Written by Administrator Tuesday, 27 March 2012 04:07
Nearly Identical to Ordinance Passed in San Luis Obispo County - Next Step is Environmental Review
by Alan Pryor -
In a 4-2 vote, last night the Davis Natural Resources Commission (NRC) approved a Staff proposal to begin preparation of the environmental review necessary for the City Council to consider the proposed Single-Use Bag Ordinance after their summer recess. Those voting against the ordinance expressed minor reservations about provisions in the proposed language defining affected stores while agreeing conceptually with the concepts of restricting distribution of single-use bags.
Staff initially presented their proposed ordinance which was prepared after consultation with the NRC, the Davis Downtown Business Association and some of their members, the advocacy organization Californians Against Waste, and the California Grocers Association. The entire text of the proposed ordinance can be viewed at http://cityofdavis.org/pw/NRC/pdfs/Draft-Carryout-BagOrdinance.pdf with additional descriptive information on the City's website at http://cityofdavis.org/pw/NRC/bags.cfm.
Description of the Proposed Ordinance
The proposed ordinance approved by the NRC was almost identical to recent ordinances passed in San Luis Obispo County and the City of Sunnyvale. Indeed, the format of the proposed Davis ordinance is currently somewhat of a standard for municipalities considering such regulation. Essentially, the proposed ordinance banned distribution of single-use, handled plastic bags by all sellers of grocery items and drug stores in Davis including convenience and liquor stores. Restrictions on the thinner, handle-less plastic bags shoppers use for meats and produce within a store were not included in that proposed ordinance for sanitary reasons. Exempt also were restaurants and fast food locations and such large, non-food retailers as Davis Ace Hardware.
Also under the proposed ordinance, paper bags can only be provided by affected stores if accompanied by a $.10 itemized charge. Those allowed paper bags must be recyclable and contain 40% post-consumer content. The 10 cent charge is the presumed estimated cost of recovery incurred by stores for distribution of the recyclable large sized paper bags and is also the most common fee imposed by other municipalities with such ordinances. Davis Food Coop shoppers are well aware of the impacts of this type of ordinance as the Coop has eliminated single-use take-out plastic bags for years but only charges $0.05 for a paper bag.
Additionally, exemptions would be allowed for free distribution of recyclable bags to low income customers participating in either the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children or in the Supplemental Food Program. Thus, low income customers, especially with children, will not incur additional costs for bags. Others can always use reusable bags and not incur any charges.
Following Staff's presentation, a number of public comments were received.
Opposing the proposed ordinance were representatives of long-term Davis retailers Newsbeat and the Avid Reader. Their objections concerned increased record keeping requirements and being able to provide adequate protection for the paper products they sell. Each of these speakers acknowledged that they would not be subject to the ordinance (if suggested minor language modifications to the ordinance were made) but that they were fearful that the ordinance would be expanded in the future to include them.
Also opposed was the Director of the Davis Downtown Business Association who claimed that the proposed ordinance could result in sales leakage to adjacent cities that did not have such restrictive and inconvenient ordinances. In response to a question from the Commission, though, he indicated that very few of his organization's members were affected by the ordinance but also indicated the members were fearful that the proposed ordinance would be expanded in the future.
In an unusual presentation, Katherine Hess of Davis Community Development Department spoke in opposition to the ordinance claiming it could potentially adversely impact retail sales within the City but without offering specific examples. This presentation was unusual during Public Comments because normally City Staff do not advocate or oppose matters not specifically related to their departmental functions in such public forums. This was obviously not the case here as Ms. Hess clearly identified herself as a Davis City employee. It is not known if her position represents one City department advocating against a policy proposed by another City department or whether Ms. Hess was acting on her own volition.
The NRC also received written comments from the President of the DDBA and from Davis Ace Hardware questioning whether implementation of the ordinance would result in loss of sales to neighboring cities and the difficulties retailers are facing in a prolonged recessionary environment.
Those speaking in support of the proposed ordinance included 3 representatives from the UC Davis CalPIRG chapter who informed the NRC that they had collected over 7,200 signatures from UC Davis students this academic year supporting a ban on distribution of plastic bags in the City. Also speaking in support of the proposed ordinance was UC Davis professor Ann Savageau who documented where she had seen accumulations of plastic bags throughout Davis. She also noted the UC Davis bookstore was the first campus bookstore nationwide to restrict plastic bags in their store. According to Dr. Savageau, the bookstore now charges $.75 for a plastic bag and they have reduced their use of such bags by 75%. She said they intend to eliminate them completely by next year.
