California may have to say goodbye to plastic straws come January 1, but Santa Monica is ditching a wider variety of plastic in the new year.

A state law requiring restaurants to only give out straws on request is not the only new state law that will impact the city. In 2019, e-scooter riders will no longer be required to wear helmets, the City of Santa Monica will have to find a way to regulate street vending and a law requiring elections to be held in March or November may throw a wrench in the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit against the City.

It will be straightforward for Santa Monica to comply with California’s plastic straw ban, at least, given the city’s January 1, 2019 ban on disposable food packaging goes above and beyond the state law. The ordinance is meant to protect Santa Monica Bay from plastic pollution and reduce landfilled waste in accordance with the City’s goal to achieve zero waste by 2030. Enforcement will start July 1, 2019.

In addition to straws, Santa Monica will prohibit disposable plastic utensils, plates and containers, among other plastic, bio-plastic and aluminum packaging.

Marine-degradable straws and utensils may be provided upon request, and businesses can use plastic cups and cup lids until January 1, 2020 because marine-degradable versions are not yet available.

The new state law on helmets will be more complicated to deal with for local officials. Assembly Bill 2829 was introduced by a Republican state assemblymember from the San Joaquin Valley with backing from Bird.

“We’re not wild about that law,” said City Manager Rick Cole.

Cole said the City ticketed many e-scooter riders for not wearing helmets last year and will continue to ask the four companies the City is working with under its Shared Mobility Program to encourage riders to wear helmets. The City will also focus on keeping riders off the sidewalk, he said.

While the helmet law doesn’t leave much for local lawmakers to grapple with, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in September, forces Santa Monica to develop its own regulations on street vendors now that selling food on city streets is no longer a crime.

City code currently prohibits street vending without the proper permits. The City has not yet conducted enough community outreach to form a new ordinance but will be accelerating that process in 2019, Cole said.

Writing new rules will be challenging because the City will have to balance many concerns, he said. On one hand, street vending without a health permit presents a clear safety risk, and Cole said vendors on the Santa Monica Pier create a nuisance by crowding the space and sometimes physically fighting each other. Brick-and-mortar businesses also say selling food without paying the overhead costs associated with a restaurant creates unfair competition.

On the other hand, Cole said, prosecuting street vendors makes them vulnerable to deportation if they are in the country illegally. Advocates for immigrant rights argue that street vending is simply a way for immigrants to earn a livelihood and meet a demand for fresh fruit, hot dogs and churros.

Lastly, Cole said that a law that went into effect on January 1, 2018 could have consequences for the CVRA lawsuit against the City. The California Voter Participation Rights Act (CVPRA) requires municipalities with low voter turnout to hold elections at the same time as statewide races, making it easier for Californians to know when to vote.

The plaintiffs in the CVRA case are asking that the City hold a special election in April to elect members to the City Council in a district-based system. Last week, a judge banned the City from holding at-large elections and said it must elect councilmembers by district, a decision the City plans to appeal.

But the CVPRA stipulates that Santa Monica would need to hold such an election in either March or November. (The state recently moved its primary date to March to increase California’s impact on presidential elections.)

Cole said City attorneys believe the judge will grant the City an automatic stay if it appeals, meaning that if the City does hold a district-based election, it would not happen until November.

“That’s the law that we think has the most direct impact on Santa Monica,” he said.

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  1. Street vendors should pot be allowed , crowing sidewalks plus unsanitary, are they going to pay business license and who is motioning all the illegals .

  2. Its horrible seeing the illegal food vendors on the pier, they crowd the walkway and sell food thats not safe…get rid of them!

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