Currently, 103 California municipalities have plastic bag ordinances while Scotts Valley remains a no-show from a list that includes all of its neighbors. Meanwhile, other statewide communities rush to beat the September 1 deadline to “grandfather in” regulation better than what California’s pending SB270 has to offer.
Two months ago the SV City Council finally moved to place a discussion of a plastic bag ordinance on their agenda. While we wait for their oracle to arrive, recent postings and letters to The Sentinel and Press-Banner have reflected poorly upon SV. One blogger did not realize that Carbonero Creek which spans the length of SV reaches the Monterey Bay. For anyone who believes this creek is pristine, please visit the photo gallery “Carbonero Creek – A 1000 Points of Grim” at www.smugmug.com/gallery/n-vXCws .
The SV council prefers to pre-stage any discussion of an ordinance in context of unknown legal costs that could be brought upon the city if petitioned by outside interests. What they may not want their residents to know is that a rock-solid framework of legal precedents has already been laid by those who labored before them, practically ceding SV “categorically exempt” from the task of conducting an Environmental Impact Report required under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Two cases in point:
1) Save the Plastic Bag Coalition vs. City of Manhattan Beach lawsuit petitioning the city to complete an EIR. Manhattan Beach was ruled too small in population (37,000 or 3-times that of Scotts Valley) to require an EIR. It was also deemed that the negative environmental impact by an increase in paper bag use as a consequence of a plastic bag ban was insignificant in comparison to the benefits of banning plastic bags.
2) STPBC vs. County of Marin, population 255,000. In this case STPBC tried to leverage Marin’s larger population in comparison to Manhattan Beach’s as a legal precedent that required them to conduct an EIR. Court said, not so fast, plastic bag hugger! Marin County had less business establishments impacted by a ban than Manhattan Beach; therefore, an EIR was not required. By falling in step with the Santa Cruz County’s ordinance — yet another example of a legal precedent when a higher court has already ruled upon similar circumstances — SV protects itself from the risk of industry meddling.
Scotts Valley has the opportunity to demonstrate that Carbonero Creek, like nature, is not defined by city limits and that the collective actions of all community-neighbors impact the entire marine eco-system for good or ill. If Scotts Valley cannot muster their own ordinance then maybe for the sake of its neighbors who value the marine environment, perhaps they can make an earnest effort to keep their upstream span of Carbonero Creek clean year round.
- Haig White is a Santa Cruz resident.