A number of long-time Davis environmental activists spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance as did Harley Delano of the Westlake IGA grocery store. Mr. Delano said he has a store in Fairfax, CA where a citizen vote implemented a complete ban on plastic bag distribution a number of years ago. He said the Davis plan was well written and could easily be accommodated by grocery stores.
This viewpoint was echoed by Tim James of the California Grocers Association who stated their organization and members supported the provisions of the proposed ordinance. He further stated that their primary concern was that there be a level playing field affecting all grocery retailers and he felt the proposed ordinance accomplished that objective.
The final public commenter was Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste. Mr. Murray commented that the objectives of AB 2449 mandating that distributors of plastic bags have plastic bag recycling stations at their stores had functionally failed because only 3% of plastic bags distributed in California are recycled. He stated that the provisions of the proposed Davis ordinance were almost identical with those recently enacted by other municipalities in California and should result in lessened grocer store costs for those who brought in their own reusable bags although it was noted that such cost reductions would be minimal.
In response to earlier written suggestions to the NRC that Davis wait until California had decided as a State on the plastic bag issue, he indicated that the slew of municipal ordinances enacted in the past year was a direct response of the failure of the California legislature to enact single-use bag legislation last year and any future progress was uncertain at best.
Discussion among the Commissioners then took place where it was noted that there were no representatives from businesses that were actually impacted by the proposed ordinance that spoke in opposition. It was also noted that discussions with cities that had implemented similar ordinance in years past indicated they had NOT experienced any noticeable sales leakage to adjacent jurisdictions as a result of their ordinances. For instance, the Director of Sustainability and the Director of the Farmers Market in Santa Monica stated that their implementation of their single-use bag ordinances actually enhanced their reputation as a desirable, environmentally-friendly shopping destination.
Staff then emphasized that the NRC approval of the Staff recommendation for the proposed ordinance would only be the starting point for environmental review purposes and they expected substantial additional input from citizens, business groups, and environmental groups during the upcoming process.
Staff had previously indicated that they believed the City should pursue a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration for compliance with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A Negative Declaration states that the City has evaluated all possible environmental consequences associated with the proposed ordinance and finds that there are no adverse environmental consequences associated with its passage. A Mitigated Negative Declaration states the City feels there are only minor or insignificant environmental consequences which can simply be mitigated by adoption of certain provisions minimizing the minor environmental impacts.
At the end of the discussion, a motion was passed by the NRC accepting Staff's recommendation to pursue the environmental review of the proposed ordinance on the following timetable:
Mar 26 - April 23 _ CEQA Initial Study
April 23 - May 7 _ City Review
May 28 _ Screen check Draft Negative Declaration
May 28 - June 4 _ City's Final Review
June 4 - June 11 _ Draft Negative Declaration Released
June 11 - July 11 _ Public Review of Negative Declaration
July 11 - July 18 _ Draft Response to Comments/Findings
July 18 - July 25 _ City Review
July 25 - August 1 _ Final Response to Comments
August 21 _ City Council Adopts/Certifies CEQA Documentation
August - September _ First and Second Reading of Ordinance
And so the saga continues until late summer.
Thank you for keeping us apprized of the progress of this long overdue ordinance.
I was unable to attend to voice my strong support as I was attending the concurrent showing of environmental shorts at the Blanchard Room at the Davis Library.
Included in last night’s showing was the piece about Rob Hopkins and Transition Town Totness in England. The key word here being transition from our current peak oil lifestyles to something we can sustain as the availability of oil rapidly diminishes over the next fifty years.
Hopkins equates the upcoming challenges, not to something we must do that we really don’t want to, but rather to a chance to return to a more meaningful existence where community and people take on more value than material stuff.
I would highly recommend to anybody who is resisting Davis’ small step toward sanity that they follow this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGHrWPtCvg0 to a short piece on You tube explaining the concept of transition.
"Meanwhile, the UC Davis Bookstore already has put restrictions on the distribution of single-use carry-out plastic bags. The store charges customers 25 cents per plastic bag, which has driven down use over the past few months by 80 percent, data show. The store hopes to completely discontinue plastic bags sometime this year."
"Earlier this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to expand the city’s ban on plastic bags at grocery markets and pharmacies to include all stores and restaurants."
