Janice Crystal, a former Honorary Mayor with husband Billy, has joined Resilient Palisades to offer support for community efforts that address environmental issues. The group’s first event, on February 2, will focus on the harmful effects of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Circling the News reached out to Crystal to ask about the transition from attending various community events (e.g., the Woman’s Club annual birthday luncheon to honor the town’s 90-year-olds, Holiday Ho!Ho!Ho! and new store openings) to relative inactivity in public life. (She and her husband will participate in a Zoom celebration when the Chamber of Commerce installs Eugene Levy as the town’s new honorary mayor on January 26.)
“Now that our term has ended as honorary mayors, honestly, I needed work,” Crystal said. “With the pandemic, I’m doing what everyone else is doing, cleaning my house, walking and eating carrot cake from Cafe Vida.
“I’ve actually learned to install some appliances and fixed TV and internet problems.”
When Resilient Palisades held its first community Zoom meeting in August, Crystal was one of the participants. “I was very impressed with the entire organization,” she said. “When they decided to form teams, I joined the air and water team and solar.”
Crystal said her family has always been interested in environmental issues and may have been one of the first households to install solar panels in the 1980s.
“We had giant glass panels that heated our swimming pool,” Crystal said. “For the last 10 years we have had solar panels for electric as well as heating the pool.”
Initially, the Crystals moved from the La Brea/Melrose area to the Palisades in 1979 because of air-quality issues.
“We had taken up jogging and were out of breath; it was like we were trying to breath through the ocean,” Crystal recalled. This is when they started looking for a place in Los Angeles that had better air quality, and found Pacific Palisades.
When they moved here, there was a recycling center near Hughes (now Ralphs). “We recycled our newspapers by saving them in the back of our station wagon. It was a family project,” Crystal said, noting that only paper was recycled at that time. “A lot of people were doing it.”
The harmful effects of leaf blowers have been on Crystal’s radar for a long time. “I heard about it from Joan Graves and thought, ‘I have to listen to this.’” (Using a gas-powered leaf blower within 500 feet of a residence has been illegal for more than 20 years. Residents Graves, Diane Wolfberg and other activists worked for years to get a city ordinance passed: LA Municipal Code Sec. 112.04 (c).
That was in 1990, and the Crystals spoke to their gardener and asked him to stop using a blower. “We paid him a little bit more money,” Janice said, “and he was fine with it.”
Ever since then, even though the Crystals have a large property, “We’re raking, and trying to educate people that the leaves, especially in flower beds, have nutrients that are good for the soil,” Janice said. “The leaves help keep moisture in the bed, decreasing the need for water. I’ve been doing it for years.”
She said that everyone on their block of Chautauqua has agreed not to use gas blowers because of the harmful emissions that are put in the air, such as benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde, which are among the leading cancer-causing compounds.
Yard dust, which is blown in all directions, may contain fertilizers, fungal spores, mold, pesticides, herbicides and dried animal feces.
Road dust may contain toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury, as well as soil, tire and brake particles and pollens, animal dander and molds, which cause or intensify allergies.
Crystal urges residents to attend the February 2 Zoom meeting (Visit: resilientpalisades.org). “It takes a community to be diligent about this issue,” she noted. “We’re [working] to get people informed about how bad these blowers are. People don’t realize how bad it is.”
She continued, “Gas-powered blowers — and mowers — may be the first thing that Resilient Palisades is tackling publicly, but so much more is happening within the group to find ways to reduce our ecological footprint and make the Palisades a healthier place to live. It’s really very exciting.”
According to Green Energy Times, “California’s statewide Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) reports that the best-selling commercial leaf blowers emit as much smog-forming pollution during just one hour of use as driving a 2016 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles.” CalEPA adds that landscape workers running a leaf blower are exposed to ten times more ultra-fine particles – invisible to the eye but easily lodged into the lining of your lungs – than someone receives standing next to a busy road.
Crystal points out that many gardeners have been working for some residents for a long-time and are almost like family. “You don’t want them exposed to these particles,” she said.
(Editor’s note: You may report an illegal leaf blower in action to the LAPD non-emergency number: 877-ASK-LAPD. If an officer is available, they will be dispatched and should issue ACE citations to the operator and employer – if the officer witnesses the blower in use. ACE stands for Administrative Citation Enforcement, similar to writing a ticket for illegal parking.)