October 5, 2011

San Leandro City Council Adopts Partial Polystyrene Ban

At its October 3, 2011, meeting, the San Leandro City Council took the final step in approval of a partial ban on polystyrene food packaging in San Leandro. Although Councilmember Diana Souza had voted against the ban at the September 19, 2011 City Council meeting, saying that "we're moving too fast," Souza changed her mind and supported adoption of the ordinance banning styrene. Councilmember Joyce Starosciak, who abstained from the Sept. 19 vote, also abstained from the Oct. 3 vote.

The ban covers "any establishment that prepares and packages prepared food or beverages within the City for public consumption on or off its premises including supermarkets grocery stores delicatessens restaurants sales outlets shops cafeterias mobile food preparation trucks caterers and roadside stands The ordinance also applies to the City of San Leandro and its facilities including vendors who provide food services in City facilities and at City-sponsored events." It does not apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware, such as cups and plates, nor does it apply to pre-packaged food brought into San Leandro or pre-packaged food prepared in San Leandro for sale outside of the City.

The ban will take effect November 1, 2012, to give businesses time to use up existing inventory and find suitable alternatives.

According to the staff report, the styrene ban is modeled on Hayward's ordinance. Similar bans are already in place in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward and Oakland. Like San Leandro, the bans do not apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware.

At the September 19 meeting, speakers against the ban included Mike and Cheryl Miraglia of Miraglia Catering, a certified green company that doesn't use polystyrene, Dave Johnson of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, and Tim Holmes of Zocalo Coffeehouse. Johnson called the ordinance bad legislation towards a worthy goal while Holmes supports a ban, but said that the ordinance was not a ban, because it didn't apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware. Other opponents who contacted the City Council to oppose the ban included the California Restaurant Association and the owners of Porky's Pizza Palace.

Speakers in support of the ban at the September 19 meeting included Miriam Gordon of Clean Water Action, Mario Juarez with the Sierra Club, Christopher Chin with COARE (Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education), and local residents Carrie Spector, Sarah Marxer, Don Franke, Mark and Laura Stout, Walden Smith with 4-H Green Teens, and Jack Pretsky. Eight local residents also contacted the City Council prior to the meeting to indicate their support for the ban.

Councilmember Jim Prola has been outspoken in his support of the ban, stating, "We should have done this yesterday...How much of a neurotoxin should a child have?"

Starosciak's initial comments appeared supportive of the ban: "We all want a healthy community. And so it's really important that we are focused on helping maintain a healthy environment in San Leandro. And this proposed ordinance puts a dent in some of the bad stuff that polystyrene does in our community." Starosciak then listed some things that the City Council has done that she believes have negatively impacted local businesses: the sales tax increase, increased sewer treatment fees, cost-of-living adjustments to business license fees, 911 taxes, paramedic taxes, reduced permit counter hours, restrictions on smoking, parking, and signage, and reduced financial support for the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce. Some of these, like the increased sales tax, business license fees, 911 fees, and paramedic fees, Starosciak supported. Starosciak abstained from the vote on increasing the sewer treatment fees last year.

After Starosciak noted that "I do think it's a good idea to help the environment wherever we can," she also said that the City Council is negatively affecting businesses repeatedly and then abstained during the vote.

Before the vote, Mayor Stephen Cassidy stated that he supports the ban and believes "that this is desirable policy." Cassidy compared the current use of polystyrene to the use of lead by the Romans, which led to poisoning.

At the October 3, 2011, meeting all of the speakers supported the polystyrene ban, including Carrie Spector, who said that she didn't believe that the ban went far enough. Leah Scheibe spoke in favor of the ban and wants San Leandro to become a leader in sustainability by banning plastic bags and adopting more stringent energy efficiency requirements. Mario Juarez of the Sierra Club spoke again as well and local resident Mia Ousley reiterated styrene's damaging health effects.

Souza stated that she voted against ban previously not because she's against it but because she thinks that the City should have worked with businesses and not alienate them. She then voted in favor of the ban, which passed 6 to 0 with Starosciak abstaining.

The next environmental ordinance likely to face San Leandro is a ban on plastic bags, which is being considered by StopWaste.org (the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling Board operating as one public agency).

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at October 5, 2011 9:34 PM | TrackBack
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