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Plastic Food Packaging Materials And Short Term Rentals Are Topics At Last Council Meeting

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2019 10:46 am

The Imperial Beach City Council spent a long time discussing the proposed ban on plastic materials during its last meeting on April 17.

In 2017 the council voted on banning polystyrene and wished to expand the ordinance to include additional single use plastic items. Environmental Director Chris Elmer presented the item and said that staff has researched what other cities have done on the matter. In order to avoid plastic to be dispersed in the environment or end up in the ocean, a proposed ordinance would expand the prohibition of polystyrene products, prohibit food containers that are non-biodegradable, compostable or recyclable, straws, stirrers, and cutlery and encourage residents to minimize the use of non-biodegradable cigarette filters, balloons, miniature beverage plastic bottles and regular size plastic bottles.

In addition the ordinance would expand the ban of single use bags to less than 2.25 mls thick. These changes would start on Oct. 31, 2019.

Councilman Ed Spriggs pointed out that the upcoming summer events would be impacted by the ban and there is not enough time to make the changes. City Attorney Jennifer Lyon said that normally the ban would go into effect immediately but minor modifications can be made to start after the summer. Elmer said that so far businesses have had a city inspection once a year to ensure the polystyrene ban is being followed and storm water inspections are also conducted for signs of polystyrene.

Councilwoman Paloma Aguirre asked if the frequency of the inspections can be increased since she has heard from residents that some businesses are still using banned materials.

Councilman Robert Patton gave his opinion. “Too many regulations impact small businesses. I want to find out how many businesses would be impacted and at what cost… I like the idea of following the state…mirror what they are doing, so we stay consistent,” he said.

He also pointed out that the fine for non-compliance in civil cases is a fine of up to $1,000 and in criminal cases it could be up to 6 months in jail. He suggested not having the criminal language included since it’s excessive. Lyon explained that the language is standard.

Patton was also suggested that new business owners be informed of the new regulations when they apply for a business license.

No vote was taken on this item.

Assistant City Manager Steve Dush presented the Short Term Rental (STR) situation in the city with the intent for the council to discuss whether to expand regulations by adding more provisions to the ordinance. The city has hired a company called Host Compliance to search the internet for legal and non-legal STRs and found 83 of them in the city. STRs are defined as rentals for less that 30 days.

Between January 2018 and March 2019 there were 51 noncompliant, 47 were in improper zones (not in the commercial district), four were in the correct zone but had no permits. The city allows STRs in the commercial areas.

As of April 2019 the general concentration of STRs are along Seacoast Drive, some operating in the Bayside Landing Condominiums and one outlier on 11th Street.

During the public comment period four speakers were in favor, one opposed and two letters were sent from residents who were opposed. A representative of Bayside Landing Homeowners Association said the development has 187 homes and 20 are STRs but only three are in compliance. She brought the example of a unit rented by 16 men for a bachelor party next to a unit occupied by a mom with a new baby whose husband is deployed. There are issues of security and noise. She pointed out that people that rent STRs are on vacation and their hours are different than residents who have to wake up to go to work and bring their kids to school the next day.

Other speakers who own a STR argued that the rent they receive allows them to go on vacation and pay their mortgage.

Councilman Mark West suggested creating an Ad Hoc committee to study the issue further.

Aguirre said that during her campaign she heard first hand about rent prices. “Research has shown that STRs have direct effect…it takes away housing supply and shoots up rental prices. We’ve a fiscal responsibility in the city. If this is an option to increase revenue… do it in a smart way to prevent corporations scooping up units,” she said.

Spriggs was concerned about allowing STRs in single family homes. “Once we allow STRs in single family neighborhoods, are we going to see an increase? Do we want to be a PB (Pacific Beach) or Mission Beach?”

He also was concerned that if there are too many STRs, the hotels will not do well. “What kind of community do we want to be? We have to be careful of the steps we take,” he said.

“I say no to additional short term rentals, doing so will polarize our community,” said Patton. He suggested looking at homeowners who are repeat offenders and give them citations for cost recovery. He made a motion to not take action at this time and the vote passed 4 to 1 with the no from West.

In other business:

• The consent calendar was approved unanimously. Items 2.5 and 5.3 were removed from the agenda.

• The house parties rule was updated to include the use of marijuana and controlled substances due to the risk to the community from intoxicated driving. “This provides anther tool for law enforcement to keep the community safe,” said Sheriff’s Department Lt. Fred Magaña. He explained that since parents are responsible for house parties whether they are present or not, the county bills them for hours worked by the Sheriff’s Department. He gave the example that if there are 100 partygoers and are all minors and it takes 5 hours to process them, the parent will be billed for 5 hours. Lyon clarified that this law has been in effect for six years and there has been only one case where the property owner was fined and payed the value of the services. City Manager Andy Hall explained that this is not a new ordinance but it is up for vote to include the use of cannabis. A motion was carried unanimously.

• The use of $480,000 from Senate Bill 1 was approved unanimously for the use of the funds in fiscal year 2019-2020 for roadway paving projects. The roads listed for repaving are: IB Boulevard, 5th and 8th streets, Calla, Carnation and Elkwood avenues, Florida, Connecticut and Delaware streets.

The next city council meeting will be held May 1 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 825 Imperial Beach Boulevard.

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