SOLANA BEACH — Prompted by a request at the Jan. 23 meeting from one-time Mayor Celine Olson, City Council members will consider eliminating the 10-cent charge for paper bags that is part of an ordinance banning most single-use plastic bags. “I was among those who supported getting rid of plastic bags but not the ‘one step too far,’” Olson said. “Imposing a charge on the use of biodegradable paper bags is that one step too far.
“When I shop I expect the products that I buy will be packaged for me to carry home,” she added. “I don’t expect to pay to protect my privacy from view. When I buy hair dye, which I don’t do very often, and wrinkle cream, which I should buy very often, I do not want to pay to carry ads on a grocery bag.
“And if I’m paying 10 cents for what probably cost the corporation 2 cents, I don’t want any advertising on the bag,” Olson, who served as the city’s fifth mayor in 1992, said. “As a matter of principle, I will not pay to carry my products home. Don’t tell me to bring my own fabric bags. … I have enough trouble carrying my purse and cane without juggling empty bags into the store.
Olson, who’s been shopping in Solana Beach for about 40 years, said she considers the fee a tax that is harming businesses and reducing city sales tax.
“Stop causing our stores to lose business,” she said. Olson also expressed concern over bacteria that can be introduced to reusable cloth bags from meats, fruits and vegetables.
“I hope that the bag jihad will be over soon,” she said. “Please modify the law and say no to plastic and yes to free paper bags.”
After Olson spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, Councilman Tom Campbell asked that an item to discuss modifying the law be put on a future agenda.
Councilmen Peter Zahn and Dave Zito said they would also like to address a business-loss analysis and health and safety issues.
City Manager David Ott said before their time on the council, when the ordinance was crafted, there was substantial discussion on the issue of bacteria in reusable bags.
“It’s not the bags that cause bacteria,” Ott said, noting it was the meat, vegetables and fruits.
He said smaller plastic bags for those items are still allowed, but people should wash their cloth bags.
He also noted it was the grocers association that requested the 10-cent fee.
Council members unanimously voted this past May to ban single-use carryout plastic bags at the point of sale in Solana Beach. Of the city’s more than 460 licensed retail businesses, approximately 160 provided those plastic bags, resulting in about 6.5 million of them being distributed annually.
The law was implemented in two phases — in August for grocery stores, food vendors, pharmacies and city facilities and in November for retail businesses and other vendors. Restaurants are exempt.
Store owners can provide recycled paper bags but they must charge at least 10 cents each.
That money goes back to the businesses, not the city.