The public got its chance to address a proposed ban on single-use plastic carryout bags at Santa Monica stores at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 26, after the subject was continued from the previous week’s agenda. The Council voted unanimously to direct the City Attorney to prepare such an ordinance for the Council’s consideration after more than a dozen citizens spoke in support of the proposal.
The direction to the City Attorney to draft a proposed ordinance was left open-ended as to whether a fee would be imposed for the use of paper bags, but the overwhelming sentiment of both the public and the Council was to promote the use of reusable bags.
A representative of the California Restaurant Association, while making it clear that he was not opposing the ban on plastic bags, expressed concern over “cross-contamination” from customers introducing their own reusable bags into kitchen areas for take-out food. And Councilmember Ken Genser raised the subject of how to deal with groceries and restaurants providing delivery services where the customer cannot provide a reusable bag. Those concerns will presumably be dealt with in the proposed ordinance to be returned to the Council at a future date.
The Council also heard the annual report on homelessness mandated by the 1994 Public Safety Initiative, and it unanimously approved an Action Plan to Address Homelessness in Santa Monica presented by Human Services Division Manager Julie Rusk. The Action Plan focuses on the “housing first” model pioneered by the Common Ground organization in New York City. That model, which makes a priority of providing housing to the most vulnerable homeless, was termed a “paradigm shift” by Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom and “less of a paradigm shift and more of an evolution” by Councilmember Pam O’Connor. In any event, it does represent what Councilmember Bob Holbrook called a “bold change” from the continuum of care approach followed in the past. Mayor Katz called the Action Plan “courageous forward thinking.”
As part of the Action Plan, the Council approved the expenditure of $100,000 for a contract with GMMB, a public affairs firm, for “a community education, anti-panhandling, and alternative giving campaign, with the anti-panhandling and alternative giving as the initial focus of the campaign.”