An ordinance calling for the ban of plastic bags in West Valley cities came one step closer to reality last Thursday afternoon as the four members that form the West Valley Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Agency Board voted unanimously to recommend their prohibition in retail establishments.
“In Campbell, I know there is a push to take action,” said Evan Low, Campbell Vice Mayor and board member during a meeting of the group in Monte Sereno City Hall. “The San Jose ban , and in Campbell we had the ‘let’s wait and see’ approach, but people are starting to ask why.”
Low said that he could see Campbell adopting an ordinance within the next year if the right steps are taken along with community outreach.
The committee, which consists of Low, Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice, Saratoga Councilman Howard Miller and Monte Sereno Vice Mayor Curtis Rogers directed agency staff to draft a letter recommending banning single-use bags and polystyrene containers to the West Valley Mayors and Managers Association, which includes the cities of Campbell, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga.
According to the agency’s Executive Director Scott Hobson of Hilton Farnkopf & Hobson, LLC, it will be up to the Council and staff of each individual municipality whether they wish to pursue the ban.
Miller said he supports the recommendation because it will give all cities involved good direction to get started with studies, outreach and an opportunity to draft an environmental impact review report.
“We can do our part and move the ball forward,” said Miller. “That way the cities don’t have to wait on us and can move forward with a unified effort.”
The board's action came after witnessing the success of the current bag-ban ordinance that took effect Jan. 1 in San Jose and similar ordinances that are soon to take effect in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.
Hobson said that cities could draft EIRs similar to that of San Jose’s, or could come up with their own specific ordinances.
Jo Ziertek, acting assistant director of environmental service for San Jose, told the board that the city is open to helping interested parties with any information or resources it dealt with during its time drafting and executing its ordinance.
Though the small 3,000-population Monte Sereno is not home to any retail establishments, its Council recently adopted a voluntary bag-ban ordinance to help neighboring cities, according to Rogers.
Rice said he was comfortable with supporting a resolution for the ban, but said he did not want to undo anything that has been achieved by Los Gatos' General Plan Committee, and was not fully comfortable with the part of San Jose’s ordinance that charges residents 10 cents for every paper bag used in stores.
Rice said the town's Sustainability Committee is already working on Los Gatos' Sustainability Plan, as called for in the General Plan. He said he didn't want the JPA's position to be taken as a directive to, or circumvention of the committee's work.
“As far as Los Gatos, we’re already there,” Rice said. “I’m not sure if we want to take an action where we jump out in front of the committee, but I don’t have a qualm with plastic bags.”
The board also voted unanimously to direct staff in each West Valley city to conduct a study on the economic and environmental impacts of an ordinance that calls for a ban on styrofoam by each city.
Low said the conducting individual studies is an easier way to draft policy for the ordinance.
“Rather than making a resolution, we are conducting a study on what kind of impacts it would have on businesses and how we would enforce it,” he said.
The West Valley Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Agency Board reviews issues related to the solid waste management franchise, disposal, recycling, and yard waste agreement for Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, and Campbell.
All of the west valley cities contract for solid waste collection and disposal services through the JPA. The current solid waste provider is West Valley Collection and Recycling.