Today Plastic Bags, Tomorrow the World

Council On Way to Approving Single-Use Bag Ban

The Santa Barbara City Council will soon sink its teeth into its plastic-bag–ban ordinance, now that the council’s Ordinance Committee approved language this Tuesday for council consideration. Although two of the three Ordinance Committee members ​— ​Frank Hotchkiss and Randy Rowse ​— ​oppose a bag ban, they voted with Grant House (an ardent bag-ban champion) in favor of a measure that supporters hope will become the legislative template for all 10 coastal communities in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. (Rowse and Hotchkiss, recognizing a council majority is behind a ban, chose to work collegially with House and not to hold the proposal hostage in committee.)

If ultimately approved, the city ordinance would ban plastic bags at any establishments selling food ​— ​except for restaurants ​— ​and impose a 10¢ fee on all paper bags. The intent is to encourage shoppers to avail themselves of multiple-use tote bags instead. Any ordinance must be subjected to full environmental review, which would cost $30,000-$60,000. The plan is to split that cost among the 10 coastal cities belonging to the joint powers authority BEACON ​— ​the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment. The strategy of ban advocates is that all BEACON cities adopt variants of the Santa Barbara ordinance, itself modeled on that of Los Angeles County, because it recently withstood legal challenge. The 10 cities could share the same EIR, itself necessary as protection against likely legal challenge from the coalition.

In related news, the City of Carpinteria ​— ​which recently banned plastic and paper bags ​— ​just asked Judge Thomas Anderle to render a quick decision on the lawsuit filed against it by Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, arguing it’s utterly without merit. Carpinteria was sued because it also banned the use of plastic bags at restaurants selling take-out food, something most bag-banning municipalities exempt. The coalition’s attorney, Stephen Joseph, argued this intrudes on health and safety codes, which is the exclusive jurisdiction of the State of California. Attorney Peter Brown, representing the Carpinteria City Council, countered that state health codes apply only to how food is stored and prepared, not how it’s bagged. Judge Anderle is scheduled to hear the dispute May 15.


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