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Encinitas to pursue plastic bag ban
ENCINITAS — Encinitas will create its own ban on single-use plastic bags, instead of waiting for state legislators to vote on weaker restrictions early next year, the City Council decided this week.

The environment “can’t wait for the state to get its act together,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said Wednesday night as the council asked city staff to draft a bag ordinance similar to one approved by Solana Beach in 2012.

Solana Beach bans the use of plastic bags at grocery stores, food vendors, pharmacies and retail stores and mandates a 10-cent charge for paper bag use.

The Encinitas council voted 3-2 to pursue plastic bag restrictions, with Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir opposed. Muir and Gaspar said they wanted to wait to see what happens to a plastic-bag bill that the state Senate is expected to consider in early 2014.

“For me, timing is of the essence here and I’d like to see how (Sen. Alex) Padilla’s bill plays out,” Gaspar said.

But the council majority said the time had come to act. Encinitas first considered creating its own plastic-bag ban five years ago, but held off out of fear that the city would be sued.

Councilman Tony Kranz said Wednesday that the proposed Senate bill has holes and Encinitas should enact the “more robust” ban used by Solana Beach.

Still, it could be many months before Encinitas shoppers see any change in their local stores.

City officials must create a draft form of the proposed ordinance for council approval and that’s not expected to happen until well into 2014. An environmental review of the ordinance is likely take two to three months, officials said.

The council’s decision came late in the night after hours of public testimony and debate on another agenda item — an appeal of a city Planning Commission decision.

Former mayor Sheila Cameron asked the council to overturn a Sept. 19 commission decision allowing the nonprofit Leichtag Foundation to put offices within part of the 68-acre Ecke Ranch property along Saxony Road.

Cameron and her supporters argued that the commission’s decision would eventually result in the end of agriculture on what is now the largest remaining bit of farmland in the city.

Leichtag representatives and their supporters said their offices would only occupy a small portion of the property — about 4,000 square feet of the 20,000 square feet of building space at the site. They stressed that they would continue farming the land and would emphasize new agricultural trends, including hydroponics.

The council denied Cameron’s appeal in a 3-2 vote, with Gaspar and Muir opposed.

While more than a dozen public speakers testified during the farmland item, only three people spoke on the bag ban and all of them supported the proposal.

Downtown Encinitas 7-11 owner Bobby Virk told the council that he stopped offering disposable plastic bags at his mini-market when the council first considered banning bags in 2008.

“It’s been fine, it’s been great — I have nothing negative to say about it,” he said, adding that when he tells customers they can’t have a plastic bag, they praise him for being environmentally sound.

Last week, the council heard from one bag ban opponent when it voted to support the proposed Senate bill. Encinitas resident Greg Lefevre called the bag ban proposal a “cotton candy” item that would make the council feel good, but hurt businesses.

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