Del Mar moves to ban plastic bags

Like its northern neighbors, the city of Del Mar is set to also ban single-use plastic bags.

The Del Mar City Council on Feb. 16 voted unanimously to move forward with a plastic bag ban.

“I think this proposed ordinance is an important first step in helping clean up Del Mar,” Councilman Don Mosier said.

The proposed ordinance will prohibit the use of plastic bags by retail establishments including restaurants and the Del Mar Farmers Market.

The city’s Sustainability Advisory Board initially brought the issue before the council in an effort to enact a citywide ban, which board members said would conserve resources, reduce litter and pollution, and protect wildlife.

“I think you need to have this to really push things along,” said Ann Feeney, who serves on the board. “People don’t seem to resent it. They just change their habits.”

Solana Beach became the first city in San Diego County to ban plastic bags in 2012. Encinitas adopted a similar ban two years later.

California became the first state in the country to prohibit plastic bags when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a statewide ban in 2014. Senate Bill 270, however, is now subject to a referendum vote in November 2016.

“I strongly encourage you not to rely on the upcoming November referendum vote regarding the state’s bag ban,” said Roger Kube, former chairman of the San Diego County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“The city of Del Mar has the opportunity tonight to take a stand against one of the biggest threats to our beaches and our oceans,” Kube said. “The facts are clear: Plastic bag bans work to protect our beaches, our oceans and our marine life. On behalf of our organization, we ask that you lead on this issue. Set an example for the rest of San Diego County.”

Most of the speakers supported the plastic bag ban. A couple speakers, however, spoke against the ordinance, including one local business owner, who said the ban could discourage tourists from shopping in Del Mar.

“Del Mar is trying to be a shopping district,” said Chris Glenn, owner of Urban Girl Accessories and Urban Beach House. “In order to create that, you need people walking around with bags. The majority of the people in Del Mar that are doing the spending, especially in this area, are tourists. They’re not going to have these (reusable) bags with them.”

Most members of the council, however, agreed that a plastic bag ban is necessary to protect the environment.

“I think this is a timely step to prohibit plastic bags,” Mosier said. He and Councilman Dwight Worden serve as council liaisons to the Sustainability Advisory Board.

“We have the worst environmental record in San Diego County,” he added. “We’re not an environmentally-friendly city. We have a number of citizens who are very environmentally sensitive, but we somehow offset that with people who aren’t very sensitive to the environment.”

“If we do our part and other cities do their part, we can make a cumulative difference,” Worden agreed.

Although Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott supported the first reading of the ordinance, he said he struggled with the idea that a ban was needed.

“I’m just a little worried about city councils getting into this kind of regulation,” Sinnott said. “I just worry that we are stepping into an area that is not where we should be. We’re a very tiny city. I think we can get a solution to this problem by getting everybody who issues these plastic bags in one room. Through education, we can make Del Mar a plastic-free bag area without having to put a city regulation involved.”

The ordinance will be brought back to the council for a second reading at the March 7 meeting. If adopted, Del Mar will move forward with a phased implementation period.

The city will give retail stores a six-month grace period to phase-out plastic bags. Restaurants and the Del Mar Farmers Market will have a one-year grace period. The ban would not be applicable to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Some types of plastic bags, such as ones used to carry liquid-based takeout foods, will be exempt. Shoppers will be encouraged to bring reusable bags, but retailers can also charge 10 cents or more for each paper bag they distribute.