Court Hearing on San Francisco Bag Legislation

Every day, new cities, counties and states contemplate bag regulations.  They also are reviewing what issues they may face if such an ordinance is implemented.  Recently the City of San Francisco closed their court case on bag regulations.

The California’s Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, affirmed San Francisco’s plastic bag ban and upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the City.  The appellant must also pay to recover the City’s costs in dealing with yet another lawsuit from the industry.

San Francisco passed the first plastic bag ban in the nation in 2007. In 2012, the City expanded its ban to include all retail stores and restaurants.  The city was then sued by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (SPBC) on the basis that the City had failed to comply with California Environmental Quality Act requirements and had included restaurants in the ban.

SPBC argued that the ordinance would potentially result in significant environmental impact, triggering the need for a full Environmental Impact Report rather than the Categorical Exemption that was used, and also argued that California Retail Food Code preempted the banning of plastic carryout bags in restaurants.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri L. Jackson delivered a verbal ruling in favor of San Francisco and its plastic bag ordinance in September of 2012, summarily rejecting both arguments from SPBC. SPBC then challenged the ruling in California’s First Appellate District Court.

The oral argument on the appeal was held on November 12, 2013. The Court of Appeals released its disposition, written by Justice Paul Haerle and concurred by Justice James Richman and Justice Anthony Cline:

“The judgment is affirmed. Respondents shall recover their costs on appeal.”

The Court found that SPBC had failed to establish that the City had erred in choosing a Categorical Exemption or that its ordinance met an “unusual circumstance” exception.  Additionally, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Superior Court that the bag ordinance was not preempted by the Retail Food Code because it did not establish any health or safety standards: “the 2012 ordinance regulates single use checkout bags, not food safety.”

A total of 90 cities or counties across the state of California, including the inland communities of Davis, South Lake Tahoe, and Truckee, have voted to ban plastic grocery bags. Roughly one in three Californians is living in one of those communities. Make sure to keep checking our website for updates on single use bag legislation that is pending or being implemented.   Our retail packaging specialists stay on top of the ever changing market conditions.  Let us help you navigate bag legislation in the municipalities you sell into and select the best packaging for your stores.   We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at baglaws@swalter.com.