and to allow violations to be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. The amendments will go into effect in October.

Someone charged with an infraction is not punished by imprisonment nor entitled to a jury trial or public defender, whereas someone charged with a misdemeanor could face jail time or a fine.

The original ordinance – passed in 1998 due to the high noise levels and environmental effects, according to a staff report – ruled that using a leaf blower would result in an infraction, unless the person had previously violated the ordinance twice in the past year. That violator then would be charged with a misdemeanor.

Councilmember David Lesser questioned how practical enforcement would be of an already existing law.

Eve Irvine, chief of police of the Manhattan Beach Police Department, said eliminating the sliding scale of violations will lift a burden off of the police department. “It lessens the tracking system, which is kind of a nightmare,” she said, adding, “We don’t have to worry about somebody violating this infraction twice, getting convicted twice within a 12-month period, and in the third time infraction becomes a misdemeanor. It just becomes a lot easier for us as well, when it comes to citing.”

Former Councilmember Mitch Ward thought the amendment makes “criminals of hardworking laborers,” he wrote in an email. “(The council) should know better especially at a time when local jobs are extremely scarce.”

Mayor Nick Tell responded via email. “We just gave the police more tools to enforce,” he wrote, noting that the law was not expanded to include any other equipment aside from leaf blowers.

Resident Craig Cadwallader supported the change, frustrated at being able to anticipate the noise in his neighborhood at a certain time, multiple times a week. “I think it’s an extreme nuisance and unfortunately, I’ve become a nuisance by calling in noise complaints almost twice a week for a long time,” he said. “It puts some more teeth into the ordinance and takes some burden off the police department to enforce this.”

Cadwallader noted that leaf blower users wear headphones and face masks to protect themselves, and asked, “What about the rest of us?”

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