Oceanside looks to be in favor of a plastic bag ban

Oceanside looks to be in favor of a plastic bag ban
From left: Colleen Foster, water utilities senior management analyst, Cari Dale, water utilities director and Councilman Jerry Kern discuss provisions for a plastic bag ban following the council workshop. Oceanside City Council is expected to vote on a ban in August. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside will likely have a plastic bag ban in place by the end of the year. The City Council gave direction to staff to draft a single-use bag ban ordinance on Wednesday to stop plastic bag distribution and encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, who introduced a plastic bag ban ordinance in October 2015, and which didn’t pass at the time, spoke in favor of the reintroduced ban.

“People don’t have it as their awareness to take care of their trash,” Lowery said. “We can take care of one part of this mess.”

Other council members who previously voted no on the ban were moved by community feedback in support of a ban.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed last October’s ordinance and requested community outreach, which she praised at Wednesday’s meeting.

Councilman Jerry Kern, who also voted no in October, supported moving forward to draft an ordinance, but said he has not decided whether to vote to adopt it.

Kern said his point of view has not changed, in that the city should not regulate bag choice. He added he would follow the will of the people and support a bag ban that businesses and residents favor.

Colleen Foster, city water utilities senior management analyst, shared a summary of community input gathered from 45 public outreach efforts. Resident and business feedback supported adoption of a bag ban at all stores and restaurants, to be phased in over one to two years.

There was also support for a ten-cent fee for paper bags, and a fee waiver for verified low-income shoppers.

Foster recommended “soft enforcement” reminders for noncompliance once a ban is adopted.

Kern questioned whether to phase in stores by yearly sales amounts or by square footage. He suggested using square footage to avoid audits of businesses.

Kern also favored putting a limit on paper bag fees, which he said could get out of hand if they are charged by the value of the bag.

Councilman Jack Feller was the only council member to outright oppose the ban. He criticized community outreach as not representing enough residents. All other council members praised outreach efforts that included group presentations, public event handouts and social media.

Kern also questioned how to regulate a blanket waive of paper bag fees for select groups, like low-income residents and seniors, without giving everyone a free bag.

“I think it should be a business only decision,” Feller said. “Plastic is a cheap alternative. We can’t replace that with increased cost and inconvenience. We’re turning zero waste into a very difficult thing.”

Mayor Jim Wood, who supported the ban last October, was absent from the meeting.

Speakers at the workshop were chiefly in support of moving forward with a ban.

“Oceanside is a leader in zero waste,” Diane Nygaard, Oceanside resident and president of Preserve Calavera, said. “It’s the next logical step.”

One resident voiced objection. Susan Custer, of Oceanside, said a plastic bag ban would not decrease use; it would only pass the cost on to consumers. “It increases our need to purchase plastic,” Custer said. “It still is coming into the environment.”

Custer added a paper bag fee would hit those hardest that are just above the low-income level and can least afford it.

The single-use bag ban ordinance is expected to come back to the City Council for a vote in August. A final vote would follow in September, and implementation would begin in January 2017.

The ban follows the city’s Zero Waste Plan to reduce waste by 75 to 90 percent of landfill waste by 2020. The city is currently at 71 percent reduction and moving into phase two of its plan, which calls for minimizing or eliminating single use materials. Other California cities that have implemented a bag ban have had a 90 percent success rate in plastic bag waste reduction within a year.

There will be a state vote on a single-use plastic bag ban in November. The wording for the SB 270 bag ban has not been released. Lowery said Oceanside is taking a positive step by moving forward with a city ban.

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