City seeks more input on polystyrene

Talks over whether to ban polystyrene food containers and other products in Huntington Beach will wait until the new year.

The City Council voted 5 to 2 on Monday to table discussions on banning products commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam until the second meeting in January. Officials want more time to consult with business owners and study the possible effects of a ban.

Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper and Councilman Joe Shaw voted in opposition.

"I just don't think that we need to do any more hocus-pocus and ramrod this stuff down our residents' throats like we have done in the past," Councilman Joe Carchio said.

Councilwoman Jill Hardy said she supports a ban but would still like to get feedback from residents and businesses in other cities in California that have similar prohibitions.

"If those stories are out there, then I'd like to hear that side because I'd like to hear all sides," she said. "I really don't want to make a decision when the feeling is, 'Oh, I only heard one side.'"

But first, local residents and business owners seemed eager to air their views on a polystyrene ban.

Dozens of students from Golden West College and a few from the private Pegasus School told council members of damaging effects the non-biodegradable items have on the environment.

"For about two years now, our volunteers have removed nearly 3,000 pounds of trash from the beach, and one of the most common items we have found on the beaches is Styrofoam pieces, or polystyrene," said Pamela Crouch, spokeswoman for the waterway monitoring Orange County Coastkeeper.

"Our organization supports the ban on polystyrene for Huntington Beach. Anyone who says that polystyrene is not affecting our beaches, I highly encourage you and invite you to attend our monthly beach cleanup."

On the other side the conversation, business owners and the Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District said imposing a ban would hurt the bottom line.

"Springing this on the small-business community with not a whole lot of time to address these issues seems unfair and certainly ill-timed as they prioritize right now for a busy holiday season that needs to be successful," chamber President Jerry Wheeler said.

Surf City's proposed ordinance to ban polystyrene would mimic neighboring Newport Beach's ordinance, which prohibits food vendors and city facilities from using products made from the material. Items brought from outside of the city would be exempt.

The law would also allow the city manager to make exemptions for businesses that could prove undue hardship -- a point that Mayor Connie Boardman stressed.

"We heard a lot tonight about how this is going to impact people's businesses and how they can't afford the alternatives," Mayor Connie Boardman said.

Boardman then quoted the section that would provide some relief for those businesses.

Shaw said he understands that the polystyrene found in Huntington Beach comes from neighboring municipalities as well. He added, however, that if Surf City takes a stand, other cities are likely to follow suit.

"We're a city by the coast. We understand the importance of the ocean to our economy, to our recreational uses, to our quality of life," he said. "If we can't take a stand for cleaner oceans, then no one else is going to do it."

[For the record, 12:50 p.m. Nov. 21: An earlier version of this story left out information before and after a quote by Mayor Connie Boardman that may have changed its meaning.]


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