This Orange County coastal city banned balloons. Here’s why

A man shows types of balloons to the Laguna Beach City Council
Jeremy Frimond, assistant to the Laguna Beach city manager, demonstrates types of balloons to the Laguna Beach City Council on Jan. 24. The council passed a balloon restriction ordinance on Tuesday.
(Andrew Turner / Times Community News)

Laguna Beach adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale, public use and distribution of balloons with a second reading at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

The ban prohibits balloons from being used at city events or on public property, from being released into the air, and from being disposed of except where they are contained with a lid.

The ordinance has a long built-in grace period, as it will become effective when the calendar turns to 2024.


Violations of the new restrictions can result in fines of up to $100 for a first offense, $200 for the second, and $500 for each successive violation within one year.

In addition, a business license may be revoked by the city manager, or a designee, in the event a business commits four or more violations within a year.

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The council’s action on balloons has followed other environmentally focused initiatives, including a single-use plastics ban for beaches, parks and trails.

Environmental organizations such as Project O, the Surfrider Foundation, Laguna Ocean Foundation and Laguna Canyon Foundation were among those that pushed for an outright ban on all types of balloons.

Balloons are considered the second most dangerous type of debris to the environment by the Ocean Conservancy because animals often mistake them for food, according to a staff report.

Some residents also pointed to the potential for balloons to hit overhead power lines as a fire risk.


“We shouldn’t utilize artificial stuff like single-use plastic balloons.” said Hoiyin Ip, co-chair of the Sierra Club California zero waste committee. “This is horrible in terms of the impact to wildlife and biodiversity. I hope this will change the way people think.”

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Ip added that community members would have to step up as stewards to back the new policy on balloons. The new law drew support from some in Laguna Beach’s hospitality industry as well.

“As a sailor, we pull out multiple balloons every time we are on the water,” Kurt Bjorkman, chief operating officer of the Ranch at Laguna Beach, wrote to the council before the ordinance’s first reading on Jan. 24. “As the operator of the Ranch resort, we see balloons trapped on our hillsides and in our many trees on property, unfortunately, quite often. We do not allow balloons of any kind on our property, [as] a matter of policy, and have not for four years now.”