Plastic bag ban

Plastic bags at Ralph's in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. The city council is considering a ban on plastic bags. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / April 16, 2013)

La Cañada Flintridge City Council members are divided on whether to ban single-use plastic bags in the city.

Several residents from La Cañada and neighboring communities showed up at Monday's meeting to ask officials to consider a proposal that would limit bags handed out to customers in grocery and convenience stores. They said such a law would save money for the city, as well as Los Angeles County, and would also protect wildlife, who sometimes mistake the bags for food.

"I think that folks in this town would be receptive to this," said Lloyd Komesar, a La Cañada resident. "It's something that is picking up a lot of support in other communities."

Komesar said the initiative could also act as a lesson for children growing up in the city about developing environmental habits.

"I just find it to be something that makes a lot of sense and has a certain dynamic about it that is very long-lasting and beneficial." he said. "I'm here to support the initiative. I hope we will see it on an agenda in the future."

Marsha Hymanson, a resident of La Cañada for 32 years, said she has always been proud to live in a city that cares about the environment.

"We protect our trees, we introduced various stages of recycling, and we draw very positive moves as a community, and I think they speak to the ethos, so to speak, of the city," she said.

Plastic bags, she said, don't degrade. And, they end up in landfills or the ocean.

"I think it really would be an anomaly, especially for La Cañada, to not participate in something that [many local cities have already enacted]," she said. "The stores save a lot of money because they don't have to buy plastic bags."

Organizations Heal the Bay and Los Angeles Waterkeepers have sent written letters to the city in support of a carryout bag ban.

Council members, at the end of Monday's meeting, discussed whether to study what the residents proposed.

Mayor Laura Olhasso and Councilman Jonathan Curtis were in favor of studying whether the initiative would be beneficial to the city. Councilmen Michael Davitt and Don Voss said they didn't want to tell people what choices to make, but supported educating the public about the harms associated with plastic bags.

The proposal "discounts people's responsibility to act responsibly and think," said Voss. "No one forces us to take a plastic bag. No one forces anyone to litter. Rather than telling people what they can't do, why don't we help people understand what they should do?"

He read a list of other items that harm the environment, including cigarette butts, plastic silverware, food wrappers and plastic bottles. No one is calling for a ban on those other items, he said.

Olhasso said it wasn't a lot to ask for the council to study banning plastic bags from the city. But since Councilman Dave Spence left the meeting early and the remaining four members of the council were split of the issue, she suggested they discuss it when the full council is present.

The mayor added that she believed local grocery stores are ready to stop using plastic bags if the city decides to go forward with a ban.

"I find it ironic that when we asked Ralphs management when they were going to stop using plastic bags, they said, 'Well, when the city tells us to,'" she said. "It's not like they don't know how to do this. It's already law in Pasadena. It's already law in Glendale. It's already law in Los Angeles."

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