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Ban on puffing in park snuffed

Environmental issues dominated the City Council agenda Tuesday.

The council discussed banning smoking in city parks and Styrofoam anywhere in town, dimming night lights — and tabled a proposal to accept a grant from Keep America Beautiful to buy more trash cans for downtown Laguna.

A draft ordinance banning food-service businesses from serving folks on non-recyclable plastic of single-use, expanded polystyrene was approved for distribution to the city’s Environmental Committee, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Visitors Bureau and the California Restaurant Assn. to allow time for review and comment before the first reading of the proposed ordinance at the Nov. 20 council meeting.

If passed, the ordinance would take effect July 1.

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The draft also contained a requirement for the businesses to provide recycling receptacles, but that was eliminated after testimony by resident Walker Reed that polystyrene and non-recyclable plastic is trash and will never be recycled.

“All we want is to ban the use of these really, really bad substances,” Reed said. “Recycling and trash are separate issues.”

He said the ordinance should also address Styrofoam ice chests and picnic supplies sold at supermarkets and “popcorn” used by mailing and shipping businesses.

“We have to eliminate the sources or 100 years from today, we won’t play on sand at the beach, we will play on Styrofoam,” Reed said.

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The draft ordinance included exemptions for undue hardship where no “reasonably” feasible alternative is available.

Fines of $100, $200 and $500 are proposed for violators.

With Councilman Kelly Boyd absent from the meeting, a two-two split doomed for now a ban on smoking in parks proposed by Mayor Toni Iseman.

“The ordinance would reduce the influence of second-hand smoke, but equally important, it would reduce obnoxious litter,” Iseman said.

Iseman’s proposal was supported by Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly. Council members Cheryl Kinsman and Elizabeth Schneider would have voted for restricted smoking, but opposed a blanket ban.

“I don’t like smoking, but I have a problem with too much government,” Kinsman said.

City Manager Ken Frank tried to find a compromise, suggesting that the ban be enforced only in parks where children predominate — but by the time they had named those parks, there were none left except Heisler Park, and Iseman was adamant that it be included.

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She said the debate was not over.

“I’ll be back,” Iseman said.

Iseman did get support from all the council members present for her request to be an envoy to the Board of Adjustment/Design Review Board and the Planning Commission to try to interest them in a “Dark Skies” ordinance.

Iseman wants to dim some of the lights that blank out stars. So does Reed.

“The community is blessed with a wonderful natural resource,” said Reed, who described himself as an amateur astronomer.

“Just as we all enjoy panoramic coast views, beaches and tide pool and hiking in the wilderness, the night sky is available for education, enjoyment and wonder — yet another gift of Laguna.

“However, we are losing access to this resource caused by light pollution.”

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He criticized spot lights on the tops of mountains or on beaches, unshielded street lights, landscaping lights and motion sensor lights.

Quoting from the Vision 2030 report, Reed said, “You have a right to the night.”

Environmental Committee member Greg O’Loughlin also endorsed the concept.

Iseman said reduced lighting would benefit the city economically and the environment by reducing the carbon footprint.

She also argued that darker streets are no less safe, but failed to convince Kinsman or Schneider.

“This is great to study, but I hope people will be cognizant of safety issues,” Kinsman said. “You kind of want to know who or what is behind the next bush.”

Schneider too had reservations about safety. She feels safer, she said, when she arrives home and the motion sensor turns on outside light, but she also is concerned about infringing on private property rights.

“I would be more comfortable if we were only talking about public streets, not private property,” Schneider said.

Iseman said for more information, residents can read a New Yorker magazine article called “The Dark Side” which has been posted on the city’s website, www.lagunabeachcity.net.



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