With the city of Santa Clarita’s 19th annual River Rally just around the corner, the City Council is taking another look at plastic grocery bags.
Santa Clarita officials’ current approach to address single-use plastic bags has focused on promoting the use of reusable bags, according to city documents.
Santa Clarita first looked at a plastic bag ban back in 2010; however, on the advice of city staff and legal counsel, the discussion was postponed until a court challenge to the measure made its way through the courts, said City Councilman TimBen Boydston, who was on the council during the first discussion.
The state’s High Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the laws, which is why the city is taking another look at the issues, evaluating a city report and seeking public input, Boydston said.
“I would be in favor of not having plastic bags, but only on the condition that we have an option for paper bags and there is no tax,” Boydston said. “Too often, the government uses ecological issues as a reason to implement taxes. With the paper bag is, the difference is they don’t fly and they’re biodegradable.”
A variety of outreach has been completed through the city’s GreenSantaClarita.com website, print advertising, waste-hauler newsletters and partnering with Los Angeles County’s “A Day Without a Bag” campaign, among others.
The item on the agenda is under new business, and it recommends that City Council members look at a report by city staffers and “provide direction” on what may be done about single-use plastic bags.
In the past five years, a total of 58 ordinances have banned single-use plastic bags in 79 jurisdictions in California, according to city documents.
However, the laws aren’t evenly applied to all businesses, most just targeting grocers.
Nearly 50 of the ordinances extend the ban to retail establishments, and only 25 include restaurants, according to city data.
Most of the ordinances include a fee, ranging from 5 to 25 cents for customers wishing to purchase papers or biodegradable bags.
There’s also been several attempts at state legislation on single-use bags to guide local officials throughout California.
CITY COUNCIL AGENDA – STAFF REPORT FOLLOWS
||REVIEW AND DISCUSS OPTIONS TO ADDRESS SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAGS DISTRIBUTED BY COMMERCIAL ESTABLISHMENTS
City Council receive report and provide direction regarding single-use plastic bags.
At the request of the City Council, staff researched municipal strategies that limit the use of single-use plastic bags.
The City of Santa Clarita’s (City) current approach to address single-use plastic bags has focused on promoting the use of reusable bags. A variety of outreach has been completed through the City’s GreenSantaClarita.com website, print advertising, waste hauler newsletters, partnering with Los Angeles County’s A Day Without a Bag campaign and the distribution of reusable bags at events, including River Rally and Earth Arbor Day. Additionally, the City encourages residents to recycle their single-use plastic bags through their regular curbside recycling program offered by the residential franchised hauler.
Over the past five years, a total of 58 ordinances have banned single-use plastic bags in 79 jurisdictions in California. All 58 of the ordinances limit grocery stores from distributing single-use bags to customers. Forty-seven of the ordinances further extend the ban to retail establishments, and 25 include restaurants. A total of 51 ordinances include a fee ranging from 5 to 25 cents for customers who wish to purchase paper or biodegradable bags. A list of the jurisdictions banning single-use plastic bags is attached.
With the implementation of ordinances banning single-use plastic bags, several lawsuits were filed challenging such bans. The initial lawsuits focused on challenges to ordinances based upon an alleged failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The ordinances where cities attempted to use an exemption to CEQA were initially not upheld. However, the City of Manhattan Beach adopted a negative declaration in connection with their ordinance, which was upheld by the California Supreme Court. Subsequent to that case, San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority adopted an ordinance based upon a CEQA exemption, and their ordinance survived a CEQA challenge.
Other lawsuits have focused on the scope of the ban. The City of San Francisco adopted a ban that applied to all retailers (not just grocery), and a challenge was brought arguing provisions of the California Food Code pre-empted the City of San Francisco’s ordinance. The trial court disagreed, indicating the City of San Francisco could adopt such an ordinance. The case is currently on appeal.
Many ordinances have a requirement that the retailer distributing paper bags in place of the single-use plastic bags must charge customers for those bags. The proceeds must be used towards costs of complying with the ordinance. The County of Los Angeles’ ordinance was challenged for this provision. The Court of Appeal recently upheld the County’s fee.
Based upon recent case history, should the City Council wish to adopt an ordinance, consideration should be given to the following elements:
- Appropriate steps should be taken to ensure compliance with CEQA. Cities and counties have used CEQA exemptions to Environmental Impact Reports with Statements of Overriding Considerations to ensure compliance. The appropriate level of CEQA will depend primarily upon the scope of the ordinance the City Council considers for adoption.
- If the City wishes to include a fee for paper bags, consider having the retailers retain the fees to cover any associated costs related to compliance with the ordinance.
- Consider exempting restaurants from the ordinance until the pending litigation addressing such provisions is resolved.
- Consider approach to enforcement. Staff has discussed enforcement with jurisdictions with ordinances in effect. Based on responses from the cities contacted, the code enforcement divisions at the respective cities are tasked with responding to community concerns to ensure the retailers are following the ordinance. Most ordinances have a progressive fee structure in place for retailers that are noncompliant.
State and Federal legislation have also been introduced regarding single-use plastic bags. There are two State Assembly and Senate bills in the California State Legislature aimed to ban single-use plastic bags statewide. Assembly Bill 158 would prohibit stores over specified retail floor space or a specified amount of dollar sales from distributing single-use plastic bags to customers on or after January 1, 2015. Senate Bill 529 would prohibit fast-food facilities from distributing disposable food packaging or single-use carryout bags to consumers unless they are compostable on or after July 1, 2014. There is also a Federal Bill, House of Representatives 1686, that would add a five-cent tax to all paper and plastic disposable bags nationwide. Staff has attached a matrix summarizing the pending legislation.
The City Council may also consider the following alternatives to banning single-use plastic bags.
- Direct staff to continue the City’s current efforts promoting the use of reusable bags and the recycling of single-use plastic bags.
- Direct staff to work with local retailers and grocery stores to voluntarily switch to compostable alternatives including, but not limited to, paper bags.
- Direct staff to report back to the City Council in six months with an update of the pending lawsuits against local ordinances and legislation addressing single-use plastic bags and conduct public outreach to receive community feedback.
- Direct staff to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.