Continuing its advocacy for sustainability and green living, the Mar Vista Community Council passed a resolution Dec. 14 encouraging Los Angeles officials to prohibit the use of plastic shopping bags.

The vote, which was 9-1 with one abstention, makes Mar Vista the first local advisory council to publicly support a ban on single-use bags.

Mar Vista’s actions follows the Aug. 31 failure of the state Senate to pass Assembly Bill 1998, which would have prohibited the sale of single-use plastic bags throughout California, and the county Board of Supervisors’ passage of a resolution Nov. 16 prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies in unincorporated areas of the county.

“Recognizing the importance of being good stewards of the nearby Ballona Creek, the Ballona Wetlands, Santa Monica Bay and the oceans beyond, the Mar Vista Community Council has long supported efforts to clean up and improve waterways that affect our Southern California communities and our beaches, which are so vital to our tourism industry,” the motion stated.

Albert Olson, the community council chair, said the county’s decision to take a stand against plastic was the main factor in the board’s decision to take action.

“The fact that the county has moved in that direction was the primary impetus for us to voice our council’s support for that,” Olson told The Argonaut.

Andy Schrader, a Mar Vista resident who has been active in the campaign to ban plastic bags, said there is an economic factor in eliminating the bags as well an environmental component. At the Dec. 13 meeting, he presented the local council with 175 signatures of Mar Vista residents that were collected at the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market in support of a plastic bag ban.

“You see them everywhere you look, clogging storm drains and littering our beaches,” Schrader said. “(Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) and the City Council are looking for effective ways to cut city budgets, (so) we encourage them to start here.”

The resolution also referenced a Los Angeles Times article that stated Californians use more than 120,000 tons of bags each year and despite efforts to increase it, only 5 percent are actually recycled. “Taxpayers therefore end up paying close to $25 million a year to rid streets, beaches, parks and waterways of the bags.

“A ban will help save the city and state monies in troubled economic times and conserve important natural resources, which could be put to a more beneficial use,” the resolution says.

Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee Co-Chair Sherri Akers is grateful for the local council’s endorsement of the resolution.

“We are so blessed with a supportive community council. Quite a few of the board members spoke passionately in support of the motion and we had three former board members there who spoke to it in public comment,” Akers noted. “The (Mar Vista) Farmers Market played a big role in making this happen, both as a venue to do outreach and in their specific support.”

Diana Rodgers, the manager of the market, has been encouraging merchants at the open-air fair to use cloth bags instead of plastic for over a year.

“The market has been ahead of the game with environmental policies and (a ban on plastic) would allow us to go forward toward having a more sustainable market,” Rodgers said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident, said it is a testament to his constituents, the local council and Rodgers that the resolution passed.

“They have all shown great leadership on green living and the environment,” he said. “I’m very strongly in favor of banning plastic bags citywide.”

Rosendahl said after the council returns in January from its holiday break, he would seek to reintroduce a motion to prohibit the sale of plastic bags, like the supervisors have done.

“I’m delighted that the county has shown great leadership on this issue and I applaud my constituents for appreciating how important this is,” the councilman said. “I will be discussing with my colleagues how to go about reintroducing a motion on banning plastic bags and see if there is any (feeling) for it on the council.”

Akers, a green consultant, said having Rosendahl as an enthusiastic supporter is vital to the community’s local and citywide sustainability ventures.

“We are very fortunate to be in Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s district as well. We feel confident that he will champion this when it gets to the City Council,” Akers said. “We see it as our responsibility to be a grassroots voice so that he has the ammunition he needs to push it through at the city level.”

Over the last few years, Mar Vista has developed a reputation as one of the most active communities in Los Angeles that practice and encourage environmentally friendly policies.

The Green Garden Showcase has gained citywide notoriety for the unique residences in various stages of sustainable, environmentally friendly features. In addition, Sustainable Works in Santa Monica honored the green committee in September and Akers was awarded the 2010 Residential Greening Program Eco Star Award.

The local council has also hosted forums on wise water usage, and in November sponsored an event on solar energy. Kirsten James, the director of water quality for Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, commended the community council on its passage of the resolution.

“It’s great to hear that they went forward with this,” James said. “I think the county definitely set an example with its vote.”

Rosendahl feels the Dec. 14 vote was a continuation of Mar Vista’s commitment to sustainability.

“What they have done is they have taken a concept and in many cases made it a part of their daily lives,” he said. “It’s become a way of life in Mar Vista, and this is just another example of how committed they are to the environment and making their neighborhoods a better place to live.”

Olson agrees with Rosendahl that Mar Vista has emerged as one of the leaders in sustainability, and he credits Akers and her green committee co-chair Laura Bodensteiner, as well as resident Jeanne Kuntz for their advocacy and dedication.

“Clearly, they are a force that has become very powerful in our community,” Olson said.

James said that Heal the Bay, which was heavily involved with AB 1998, prefers a statewide or regional approach to banning single-use bags, but welcomes the fact that communities and other municipalities have decided to go forward with their own legislation.

“Right now we’re focusing on local governments and we hope that we can eventually get consistent policies for everyone,” she explained.

Schrader, who works with the Clean Seas Coalition, said the time has come to start seriously examining the impact that disposable products can have on the environment.

“Our throw-away culture is beginning to have an enormous impact. A plastic bag, which is used once or twice for a few minutes, can last for hundreds of years in a landfill,” he said. “We need to rethink our way of living so that human activities take their place in the natural cycle and help replenish, rather than always taking from, the Earth.”

A week after the local board passed the resolution, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and import specialists assigned to Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex reported Monday, Dec. 20 a seizure of more than 21 million improperly invoiced plastic bags arriving from China in violation of anti-dumping/countervailing duty laws. The estimated domestic value of the shipment was $448,833, according to CBP.

U.S. Department of Commerce regulations prevent the importation of merchandises at an unfairly low or subsidized price, which is one of the hundreds of laws that Customs and Border Protection enforce.

Other cities that are considering prohibiting the sale of plastic shopping bags include Santa Monica and Long Beach. Manhattan Beach passed a similar ban last year but it is on hold due to an injunction. Malibu, San Francisco and Palo Alto have instituted municipal bans.

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