Laguna Beach poised to restrict the sale and public use of all balloons

Jeremy Frimond, assistant to the city manager, demonstrates different types of balloons to the Laguna Beach City Council.
Jeremy Frimond, assistant to the city manager, demonstrates different types of balloons to the Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday.
(Andrew Turner)
Share via

Environmentalists in Laguna Beach may find themselves in a celebratory mood, but there likely won’t be any balloons at the festivities.

Laguna Beach took a hard stance against the party staple on Tuesday, when the City Council voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance prohibiting the sale, public use and distribution of all balloons.

The ordinance, which will be voted on again at its second reading next month, will go into effect nine months after its adoption. Looking back on the implementation of the city’s ban on single-use plastics, city staffers had requested a grace period to achieve a greater level of compliance.


“I think one of the most important things to this type of ordinance is having community buy-in, commercial business buy-in,” said Jeremy Frimond, an assistant to the city manager who had requested a one-year implementation period. “I think we will see the highest degree of compliance working with businesses and allowing them to transition and pivot their business and their business models, rather than immediately flipping the switch and sticking them with inventory.”

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.

“All balloons, all air, all types should be banned, and no longer than a three- to six-month implementation,” Judie Mancuso, vice chair of the city’s environmental sustainability committee, said. “When I see these balloons in the open space behind my house on a regular basis … in trees and in brush, I don’t know if they’re latex or foil. I don’t know what kind of air they had in them, and neither does the animal whose stomach that they’re in, or the bird that gets the string wrapped around its neck.”

A council member item led to a community discussion about a possible ban on the sale and release of certain balloons within the city limits on Tuesday at the Laguna Beach City Council meeting.

June 25, 2022

Balloons are considered the second most dangerous type of debris to the environment by the Ocean Conservancy because they are often mistaken 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.

The ordinance faced opposition from grocers, who argued that customers would go outside the city to get balloons.

“As written, the ordinance will simply push balloon sales outside of the city to neighboring communities or to online sources,” Tim James of the California Grocers Assn. said. “This is a significant impact for grocers, as we are a low-profit, high-volume industry.”

Mayor Bob Whalen said he would like to see an education program immediately.

“I really think the issue is not so much the businesses,” Whalen said. “You’ve got a limited number of businesses. The issue is the people coming to the parks and the beaches with the balloons for the party. We got to get all the signage up, we got to get our park rangers up to speed. We got to let people know.”

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.