The Half Moon Bay City Council recently voted to ban single-use plastics on city-owned beaches and parks. 

The council during the late July meeting also signed off on several other updates to the municipal code to officially allow alcohol consumption on the city’s beaches, but not in parks; create new rules for dog walking and also make it easier to allow bonfires on city-owned beaches in the future, though they currently remain banned. 

The new rules were adopted on first reading, meaning a second vote 30 days later is required before they take effect. 

Poplar Beach is the main beach owned by the city, but it also owns Redondo Beach and the parking lot for coastal access at 1 Miramontes Point Road. Most San Mateo County beaches are owned by the state.

The updated code prohibits the use and possession of one-liter or smaller single-use plastic bottles at the city’s beaches and parks “to protect our unique environment and to reduce the potential for migration of plastic into local creeks and the Pacific Ocean.”

Public Works Director John Doughty during the meeting said the ban on single-use plastics is consistent with the council’s sustainability strategic initiative and mirrors bans at the San Francisco International Airport and elsewhere.  

“I’m thrilled about the single-use plastic [ban]. I can’t believe we’re doing it and I’m tickled to death,” said Councilwoman Deborah Penrose.

While alcohol consumption continues to be permitted at the city’s beaches, Councilman Robert Brownstone suggested it be prohibited during certain hours in response to growing concerns among those who live near beaches about late night partying on them. Alcohol is prohibited on state beaches. 

Professional dog walkers have been required to obtain a permit and the updated code extends that requirement to anyone walking more than three dogs at a time in the city.

The code also now includes clarifying language to allow the council to establish off-leash areas without going back and modifying the ordinance to identify specific locations.

“There are no specific plans for that, but it would provide that opportunity,” said Doughty, adding that council approval would still be required.

Bonfires on the city’s beaches remain banned, but the updated code makes it easier for the council to allow them in the future if it so desires. Doughty said the city has no immediate plans to allow fires, but added officials have in the past discussed the possibility of installing a handful of fire pits on Poplar Beach during the summer months that would require users to sign up and pay a small fee.

“With COVID-19, we’ve never been able to move forward in thinking about it, but this would preclude having to come back again and do an ordinance revision to enact a program that we think might make some sense,” Doughty said, adding he “constantly” hears about illegal fires at Poplar Beach.

Speaking about a potential city-run bonfire program at Poplar Beach, Mayor Adam Eisen said: “It might work, it might not work.”

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