The Los Angeles City Council on Friday inched a bit closer to passing a sweeping ban on single-use plastic and paper bags and set a March 31 deadline for approving a bag ban that has been an issue at City Hall since 2004.
The City Council voted unanimously, 12-0, to keep consideration of the bag ban within its Energy and Environment Committee, which is chaired by Councilwoman Jan Perry. The council approved Perry's motion to have the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the independent Chief Legislative Analyst provide fiscal analysis of the proposed ban in 30 days and to have the city's Bureau of Sanitation implement a public outreach campaign in 60 days.
"The CAO report was not done. I was concerned about that and I want to make sure we've done all the due diligence and we understand the fiscal impacts of our decision. And, we also need an implementation outreach plan on the record and they say they'll have that done," Perry said after the meeting.
Perry previously has said that she favors a ban on plastic bags, but said Friday she wants more information on banning paper bags and how it would affect people on fixed incomes, especially senior citizens
City officials in 2004 created a task force to fight the amount of single-use plastic bags in the city's waterways. The City Council in 2008 adopted a policy statement with the goal of banning plastic carryout bags starting in January 2010.
Since it's nearly 2012, City Councilman Paul Koretz amended the motion to add the March 31 deadline for acting on a bag ban.
Koretz wanted the deadline in order to help stimulate state legislation that would ban plastic bags statewide, saying it was one of the "critical components" of the city's action.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the coastal areas of Venice and Playa del Rey, said time was running out for the city to provide leadership.
"I'm tired of constantly studying this to death. It's a no-brainer that those plastic bags are toxic and cause issues to our ecosystem," Rosendahl said.
He noted that Santa Monica and Los Angeles County recently moved forward with plastic bag bans while the city has stalled on such a move for years.
Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay, told the council that he supported Perry's recommendation with Koretz's amendment.
Gold promised that there would be state legislation this year similar to the Los Angeles County ban, but cautioned that statewide legislation wouldn't happen "without the city of Los Angeles domino falling."
After the meeting, Gold said it was the first time the city has held itself accountable with a firm date for passing a bag ban.
"Our hope is that this action will serve as strong notice to the state Legislature to move forward with this statewide bag ban, because if the second-largest city in America moves forward it's a very strong signal for the rest of California," Gold said.
He said the proposed citywide ban has been supported by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, 18 Neighborhood Councils and the California Grocers Association.
It's been disappointing that a plastic bag ban hasn't been in place in Los Angeles already, Gold said.
"I don't think it's a coincidence that it hasn't happened statewide, yet. I think if it would've happened earlier in the city, it would've happened earlier statewide," Gold said. "That's just how big of an influence L.A. has on the rest of California."
Other municipalities in California that have passed single-use plastic bag bans include San Francisco, Santa Monica, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Calabasas, Long Beach and, most recently, Carpinteria.
The city's Board of Public Works in October unanimously approved a report urging the mayor and city council to adopt a citywide ban on single-use carryout bags.
It is estimated that 1.2 to 2.3 billion single-use plastic carryout bags and 400 million single-use paper bags are used annually in Los Angeles. The board's report said studies have shown that single-use paper bags have greater greenhouse gas emissions through their production and use than a single-use plastic bag and therefore should also be banned.
The Board of Public Work's suggested ordinance would require retailers to provide customers with reusable bags for sale or for free. Produce bags to carry meats and produce in the store will still be allowed.
City officials on Wednesday asked for more clarification on the plastic bag ban, including whether it would include plastic bags at places such as hardware stores and large retailers such as WalMart.