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California Restaurant Association Suing To Stop Polystyrene Ban In San Diego

March 14, 2019 1:36 p.m.

GUEST: David Garrick, city hall reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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Related Story: California Restaurant Association Suing To Stop Polystyrene Ban In San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Kaye PBS is supported by the law firm of Mintz working with startups and growing companies. Mintz legal services can help clients raise capital secure space and protect intellectual property. To achieve strategic goals more admin Stockholm Mintz built on excellence driven by change the California Restaurant Association is suing to stop the polystyrene ban in San Diego.

The ban is set to go into effect on May 24th. David Garrick covers city hall for the San Diego Union Tribune and he joins me with more. David thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. So David you found in your reporting that this is the first such lawsuit that the Restaurant Association has filed even though 120 other cities have similar bans. Why does the restaurant industry say it wants to stop the ban in San Diego.

Well San Diego is the largest city in California to do this. We're the second largest city overall and Los Angeles hasn't done it at least yet. And from what I've said in the lawsuit they've just talked about how San Diego has a large economy and that this was sort of the biggest one and they thought it was time to put a stop to this.

Yeah. And so they also said that San Diego failed to properly analyze the bands effects on the environment. What do they mean by that.

Well there's a state law here that says that anything a city does or most things the city does they have to do an environmental analysis. It's called the California Environmental Quality Act and it's pretty rigorous compared to other states rules. And the city did not study that at all in this case. They said they were exempt from it and that's the California Restaurant Association says they weren't exempt.

And there's also this thought that replacement products would be worse.

Yes and the idea is there multiple criteria that something can be judged on on its environmental impact. I don't think anyone argues that foam isn't worse for the oceans and and the water waterways. But they said they suggested in the lawsuit that on greenhouse gas emissions it's possible that the mix paper products and other products that a restaurant might use as a replacement for foam might actually create more greenhouse gas emissions and leave it clear climate change at a greater rate than foam products do.

And are they finding this to be true in other places where state polystyrene has been banned.

I don't think that the California Restaurant Association has done any analysis themselves. They're just basically saying the city should have done this. They said he should have analyzed all of the criteria in which this ban could affect the environment some in a positive way some in a negative way and come out with an outcome in an analysis and the city failed to do that and that was an illegal move. And any idea of why the city did not do the analysis while the other 119 cities that it passed it didn't do the analysis.

I remember at the hearing that came up in councilman Chris Ward who was the spearhead of this ever said none of the other cities have done an environmental analysis and they've had no legal problems so it seems like we're probably in pretty good shape here.

And they did in the city documents they say that because this is an environmentally positive move that it doesn't require an environmental analysis and remind us what the ban would include and who it would apply to a little fly basically to everyone but the key people that would impact our small restaurants who use these foam containers that you know keep the food warm and they're cheaper than paper but they leave that up in the waterways and they end up you know fish eat them and then they end up in our food supply and so it's a real problem in addition to those.

It also includes egg cartons and then foam products such as like the floats you'd use in a pool and bullies and those types of things. But the main people who are focused on this are the small restaurants who still serve use foam service containers are polystyrene products recyclable.

I think that's an under debate. There is a recycling programs for them but it appears that the economics don't pencil out very well the city tried to launch a program a couple of years ago and it is not going very well financially so far.

And you spoke to one of the San Diego restaurant owners who's a plaintiff in this lawsuit. What did he have to say.

He basically said the city should have studied it and it's going to impact his business. And you know a lot of them came when the city approved this ban in January and said that they there are small margins there. These are mom and pop restaurants little taco shops little pizza parlors. And if they're going to pay an extra one to three hundred dollars a month for their their paper products they may not be able to stay in business. But the city will point out that they are giving a waiver to you up to a two year exemption for any business with less than five hundred thousand dollars in gross receipts.

So to allow a business to sort of adjust and try to find products that can that can be a good substitute and efforts toward implementation of the ban are underway what is the city already doing well in fits since starting in February the city said that you have to restaurants have to ask people if they want a plastic straw as opposed to just giving them one. That's sort of the first the first date and also plastic silverware. But the main D-Day is May 24th that's wanted it will go into full effect but since it was approved in January the city's done sort of an outreach campaign and an information campaign.

They sent flyers to businesses. They send emails to businesses. But it was bilingual too because a lot of the businesses affected are owned by Spanish speaking people.

And when should we expect to hear more on this case that assertion in question the lawsuit was just filed on Tuesday. If the ban goes into effect in May I imagine the superior court judge who it gets assigned to will want to handle it quickly because of that that aggressive timeline. But I would say a few weeks but I'm not certain.

All right I've been speaking with David Garrick of the San Diego Union Tribune. David thanks. Thanks for your help.

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