Whether to jump into the fray on single-use plastic bags or demur will be the decision before the Goleta City Council on Tuesday, when members will be asked to pitch in $8,000 to help pay for environmental documents needed to cover any ordinance banning the bags.
Cities in California that haven’t conducted environmental impact reports prior to enforcing a ban have been successfully sued by representatives of the plastics industry, but the cost of the reports is often prohibitive for financially beleaguered cities and counties.
One agency, however, has asked cities in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to share the cost, asking each to put in $8,000 for the document, which would analyze potential impacts of the ordinance.
Opponents of the ban have said people shouldn’t be forced to use reusable bags, and that low-income people could be burdened by the move. Proponents of the ban have argued that education helps get people to stop using plastic, but that legislation is needed to fully reduce the use of the bags.
The Goleta council will be asked to authorize the city attorney to work with the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment, or BEACON, to prepare a cooperative agreement for an environmental impact report.
BEACON, a state joint powers agency of Central Coast cities and counties, has been seeking support from its members to put together a regional environmental impact report, or EIR. That document is expected to cost up to $70,000.
To date, the City and County of Santa Barbara, City and County of Ventura, and the City of Port Hueneme have all voted to support the regional EIR and have each pledged $8,000 toward the cost. BEACON expects the issue to go before the Oxnard City Council in the next two weeks, as well.
The Santa Barbara City Council discussed the item exhaustively for nearly three years before coming up with a draft ordinance that would be used as a model for jurisdictions that have agreed to support the EIR.
The model ordinance would generally apply to stores that are 10,000 square feet or larger and that sell a line of dry grocery, canned goods or nonfood items and some perishable food, or that have a pharmacy.
Any other retail store that sells a limited line of grocery items, including stores that possess a liquor license, would be included in the ban. Such stores would be prohibited from carrying plastic carryout bags, with the exception of product or produce bags for meat, vegetables, bulk food items, prescriptions and the like.
Instead, the ordinance would require stores to provide reusable bags to customers, either for sale or at no charge. Recyclable bags could be purchased for 10 cents under the ordinance.
Restaurants or other businesses that sell prepared carry-out food would not be affected, nor would retailers that don’t sell food or department and clothing stores.
The Goleta council discussed the issue on Sept. 4, but referred the item back to its ordinance committee to allow the public to weigh in.
City staff reached out to 23 local stores, including all of the major grocery and drug stores in Goleta, as well as most of the liquor and convenience stores. Environmental groups were also contacted.
Only one member of the public spoke in opposition to the ordinance, while others from environmental groups urged the city to participate in the EIR.
Tuesday’s city council meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B, in Goleta.