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File #: 2017-4635 (25 minutes)   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 9/19/2017
Title: Public Hearing to Consider Introduction of Ordinance Amending the Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) by Amending Section 4-4 (Disposal Food Service Wear) to Prohibit Certain Single-Use Plastics, such as Straws and Clarifying Compostable Food Service Requirements. (Public Works 274.1)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - AMC Section 4-4 (current), 2. Exhibit 2 - AMC Section 4-4 (proposed redlines), 3. Exhibit 3 - Reusable, Recyclable, and Compostable Food Ware, 4. Ordinance, 5. Correspondence



Public Hearing to Consider Introduction of Ordinance Amending the Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) by Amending Section 4-4 (Disposal Food Service Wear) to Prohibit Certain Single-Use Plastics, such as Straws and Clarifying Compostable Food Service Requirements. (Public Works 274.1)




To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council


From: Jill Keimach, City Manager


Re: Public Hearing to Consider Introduction of Ordinance Amending the Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) by Amending Section 4-4 (Disposal Food Service Wear) to Prohibit Certain Single-Use Plastics, such as Straws and Clarifying Compostable Food Service Requirements




Alameda Municipal Code (AMC), Section 4-4, Polystyrene Foam Food Service Ware, as adopted in 2008 (Exhibit 1), bans food vendors from using expanded polystyrene, known by its trademark Styrofoam. This section also requires food vendors to use disposable food service ware that is recyclable (i.e., aluminum trays or foil) or compostable (i.e., a fiber-based food tray), if such food ware is affordable. In addition, this section encourages food vendors to provide reusable food service ware, such as metal utensils or reusable plates, in lieu of disposable food service ware.


On June 20, 2017, the City Council directed staff to consider as a high priority a “straws on request” ordinance and review the City’s current ordinance banning polystyrene food ware to consider clarifying that to-go food ware be compostable or recyclable.  On July 18, 2017, City Council further directed staff to return on September 19 to hold a public hearing to formally introduce the revised ordinance, and, in the interim, for staff to notify the public and businesses of the public hearing.


On July 24, 2017, Public Works solicited input from the Chamber of Commerce (Chamber), Downtown Alameda Business Association (DABA), Greater Alameda Business Association (GABA), and West Alameda Business Association (WABA). Copies of the proposed ordinance revisions were provided to each, and each was asked to share their input and/or support or opposition, and if not able to provide before the time this staff report was written, to share their input and/or support/opposition at the September 19 public hearing. To date, GABA and DABA have shared letters in support for the ordinance revisions, and Public Works has not received responses from the Chamber or WABA.


On August 3, 2017, Public Works mailed a letter to all restaurants and food vendors notifying them of the proposed ordinance revisions, the opportunity to share input at the September 19 public hearing, and a link to the online survey referenced below. Several food vendors responded to the letter by calling Public Works to learn more about how these changes would be implemented.


From August 7 to August 22, staff opened an online survey that was distributed to the general public via press release, to food vendors and local businesses via mail and email, and to 900+ previous registrants of Alameda’s online townhall system via electronic mail. Of 101 survey respondents, 84 were members of the general public, 17 either owned or managed a business in Alameda, and one respondent identified as a food vendor. Overall, 84% of respondents supported (and 15% opposed) requiring food vendors to only provide straws to customers upon the customer’s request. In addition, 90% supported (and 7% opposed) requiring to-go food ware that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable.




Staff recommends AMC, Section 4-4 be revised as detailed in Exhibit 2. These revisions are consistent with City Council’s direction as provided on June 20 and July 18. These changes will reduce waste to the landfill; increase the reuse, recycling, and composting of food ware; and reduce litter in our public areas.  As such, these changes advance the goals of the Climate Action Plan (2008) and Zero Waste Implementation Plan (2010).


The revisions to AMC, Section 4-4 would also prohibit food vendors from providing single-use drinking straws to customers unless specifically requested. The revised ordinance does permit food vendors to have single-use straws available for use by customers at a location within the business. In addition, food vendors who supplied a straw or any type of disposable food ware would have to supply one that is reusable, recyclable (i.e., aluminum), or compostable (i.e., paper). The revised ordinance continues the procedure by which food vendors can gain an exemption if they show undue hardship. Hardship can result from the expense impacting the vendor’s ability to do business. Staff expect few, if any, of these exemptions to be sought, given reusable, recyclable, and compostable food ware is common and often competitively priced. Nevertheless, if unusual situations arise, the exemption enables flexibility in the ordinance’s application.


Staff proposes the revised ordinance take effect January 1, 2018, and enforcement be permitted as early as July 1, 2018. This timeline enables City staff, the Clean Water Fund (CWF), Community for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA), and others to sufficiently inform and educate affected businesses. While some food vendors either already comply with the revised ordinance or can do so without delay, others will benefit from additional outreach and education that is beginning and will continue for 18 months.


In addition, staff applied for and received a $400,000 grant from the Clean Water Fund - Ocean Protection Council, to implement a program called “ReThink Disposable: Unpackaging Alameda.” This grant program was launched by CWF to create a model ”unpackaged” community and will enable 80-100 of the City’s food vendors to receive support and guidance on how to save an annual average of $5,000 and eliminate 2,000 pounds of waste by promoting reusable food ware, reducing food ware packaging, and eliminating single-use disposable items such as straws. Should the City Council adopt the revised ordinance tonight and approve final passage on October 3, 2017, these ordinance revisions will be incorporated into this campaign’s outreach and education effort.


Public Works proposes to continue the complaint-driven enforcement process provided in AMC, Sections 4-4.7 and 1-7.4. Violations of this section subject food vendors to administrative citations of $250 for the first violation and escalate to $1,000 for repeated violations. As an additional courtesy, Public Works will continue its practice of educating food vendors and issuing courtesy warning letters before moving to administrative citations.




There may be minor impacts to the General Fund as Departments substitute reusable or compostable food ware items for their current disposable food ware. In addition, there may be costs associated with processing of compostable food ware and/or enforcement of the revised ordinance. These costs are uncertain and will be borne by the Integrated Waste Fund (Fund 274).




The City’s Climate Action Plan (2008) and Zero Waste Implementation Plan (2010) aim to reduce waste and increase recycling and composting.




Pursuant to Title 14 of the California Administrative Code, this Ordinance is exempt under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines sections 15307 (Actions by Regulatory Agencies for Protection of Natural Resources) and section 15308 (Actions by Regulatory Agencies for Protection of the Environment).  Furthermore, pursuant to sections 15061 (b)(3) and 15378(a), this Ordinance is exempt from the requirements of CEQA in that it is not a project that has the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. This action is further exempt from the definition of Project in 15378(b)(2) in that it concerns general policy and procedure making.




Hold a public hearing to consider introduction of ordinance amending the Alameda Municipal Code (AMC) by amending Section 4-4 (Disposal Food Service Wear) to prohibit certain single-use plastics, such as straws and clarifying compostable food service requirements.


Respectfully submitted,

Liam Garland, Acting Public Works Director



Liam Garland, Acting Public Works Director


Financial Impact section reviewed,

Elena Adair, Finance Director



1.                     Alameda Municipal Code, Section 4-4 (current)

2.                     Alameda Municipal Code, Section 4-4 (proposed redlines)

3.                     Reusable, Recyclable, and Compostable Food Ware