By this example once you let them get a foot in the door it won't be long to where you'll need to carry cloth bags with you wherever you go.
You might decide to stop in and buy something on a whim so you better have your cloth bags with you or you'll pay the price. Don, down the road if/when the NRC expands out to all stores don't you think this will hurt your business?
"At the end of the discussion, a motion was passed by the NRC accepting Staff's recommendation to pursue the environmental review of the proposed ordinance on the following timetable...."Alan, is there anything in the process that could halt this waste of time and effort?
"Discussion among the Commissioners then took place where it was noted that there were no representatives from businesses that were actually impacted by the proposed ordinance that spoke in opposition."Actually, not true, according to your own report.
I'm somewhat amused about the way you've reported the public speakers' comments--accepting every "pro" comment without editorial observations about how the ordinance might affect them and sprinkling every "anti" comment with observations on the appropriateness (or even the historical "legality") of their even commenting
Who voted for and against this? Did the NRC commissioners have anything to say to support their votes?
Was anything said about severing the paper bag restrictions, charges, etc., from this proposed ordinance?
Don, down the road if/when the NRC expands out to all stores don't you think this will hurt your business?
In terms of sales and costs, no. But there would be problems for us.
For small purchases, I provide reused bags on request right now. But I don't want to send people home with their bat guano, fish emulsion, or pesticides (organic or otherwise) in the reusable bag they'd be using for their groceries. And no, I wouldn't count on common sense to prevent that.
For bareroot fruit trees, we provide trash can liner bags. We would continue to do that.
I oppose this bill as written, and would oppose expanding it as other jurisdictions have done.
"Alan, is there anything in the process that could halt this waste of time and effort?"Maybe this isn't clear, Alan.
What I'm asking is whether the city council is able to stop everything or to instruct staff to proceed in a different way (without considering paper bags, for example) before the staff spends more time and environmental resources on this commission mandate? Or, does the process lock out the council until August?
It seems that this particular commission generates a massive workload which, in the end, doesn't result in city council approval.
Who sets the priorities for city staff work (this environmental review on this particular timetable, for example)? We've closed down a swimming pool and other park resources, but we can afford to proceed willy-nilly without the council even considering whether this project is more important than other things that won't get done because of it?
Who is in charge around here? Maybe we should have a fiscal/workload impact study of the city's commission structure. It appears to be becoming the path of least resistance for imposing work on city staff.
"For bareroot fruit trees, we provide trash can liner bags. We would continue to do that."Why would this be legal?
Will Nugget be able to avoid the proposed ordinance by giving out larger plastic bags? Or, by switching to black bags? Or, to white ones with red drawstrings? Or, by printing "GARBAGE BAG" on the outside?
Why do you think that your "trash can liner" bags are more environmentally friendly and more gentle to our landfill? I'd hate to see you hauled off or fined the 2018 fine of $8,000 per violation because you haven't thought through your actions.
I use my plastic bags to line my household trash cans. So now I'll have to buy the bigger thicker store bought liners. For doggy poop many will have to buy plastic alternatives. Then you add the cost of paper bags to your budget when you forget your cloth ones I'll bet that many families are looking at an extra $50 to $100 a year out of their pocket. That's one or two less trips to a downtown diner, or maybe a few less plants purchased from your local nursery.
FYI: The next step is the $14,000 EIR. Also note Alan's description of the negative impacts raised by the business community as "fearful". If I'm resistant to being subjected to yet another set of mandatory reporting requirements along with IRS, FTB, BOE, Workman's Comp, etc., I'm fearful.
It's one thing for the NRC to acknowledge the issues and impacts raised by the business community and decide that the benefits of the ordinance outweigh the issues/impacts. It's quite another to ignore business community input entirely as if it weren't even relevant. Hello? It's the businesses that are subjected to the ordinance, yet they have no say. It's condescending beyond belief.
"Discussion among the Commissioners then took place where it was noted that there were no representatives from businesses that were actually impacted by the proposed ordinance that spoke in opposition."
This comment is simply beyond the pale. Alan, on who's behalf do you think the DDBA executive director was speaking on? His family's?
DT Businessman (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties, DDBA Co-Prez)
Normr, good questions. If the county was concerned about the problems paper and plastic bags could be causing at their dump, one would think the county would be doing environmental impact studies on an ordinance "Nearly Identical to Ordinance Passed in San Luis Obispo County."
