Legal complications for cities that have banned single-use plastic bags persuaded the Laguna Beach City Council on April 6 to hold off until or if the California Supreme Court hands down a ruling.
The bans have been challenged in court for failing to comply with California Environmental Quality Act requirements for environmental impact reports at a cost ranging from $60,000 to $70,000, which City Manager Ken Frank said Laguna could not afford at this time. And it could be months before the court decides whether or not to hear an appeal.
“We believe a better idea for Laguna is to step up education and maybe get people to use reusable bags,” Frank said.
Laguna Beach native Elise Higley doesn’t think education will turn the trick.
“When [people were] charged 2 cents, single-use bags dropped dramatically,” Higley said.
But she doesn’t think that is the way to go whether the bags are plastic or paper.
”We need reusable bags” Higley said. “And education doesn’t do it.”
While some larger cities are going forward with impact reports, smaller cities are fighting back against legal threats that challenge the bans, Frank said.
Encinitas promotes an annual Day Without a Plastic Bag.
And when the city of Fairfax in Northern California had to halt its plastic bag ordinance, the residents put it on the ballot as an initiative, which was adopted by the voters, bypassing the state environmental quality act.
In addition, Green Cities California, a coalition of local governments, has developed a master environmental assessment that could be included in impact reports to assess the effect of regulations on grocery bags, Frank reported.
He included the assessment in the agenda packet for council review.
Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman thought putting a surcharge on plastic bags wasn’t such a bad idea but wasn’t sure where the money would go.
She said maybe the Environmental Committee could look into it.
Environmental Committee member Greg O’Loughlin took it a step further.
“It would be great to have a Laguna Beach bag and charge for it,” O’Loughlin said.
Councilwoman Jane Egly urged the public to use reusable bags.
“I agree with Ken that we don’t want to go through an EIR, but we can do something,” Egly said.
“All stores sell reusable bags, so let’s all just convert.”
Councilman Kelly Boyd’s said his wife is a longtime convert.
“My wife has been using cloth bags for years,” Councilman Kelly Boyd said. “She comes home, empties the bag and puts it right back in the car.”
Frank also recommended the council monitor the progress of Assembly Bill 1998, which if passed would prohibit stores from providing plastic bags to customers after July 1, 2011. The bill would require stores to make reusable bags available for purchase or provided customers with a paper bag at a cost of at least 25 cents.