Santa Clara County Passes Bag Ordinance

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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed its bag ordinance on a 4-1 vote. The ordinance is very similar to the San Jose and LA County regulations. The ordinance goes into effect 1/1/2012. The ordinance applies only to the unincorporated part of the County. Supervisor Cortese complimented CGA’s work on the issue. Posted by Cell Phone – 916-832-6149

Los Angeles County proposes large health inspection fees

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors postponed a vote on an ordinance on April 19 which would have increased food facility inspection fees and the process to calculate the fees. LA County provided very little notice the changes were being considered. CGA, along with other affected industries, have been able to secure a 3-week postponement. CGA is actively questioning the rationale behind the recalculation and increases especially since the County is not providing any additional services to justify the fee increase. Proposed fee changes include 50% increase and in one case a 200% increase as well as introducing new fees for previously included services. CGA will continue to engage the County and question the increased fees throughout the process.

Last Chance to attend SoCal Issues Forum

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g&g bannerCGA has lined up several speakers for tomorrow’s SoCal Issues Forum in the San Fernando Valley to discuss such issues as implementation of local bag ordinances, compliance with federal labor laws and under-served communities. We’ve added a last minute agenda item to discuss egregious fines being giving out by cities such as Pasadena and Santa Ana when shopping carts are found on public property. You can RSVP by emailing Matthew Dodson at [email protected]

Austin Beutner files papers for LA Mayoral race

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beutnerMayor Villaraigosa’s business czar has joined a long list of aspirants for the City’s top job in 2013. Austin Beutner comes from the investment banking industry and would be expected to take Los Angeles in a more business friendly direction. However, he is seen as void of charismatic and lacks the name recognition of other possible candidates, including Controller Wendy Greuel, Council President Garcetti, developer Rick Caruso and state Senator Alex Padilla. It is a long way to June of 2013 and grocers can expect to get many calls from political fundraisers in the coming months.

CA Supreme Court Hearing Bag Ban Case

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supremecourtThe California Supreme Court announced it will hear oral arguments May 4 on the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach case. The question before the court is whether a local jurisdiction must perform an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) when regulating carry-out bags. This case is a game-changer since it will decide the speed and ease for passing local ordinances.

In the summer of 2008 Manhattan Beach passed an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags at checkout by all retailers. This effort followed the Oakland ordinance which was dismissed by a court due to lack of CEQA review. Manhattan Beach chose to perform a CEQA review using a Negative Declaration, which essentially states there is no significant environmental impact. Immediately upon passage plastic bag manufacturers under the name “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” filed suit claiming a full EIR under CEQA must be performed.

The original decision was in favor of the Coalition and prevented enactment by Manhattan Beach until an EIR was performed. Manhattan Beach promptly appealed the decision and was again rejected on the determination that enough environmental impact could exist to warrant full study in the form of an EIR. Manhattan Beach was not satisfied and appealed to the State Supreme Court in early 2010.

EIR’s require extensive analysis of environmental impacts in 23 separate areas which highlight specific impacts of one bag type over another. Plastic manufacturers have claimed the impact of their product in comparison is environmentally preferred. Given this belief they want jurisdictions to perform an EIR to highlight these specific impacts and apply the findings to the policy decision. Los Angeles County and San Jose both performed an EIR and passed ordinances and they were not sued.

It is important to recognize performing an EIR is a long and expensive process. An EIR usually requires $100,000 and 4-6 months to perform at a minimum. In comparison a Negative Declaration adds little additional cost and can be completed in 45-days.

Requiring local governments to perform an EIR is seen by many as creating a financial disincentive to pass ordinances. For the grocery industry this decision will dramatically affect the volume and speed of future ordinance consideration. If an EIR is not required local jurisdictions could pass a bag ordinance in a matter of weeks with little, if any, upfront costs. If required to perform an EIR some local governments may not engage or choose to band together to perform a regional EIR to share costs.

Regardless of the outcome bag ordinances will continue to be pursued by local governments. The unknown is if grocers will experience a flood of ordinances or continue to see a slow trickle.