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Laguna Beach to weigh a ban on Mylar and other types of balloons

Beachgoers frolic in the water at Laguna Beach, where the City Council this week entertained a potential ban on balloons.
Beachgoers frolic in the water in front of a tower at Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach. The City Council this week entertained a potential ban on the sale of certain types of balloons within the city limits.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Mylar and other types of balloons might be prohibited in Laguna Beach after the City Council on Tuesday directed staff to gather information and prepare recommendations exploring such a ban.

The discussion came up after Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen and Councilman George Weiss brought the item up for consideration. The two council colleagues brought up the agenda item after the city’s emergency and disaster preparedness committee and the environmental sustainability committee both requested the council take action to adopt an ordinance banning such sales, Whalen said.

As a supporting document for the request, a balloon ordinance adopted in January by the city of Encinitas was shared. A clause in the ordinance stated Mylar balloons were identified to have been the cause of more than 500 power outages in the San Diego region’s electrical system.

“We’ve seen it ourselves, where we’ve seen balloons fly overhead,” Weiss said. “You know where they’re going. They’re going to the ocean. That’s where their natural destination is, so I’m inclined, of course, to be pro banning both — Mylar balloons, as well as regular balloons.”

The bulk of speakers on the item supported a ban based on environmental concerns. Project O, Surfrider Foundation, Pacific Marine Mammal Center and Laguna Bluebelt Coalition were among the groups advocating for the ban.

“I am particularly so proud of our city — the council and the community at large — for the protection of our marine protected areas here in Laguna Beach,” Mike Beanan of Laguna Bluebelt said while speaking in support of a ban on lighter-than-air balloons. “We’re seeing recovery of keystone species that help regulate and maintain the health of the ocean.”

Others supplied pictures of balloons recovered from the ocean, arguing that marine species are harmed when they become entangled with them. Some did not want to make a distinction between which balloons may or may not be allowed.

“Bifurcating balloons by type also creates an educational nightmare, an enforcement nightmare that I don’t think the city is poised to have your advocates out there determining what kind of balloon is not under an ordinance, so that’s why we advocate for all or none,” said Denise Erkeneff, a member of Surfrider Foundation’s South Orange County chapter.

Amanda Armstrong, owner of Top Hat Balloon Werks in Mission Viejo, said the Laguna Beach area makes up part of the shop’s clientele. She said her balloon décor business educates on environmentally friendly practices with balloons, including weighing them down so they don’t fly away.

“Not that we do not advocate for environmental rights — I absolutely understand that — but as far as income, for us, it would be devastating if coastal cities all started to ban balloons because then we’ll go out of business,” Armstrong said.

In her brief comments, Mayor Sue Kempf indicated she believed a potential balloon ordinance could be a positive thing for the community.

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