Council doesn’t approve contract with Starchase, holds fire on plastics ban

There were two major topics of discussion at the City Council meeting on the evening of Monday, April 29.

Action Item 1 called for “Discussion of proposals from Ballona Creek Renaissance to ban single-use plastic beverage bottles, balloons, smoking, and single-use bags not exempted by California Public Resources Code.”

A staff presentation revealed that code SB 54 already states that “all single use packaging and food ware must be recyclable or compostable by 2032,” and there must be a “25% reduction in plastic material by 2032, and 65% recycling rate for all plastics by 2032.”

This proposal by Ballona Creek Renaissance aims to go further still. However, staff pointed out that there are negatives: a shift to glass and aluminum can leave a greater carbon footprint, more staff will be required, and it could affect sales revenue in the city.

Balloons can have a devastating effect on the waterways when they land and are not properly disposed of. Staff did advise that better education to the public about the disposal of balloons might be more effective than an outright ban.

Similarly, plastic bags have been a scourge to the environment since they were introduced in the 1960s. However, this issue seems to be being addressed at state level, so staff advised that it may be redundant to attempt to combat it at local level.

Finally, cigarettes remain the nation’s most littered item and it is the filters which don’t break down. A smoking ban in all public places is a popular choice, though very difficult to enforce. 

Council member Albert Vera said that, without engagement with the community before banning anything, the council would be doing the community a disservice.

Ultimately, the decision was to hold fire on any band and send the issues back to the Sustainability Subcommittee for further discussion, with the aim being to wrap up the decisions by the end of 2024. There were no objections from the council.

Later, Action Item 2 called for the council to approve a contract in the amount of $143,689 with Starchase to “provide pursuit mitigation technology.”

A presentation by CCPD chief Jason Sims stated that there was a 40 percent increase in vehicle pursuits in 2023 compared to the previous year. 

Starchase’s Pursuit Mitigation Technology works by deploying a foam GPS tracker which attaches to the car they are pursuing. 

“Data shows that offenders who flee, typically return to normal driving patterns shortly after the deployment of Star Chase,” stated the Chief. “[This] allows for proper allocation of resources in a controlled environment.”

Staff recommended the City Council “approve a three-year contract with Star Chase to provide Pursuit Mitigation Technology in an amount not to exceed $143,688.86.”

However, both Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin and Council Member Freddy Puza were uncomfortable with the issue of surveillance and the potential for misuse, with the Mayor citing the Fourth Amendment, which “protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.”

With Council Member Goran Eriksson absent, the vote was 2-2, and so the item failed to pass.