Online Extra: Political Notes:
SF supes to vote on plastic
water bottle sales ban
by Matthew S. Bajko
San Francisco supervisors Tuesday will vote on whether to ban plastic water bottle sales on city property, amid objections from the water bottle industry and concerns about its fiscal impact on street fairs.
Introduced by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents District 3, the legislation would phase out the sale and distribution of plastic bottled water on municipal property starting on October 1 of this year.
"As our city has led the fight for the environment, we need to be a leader to our addiction in plastic bottled water," said Chiu during a hearing last week before the board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee, which will vote on the proposed ban at its meeting this afternoon (Monday, March 3). "Our world was not addicted to plastic bottled water. Only in the 1990s did the now $60 billion plastic bottled water industry experience growth based on marketing campaigns. But before that, everyone around the world has managed to stay hydrated."
The bottled water industry has criticized the proposed ban, with the International Bottled Water Association issuing a statement last week to express its opposition to the bill.
"Efforts to eliminate access to bottled water on San Francisco city or county property will force people to choose less healthy drink options, which have more packaging, more additives (e.g., sugar, caffeine), and greater environmental impacts than bottled water," stated the IBWA in its release. "Moreover, this legislation would mean that there would be no bottled water available on city or county property for immune compromised people or during emergency situations when tap water is compromised."
In addition to applying to city departments, the legislation would also cover events, permitted vendors, and lessees on San Francisco property. Foot races and other participant sporting events, however, would be excluded from the law, as would concessionaires and other vendors at San Francisco International Airport.
City departments would be able to grant waivers to events and lessees under certain circumstances, such as for public health reasons, on an individual basis. Food truck owners will have two years to figure out how to comply with the ban.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story in January, the sale of plastic water bottles would also be banned at San Francisco street fairs and outdoor events on public property. LGBT events that would be impacted by the rule include the San Francisco Pride parade and festival, Folsom Street Fair, and the Castro Street Fair.
Chiu initially had proposed that the ban would be phased in for street events starting in late 2016. But after hearing concerns from promoters, he pushed back the implementation date for outdoor events run by nonprofits to January 1, 2018.
The bill now also specifies that it will only apply to nonprofit events with attendance of more than 250,000. For commercial events that occur outdoors on city property or streets, they would need to implement the new rule starting on October 1, 2016.
Chiu said last week that his office made the change for nonprofit festivals, "such as the Pride parade and the Folsom Street Fair, because we know that these very large nonprofit organizations, festivals will have a much harder time in complying, in part because they don't have larger budgets to think through alternative water solutions for thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. We wanted to give them a little additional time to make the transition."
Meeting with the B.A.R. editorial board last month, Pride's new executive director, George Ridgely, expressed concerns with the proposal, particularly with how it will fiscally impact the LGBT event's bottom line.
"It could have a large impact. It really depends on the overall legislation," said Ridgely. "It looks like it could be a financial hardship. Not just for Pride but for any large events."
There are also logistical issues Pride and other events will need to figure out, added Ridgely, such as what type of water distribution system to use, where to place the filling stations, and how to staff them to ensure they work properly.
"The bottom line is it is just going to cost more money," he said.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener , who chairs the land use committee, told the B.A.R. he is now supportive of the ban due to the bill revisions for nonprofit run festivals.
"These fairs have several additional years before they have to comply, and there's an exemption for situations where there's inadequate water infrastructure," said Wiener. "We need to ensure access to water for health and safety reasons while also protecting our environment from excessive plastic bottles. This legislation moves us in the right direction on both counts."
Should it become law, the bill requires the city to install drinking fountains, filling stations, and hook-ups for events when there is a renovation in a heavily used public park or plaza. It also asks the city to investigate solutions that would allow events to hook up to the municipal water infrastructure.
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