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Enhance La Jolla landscape contractor to use quieter, battery-operated leaf blowers

Ben Colton of Nissho of California discusses the battery-operated leaf blower that will be rolled out in La Jolla by Aug. 1.
Ben Colton of Nissho of California explains the features of the battery-operated leaf blower that will be rolled out in La Jolla by Aug. 1.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

During its first in-person meeting in more than a year, the Enhance La Jolla board was given some news likely to be welcome among people complaining of being plagued by noise from gas-powered leaf blowers.

Nissho of California, the company that carries out Enhance La Jolla’s landscaping, trash pickup and other maintenance projects, is switching to quieter, battery-operated leaf blowers, with a full roll-out expected by Aug. 1.

The nonprofit Enhance La Jolla manages the Village Maintenance Assessment District with authority to “enhance” city-provided services including landscape maintenance, street and sidewalk cleaning, litter and graffiti abatement, plus additional trash collection, and privately fund and complete capital improvement projects in public spaces, such as upgraded trash cans, bench installation, signage augmentation, park improvements, more public art and tree canopies on main thoroughfares.

Ben Colton, sales and marketing specialist at Nissho of California, demonstrated the electric leaf blower at the July 15 Enhance La Jolla meeting at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church’s meeting hall.

Through its contract with Enhance La Jolla, Nissho uses leaf blowers to remove debris every day from the sidewalks on Girard Avenue between Pearl Street and Prospect Street.

Noise from gas-powered leaf blowers has prompted complaints for years. Representatives of several local groups began meeting in May to explore options for combating the noise and environmental effects of gas-powered blowers, including discussion of promoting a ban on them throughout San Diego.

After years of complaints being blown around about gas-powered leaf blowers, representatives of several local groups have begun meeting to explore forming a coalition to combat the noise and environmental effects.

“A lot of what we’ve heard from the community is that the gas-powered leaf blowers are old and make a whole lot of ruckus, wake people up, disrupt calls,” Colton said. “In an effort to alleviate that, we want to make a step into the future [with these new models].”

He said cities such as Del Mar and Palm Springs have already licensed the technology and use it to “not disturb their residents,” and “the difference is pretty outstanding.” He said the system also is used in Carlsbad, which has noise ordinances in place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but because the decibels are below the allowable limits, “we start work at 5:30 in the morning.”

Colton said a typical gas-powered leaf blower generates about 120 to 130 decibels. “The challenge is that, with gas-powered engines, they continue to idle and continue to run when not in use; that makes a lot of noise,” he said.

With the new machines, noise to the operator’s ears is about 90 decibels, which Colton called “pretty phenomenal.”

“As the sound carries away, you are looking at the 40- to 50-decibel range,” he said. “In a business district, that sound is cut down by the buildings themselves.”

When Colton fired up a battery-powered blower inside the meeting room, several people said it sounded like a vacuum cleaner, and no one covered their ears to muffle the sound.

Though the battery lasts only two to three hours at full force, Colton said the work on Girard Avenue doesn’t take more than two hours.

Other Enhance La Jolla news

Streetscape fundraising: Enhance La Jolla board member and La Jolla Light President and General Manager Phyllis Pfeiffer said that as “people come out of their COVID caves,” fundraising can resume on a streetscape plan for The Village, starting with Phase 1, which aims to create a pedestrian plaza at the area of Prospect Street known as “The Dip.”

As a first step, the La Jolla Community Foundation (the fundraising arm for Enhance La Jolla’s capital projects) provided a grant to Enhance La Jolla to hire TSA Construction to be the design/build firm and manage the entire project. TSA would conduct the “investigative phase” of the project, which will include working with the city and local planning groups.

Final costs and scheduling are still being determined. Enhance La Jolla’s website has an option to donate directly to the streetscape fund. To learn more, visit enhancelajolla.org.

Members of the Enhance La Jolla board meet July 15 at the Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church meeting hall.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Tree wells: Following an effort in recent months to place river rocks in empty tree wells along Girard Avenue that otherwise could pose a trip hazard, Enhance La Jolla President Ed Witt said he noticed other areas not managed by the Maintenance Assessment District doing the same thing. He said he observed similar landscaping on Prospect Street and Torrey Pines Road.

“I think it’s a good thing that gives us a little more organization and stability in our look,” he said.

The work started along Girard at the beginning of this year to place the rocks in tree wells that were otherwise empty. MAD Manager Mary Montgomery said some of the iris plants placed among the rocks there are starting to bloom.

Election timeline: Four board seats will be up for grabs in Enhance La Jolla’s next election in coming months.

The board has 13 seats consisting of seven property owners (or representatives of property owners) paying the LJMAD assessment, three La Jolla Community Foundation representatives, one member of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and two people representing the community at large.

Of the four available seats in the election, one represents the Community Foundation, two represent commercial property owners and one is at large. Elections committee chairwoman Kathryn Kanjo said at-large members are expected to have “expertise in city issues and land-use issues.”

Those who currently hold the seats have the option to run again.

People interested in running can apply in August with a form that will be available on the website. In September, a slate will be created, and in October, it will be voted on. Details about voting and exact dates will be made available as October gets closer. Property owners in the Maintenance Assessment District are eligible to vote.

The Enhance La Jolla board meets quarterly, with the next meeting slated for October. A date and location are to be announced. ◆