Now that you mention it, is it possible that medwoman is behind this whole thing (rather than Alan Pryor) as a way to target Target and make that business pay for moving into our city limits?
rusty49, just as we're going back to cloth diapers, you should be using cloth bags or boxes for your doggy's pooping production. You'll need to toss them in the washing machine (separate from your clothing, of course) then put the washer through two empty "large" and "hot" cycles with four cups of bleach after each poop wash.
David G. "Good question, name which businesses that are in DDBA's jurisdiction that are impacted by this ordinance?"
All businesses in town are impacted by this needless waste of taxpayer's money, just as are all of the citizens. There is no need for this ordinance and any money spent supporting/studying it is wasted. The City has a limited budget if you hadn't noticed, and it is long past time that we prioritize how we spend what money we have.
David, did you bother looking at the list attached to the staff report? Here are the DDBA members who would be subjected to the measure were it to pass today.
Davis Food Coop (voluntarily abides by ban)
Numerous DDBA vendors at the Farmers Market
Fast & Easy Mart
Natural Food Works
The Davis Beer Shoppe
Valley Wine Co
Possibly to be added soon: Whole Foods
The list initially was substantially longer, but more and more businesses were exempted, perhaps due to DDBA input, I wouldn't know. Which makes my main point, why is the DDBA, other business leaders, and business owners having to spend so much time engaging on this issue? Does the harm caused to the community by plastic bags with handles really rise to this level? Are plastic bags with handles really on the list of top community challenges? Is anyone considering the cost/benefit ratio? And is the ordinance really the best means of achieving the objective? I for one do not think so.
DT Businessman (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties, DDBA Co-Prez)
"There is no need for this ordinance and any money spent supporting/studying it is wasted."For sure. In case no one has noticed, Davis stores and Davis residents voluntarily and dedicatedly have changed their ways in recent years.
Many local businesses ask whether customers need any bag rather than whether they want paper or plastic. Some (drug and book stores, I experienced) don't offer anything when we get just a handful of items and leave it to customers to initiate a request.
Take a look at people heading into our grocery stores with their "multiple use" or recycled "single use" bags to get an idea of how effective voluntary compliance is in a town as green as Davis is.
Mandating in this manner feeds into the "People's Republic of Davis" stereotype and not the environmentally concerned stereotype.
"(d) When requested by the Public Works Director or designee, Applicable Stores required to
collect a Paper Bag Cost Pass-Through shall report to the City, on a form prescribed by
the Public Works Department, a summary of all payments of Paper Bag Cost Pass-
Throughs received. The form shall be signed by a responsible officer or agent of the
Store who shall swear or affirm that the information provided on the form is true and
(e) Applicable Stores shall keep complete and accurate record or documents of the purchase
of any Recycled Paper Bag by the Applicable Store for a minimum period of three years
from the date of purchase, which records shall be available for inspection at no cost to
the City during regular business hours by a City employee authorized to enforce this
Chapter. These records may be kept at the corporate level."
Thanks, Don, for the excerpts. These 2 provisions are the ones that caused the business community the most heartburn. As I have stated over and over again, if local businesses were not already subjected to massive reporting requirements, no big deal. But we are subjected to massive reporting requirements. Imagine if you will, all Davis residents had to file federal and state tax returns every month instead of once a year. They would revolt if they were required to file a single additional schedule. At some point, enough is enough. We have been raising this issue over and over again, but it falls on deaf ears.
For example, starting a couple year ago, I had to begin filing an annual report with the BOE stating that I don't sell anything subject to state sales tax and that we haven't purchased anything outside the state. If I forget to file the damn thing, I get hit with a fine. I don't know which bureaucrat dreamt this idiocy up, but it is irritating beyond belief.
Let the NRC track, report, compile, train staff, and pay fines instead of imposing it on others if they're so hot to trot about this issue. I'm looking forward to imposing a mandatory shop local ordinance on them to see how they like imposed behavior modification. I'll make them track and report all their purchases and provide bank and credit card statements also. Okay, okay, I'm getting a bit carried away.
DT Businessman (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties, DDBA Co-Prez)
It's hard to imagine that there can be objections on budgetary reasons.
First, the estimated cost is just $13K. It's unclear if comes from general fund money or money already designated for zero waste and other such funds.
Second, there is the off-set, the cost of $34,000 for plastic bag clean up - who pays for that now and how much does the city pay?
The question i have is why are the businesses in Davis so much more regressive than the businesses in other communities that have embraced these regulations?