Photo by Day Donaldson via Flickr
Photo by Day Donaldson via Flickr

Del Mar is set to be the third city in San Diego County to ban the single use of plastic bags.

The City Council voted 5-0 to move forward with a plastic bag ban. The proposed ordinance will prohibit retail establishments including restaurants and the Farmers Market from providing any type of bag to a customer at the point of sale except a reusable bag or a recycled paper bag unless otherwise permitted under the exemptions section.

The approval comes after more than an hour of discussion and public comment.

The majority of public speakers spoke in support of the plastic bag ban. However, some spoke about the burden it would create on local businesses.

“I can completely get the wildlife aspect of it,” said the owner of Urban Beach House. “Del Mar is trying to be a shopping district. In order to create that, you need people to walk around with bags. Tourists are not going to have these bags with them.”

But, city leaders disagreed with the need for plastic bags.

“We’re not an environmentally friendly city,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “My personal observation is that things are getting worst. I think this proposed ordinance is an important first step in helping clean up Del Mar.

Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said he struggled with the idea that a ban was needed but would support the first reading of the ordinance.

“I’m just a little worried about city councils getting into this kind of regulation,” Sinnott said. “We are stepping into an area that is not where we should be. We’re a very tiny city — we can get a solution to this problem by getting everybody who issues these plastic bags into a room. Through education, we can make Del Mar a plastic-bag free area without getting a city regulation involved.

A second ordinance will be presented to the City Council on March 7. If adopted, the city will allow six months to phase the bag ban in for retail businesses and a one-year phase in for restaurants and the Del Mar Farmers Market. The proposed ban would not be applicable to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The ban could save the city of Del Mar a few dollars. Staff estimates the city spends about $1,450 in the last fiscal year to clean plastic bags from the beaches.

The ordinance comes after the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas implemented their own plastic bag bans. According to the staff report, Del Mar’s Sustainability Advisory Board, which worked with the Surfrider Foundation, “has been very interested” in the possibility of a plastic bag ban for years.

California’s legislature approved a bag ban in 2014 but that legislation is now subject to a referendum vote in November 2016.