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The Round Up on Roundup

Los Altos Has Been Busy

Roundup, a widely used glyphosate herbicide. Source: Flickr

Several communities in our area have, or are considering, banning harmful herbicides and pesticides. Here in Los Altos, the Los Altos Parks and Recreation Commission, at its August meeting, recommended a ban in city parks on all synthetic herbicides (including glyphosate-containing Roundup) and pesticides in a vote of 6-1. The Environmental Commission was then asked by the Parks Commission to weigh in on expanding the proposed ban Citywide. A ban on herbicides like Roundup may result in negative aesthetic impacts — such as a few more weeds and landscape maintenance costs are likely to increase somewhat since alternatives, like pulling weeds by hand, tend to be more labor intensive. Still, a few more weeds never hurt anyone and we can’t say the same for glyphosate!

LASD is Out Ahead

Thank you LASD! Sign sighted at a school campus. Source: Jill Woodford.

This year, based on the experience of several communities in Colorado and Southern California, Los Altos School District (LASD) converted to using a steam contraption to keep the weeds at bay. So far so good. A few more weeds perhaps, but signage helps alert the neighbors that there has been a change. The district’s maintenance staff has even demonstrated their steam machine to City staff.

Let Your Opinion Be Heard

If you’re concerned about the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides in Los Altos, let the Environmental Commission and City Council know what you think.  Contact Callie Niday (, staff liaison to the Environmental Commission. Let City Council know by emailing and send a note of gratitude to the Parks and Recreation Commission, via their staff liaison, Donna Legge ( And as always, email us at if you have any questions.

Sample Letter

Los Altos resident and GreenTown volunteer, Jill Woodford, had concerns and here’s what she said (note this has been modified slightly for length):

Hello Ms. Niday, Los Altos City Council, and the Environmental Commission –

I am writing to urge the City Council to pass an ordinance banning glyphosate-containing herbicides from use in all Los Altos City Parks and public spaces. It is clear from mounting evidence that it is harmful to people and animals. The chemical should only be allowed in special circumstances where several other less toxic methods have been tried, and have failed. The specifics of the policy would be outlined in a detailed pest management policy to remove any ambiguity.

San Francisco only allows glyphosate-containing products to be used in special circumstances as it one of only a few chemicals categorized as “most limited” due to health concerns. The City has “[d]ecreased the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, within the City by 96% since 2010″. You will find other inspiring facts about their pest management policy here.

Berkeley has banned harmful chemical herbicides and pesticides indicating that “The use of chemicals shall be considered as a last resort…Except for the control of a pest which threatens the public health or where hazard and exposure to people, wildlife or the environment is expected to be minimal, any pesticide determined to have evidence of causation of cancer, birth defects, mutations, or other severe chronic health effects is banned from use.”

As a resident, parent, and pet owner, I urge you to take a precautionary stance on this issue.

Thank you!

Jill Woodford

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