Environment California
Orange County Register
Frank Shyong


Dana Point's plastic bag ban gets second OK



The City Council moved one step closer banning plastic bags, giving the ordinance the second of three approvals it needs for adoption at its meeting Tuesday night.

Changes to the ordinance were incorporated based on issues raised at a Feb. 7 council meeting. The new language includes an 18-month exemption for small businesses whose annual sales revenue does not eclipse $4 million, as well as a broader definition for reusable bags.

Jared Centuolo ventures into the wet sand to find a plastic bag during a beach clean-up event last year. Dana Point's plastic bag ban will take effect on April 1, 2013. For small business whose revenue does not eclipse $4 million, the ordinance will take place in October 2013.

The plastic bag ban approval came despite the threat of a lawsuit from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, who sent the city a memo on Tuesday afternoon reiterating its intention to sue of the ban was passed.

The coalition, which has challenged the ban in several jurisdictions across California, said that the bag ban cannot legally apply to restaurants because only the state has the right to regulate restaurants. They sued Santa Cruz County over the issue, which on Feb. 7 voted to revise their ordinance to exempt restaurants.

The memo contends that any local regulation would be superseded by state law. It sites sections of the state Retail Food Code that say the substances used to make bags must be safe and clean.

Deputy City Attorney Jennifer Farrell said that the coalition's claims would not hold up in court because generally, there are no state statutes that regulate the kind of bags a restaurant provides for takeout food and leftovers.

Plastics manufacturer Hilex Poly Co. has opposed the paper bag fee that often accompanies plastic bag ban ordinances, and Dana Point's ordinance does not include such a fee. The company has sued Los Angeles County for enacting what it calls an illegal tax, and city leaders want to avoid potential litigation. An amendment is possible once the results of the L.A. County suit are known.

Members of Dana Point's business community continued to mount steady opposition to the bag ban, saying that it would impose harmful costs on their already-struggling businesses.

Russell Kerr, chairman of the board of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, said that they needed more time through the issues.

"Ordinances are serious stuff to business people," Kerr said. "The ordinance should be all inclusive, rather than piecemeal."

Councilman Bill Brough, who has unerringly voted against both the plastic bag and Styrofoam bans, proposed a substitute ordinance that would step up enforcement of existing littering laws, launch an education campaign, and create incentives for businesses to participate in eliminating plastic bag use.

"The easy thing to do is ban the bags," Brough said. "The hard thing to do is to do it right and get rid of the trash."

Brough's ordinance was popular with the business representatives at the meeting, but council members said that banning bags was an important first step to becoming a 'green' city.

"I think (Brough's proposal) is a fitting complement," said councilman Scott Schoeffel. "I don't think it's an alternative."

Council woman Lisa Bartlett said that other aspects of litter, like bottle caps and cigarettes, were difficult to regulate.

"There are certain things that are easy to control at the point of sale," Bartlett said.

The ordinance will take effect on April 1, 2013 after gaining final approval at a later council meeting.

Contact the writer: fshyong@ocregister.com or 949-492-5135