Leaf blowers banned in Vancouver's West End

During the year 2004 Vancouver City Council dealt several times with the possibility of banning the use of gasoline-powered leaf-blowers in its most densely populated neighbourhood, the West End (please see page 3 of our Fall 2004 newsletter).

Finally, last October Council decided on a ban, which was advertised in the local newspapers. The ads read: Leaf Blowers Banned in West End.

Effectively immediately, the use of leaf blowers (both gas and electric) is prohibited in the West End of Vancouver (see map).

The maximum fine for an offence is $2,000. This could be applied to individuals, as well as building owners and/or property managers.

These changes are a result of a Vancouver City Council decision on October 19, 2004 to amend City of Vancouver Noise Bylaw #6555.

For complaints/inquiries call Environmental Health at 604 736 2866.

City of Vancouver             www.city.vancouver.bc.ca

More leaf-blower blues

Living in an apartment building can also mean exposure to lawn maintenance with noisy machinery. On October 19, 2004 a B.C. Housing employee ran a leaf blower below our 3rd-floor balcony. It generated sound levels between 68 dBA and 79 dBA some 10 metres from the source. A closer investigation revealed that the model in use was an EB 431 Redhawk with "69 dBA" engraved in a tiny plaque. It did not specify the distance at which the reading should not exceed 69 dBA. One week earlier another worker ran a leaf blower in front of our apartment door in an effort to blow-dry the freshly waxed floor in the elevator! Aside of the horrible noise, he also filled the corridor and adjacent apartments with noxious exhaust fumes.

On October 31st one of the Housing staff used a leaf blower to clean the sidewalk. He either did not realise or know that the use of leaf blowers is prohibited on Sundays in Vancouver.

Car-alarm Update

In November 2004, about 8 months after the possibili- ty to ban car alarms was discussed in City Council, the director of health protection of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority issued a policy report regarding "Noise Regulation - addressing Car Alarm Noise".

The report stated that the City's Motor Vehicle Noise Abatement Bylaw contains provisions restricting the sounding of car alarms for more than 1 minute or more than 3 times in a 24-hour period and provides for impoundment of an offending vehicle. There was no recommendation by the Urban Noise Task Force to prohibit car alarms. Many factory-installed systems also include a "panic button" feature, which allows the user to instantaneously arm and set off the alarm to ward off an attack. This safety feature would be in- activated along with the car alarm under an outright prohibition of use. The inaudible systems ... may pre- sent a safety risk to the car-owner if he or she rushes out to the vehicle, in response to a page, while the break-in is still in progress. Other points were the ve- hicle's central wiring combining alarm and horn, and enforcement of the law.

President Hans Schmid spoke to City Council on December 2, 2004 to comment and offer suggestions: If inaudible alarms would present a potential risk to the owners, audible alarms could present the same risk to anyone trying to avert a break-in. All that is needed is proper instruction of the owner NOT to respond, but to call police. The wiring could be altered to separate the alarm from other functions. The federal law could or should be amended that this change will not reduce the warrantee.

Hans agreed with the possible use of Parking Enforce- ment staff to also look after offending car alarms and suggested an amendment of the law to accept the wit- ness of at least 3 people within earshot attesting to have heard it for 1 minute as the same evidence as if a police officer had heard it. Also, police, towing and impounding personnel should be authorised to deacti- vate an alarm. He urged Council to consider and pro- vide much more preventive public education.

The City would need a charter amendment to legally implement a ban on car alarms.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Winter 2005
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