The new ordinance allows a one-year grace period for small businesses with gross income of less than $500,000 annually to transition into the change.
Council members Scott Sherman, Mark Kersey and Chris Cate voted no, with Councilmember David Alvarez absent.
Besides restaurant take-out food containers, the new polystyrene ban includes other common styrofoam products such as coolers and beach toys.
The new ordinance, which needs to return to the Council for a final vote, also requires the City's Environmental Services Department to provide a list of safe, affordable styrofoam alternatives.
The Council vote followed considerable testimony by mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, and the California Restaurant Association, who opposed the ban insisting it was inequitable to small businesses. They argued that banning foam food take-out containers would force small restaurants to spend 54 to 145 percent more for alternative products.
"We are very concerned by the rush to pass a sweeping policy without data, without an economic analysis, and most importantly, without addressing the realities that the new mandated costs would have on small mom-and-pop restaurants already struggling to make ends meet,” said Chris Duggan of the California Restaurant Association.
District 3 Councilmember Chris Ward and District 1 Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry teamed to push for the styrofoam ban.
Following public testimony, Bry of La Jolla, characterized the styrofoam ban as a “step in the right direction,” adding the new ordinance, “Does give small businesses time to adapt.”
Bry said thoughts of her two grandchildren influenced her decision on the ban adding, “It makes for sound environmental policy.”
Lorie Zapf, of District 2, representing the Peninsula and Pacific and Mission beaches, concurred that the new ordinance was good on balance. “I was astounded at how much plastic and styrofoam makes its way into the ocean, bay and rivers,” Zapf said.
Noting she would have preferred a stronger single-use plastics ordinance, Zapf added, “I just feel we really need to move forward with this to protect our oceans, our marine life and ourselves.”
Ban opponent Sherman of District 7 pointed out styrofoam and plastic products ending up in the ocean are the fault of people. “The product does not cause the litter,” he said, adding, “Without more data, I can’t just jump on banning a product.”
Councilman Kersey of District 5 said he would feel better if the outcome of the ban was that “people recycle more or change their behavior.” Kersey added, “I think we need to do a better job of educating our communities (about plastic waste).”
“By passing this measure, the Council has reaffirmed our role as a national leader in pursuit of a safe, sustainable future and has made San Diego the largest city in California to ban styrofoam,” said Ward.
“The negative impacts of styrofoam are permanent and threaten the health of San Diegans, wildlife and industries critical to our region. The time has come for us to listen to community groups, non-profits and businesses that have been advocating for this change for years, and move away from styrofoam and plastics in San Diego.”