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City Council Proposes Polystyrene Ban, Extends Eco-Friendly Programs

The Hermosa Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to continue a pair of eco-friendly programs that provide fee waivers to citizens that use them, and also introduced an ordinance to ban polystyrene food containers from use by food vendors in the city.

The Hermosa Beach City Council took steps last night to ensure the city continues to move toward its environmentally-conscious agenda by extending a pair of incentive-based programs and introducing an ordinance that will ban polystyrene foodware.

One of the incentive programs waives preferential parking permit fees and the building permit fees required to install eco-friendly service upgrades, such as an electric charging station, for those who drive alternative fuel vehicles.  

The other affected program extends the fee waiver for costs associated with photovoltaic solar installation, including fees associated with building and electrical inspections, but excluding the permit fees for any structural upgrades to a building that will accommodate the photovoltaic installation.  

Both of these programs were extended for one year last night.

The City Council then voted 3-1 (Councilman Kit Bobko dissenting; Councilman Michael DiVirgilio was absent) to introduce an ordinance that will amend the municipal code to ban polystyrene foodware from being used by vendors in Hermosa Beach.

Title 8 (Health and Safety) would receive a text amendment banning this polystyrene should the city council vote to adopt the ordinance at a later date.

"The ordinance would apply to single-use, disposable polystyrene products," said Community Development Director Ken Robertson. "This applies to those products used for serving or transporting prepared foods, such as plates, bowls, clam shells and cups." 

"The primary emphasis of the ban is to prevent restaurants, snack shops and other food vendors from distributing prepared food in these types of containers," Robertson continued, saying that there are alternatives to polystyrene for the city's food vendors.

The recommendation brought to council last night had been revised from the previous proposed ordinance issued back in April to include a "purpose" section:

"Polystyrene Food Service Ware, a lightweight petroleum-based plastic material, is commonly littered or blown out of trash receptacles and migrates to the storm drain system and eventually to the ocean and beaches. In the marine environment, this material breaks down into smaller pieces, which negatively impacts water quality and harms marine wildlife, which often mistakes polystyrene pieces for food," one section of the purpose section reads.

While the vote passed to introduce the ordinance, council still has to adopt the ordinance at a later council meeting. If council does approve it, the ordinance becomes effective 180 days later, according to a time line provided in a city staff report.

"Styrene is definitely a carcinogen in lab animals and is likely a carcinogen in humans as well," said Mayor Jeff Duclos. "We also know or a fact that styrene residue is found in 100 percent of all samples of human fat tissue, so we're not just talking about something that's going to keep our beach cleaner; we're talking about something that has human health implications as well." 

It is important to note that the ban would not affect prepackaged foods, such as vegetables and raw meat, found in supermarkets.

In addition Tuesday night, council voted to provide a yearly amount of $1,500 for the next five years to the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation. SMBRF aims to protect local beaches and water quality by funding programs such as the Clean Bay Restaurant Certification Program.

The incentive programs that were extended last night have seen moderate use during the last couple of years. Twenty-two parking permits were issued to parties who own alternative fuel vehicles in 2011 and 2012, and 50 solar installations were permitted between the years of 2009 and 2011, according to a city staff report.  

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