The idea behind the city law passed in February had been to ban plastic bags from the checkout counters of San Diego's retailers. But as code enforcement geared up for the start of the ban on Tuesday, a diligent clerk noticed something: There was no mention of “plastic” in the law. It wasn't just plastic bags that had been banned. It was all bags.
“I must have read that thing 20 times,” said Deputy City Clerk Laura Schneerson. “I showed it to my boss, and his boss, and her boss. It just wasn't there.”
How did this happen?
“We'd been listening to public comment for 11 hours,” said City Councilmember Donna Frye, referring to the Feb. 11 meeting. “Then [Councilmember] Kevin Faulconer and I were going back and forth with amendments for another three hours. The word must have disappeared then.”
CityBeat tried to review the videotape from the session but grew too bored and stopped.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told CityBeat that he noticed the omission right away but decided not to say anything.“I'm just the city's lawyer, not a policy maker,” Goldsmith said.
San Diegans spent Tuesday trying to cope with the bag ban. Lawyers clutched bundles of paper to their chest as they walked to the Hall of Justice, and children balanced piles of books on their heads. Police were strict with those who failed to comply.
“I just had a bag lunch,” said David Cross as police took him away in cuffs. “I didn't think it counted.”Meanwhile, travelers at Lindbergh Field struggled. Some people showed up with armloads of clothing and demanded they be allowed to check the piles as baggage. Others got more creative.
“We're visiting my parents for a week,” said Marko Latch, a sports fisherman on his way to Washington. “I had to think of something.” Next to Latch sat his “carry balls,” two 3-foot balls of clothing and toiletries held together with duct tape and fishing line. The balls were linked by a long stick that Latch would hoist up on his shoulders, which he called his “travel yoke.”
Other travelers opted to simply not bring anything to their destinations.
“I'm going to Vegas for the weekend,” said Adam Smith. “I'm not going to shower or sleep—so why change clothing?”San Diego's clown population saw a business opportunity, as their ability to juggle five objects reduces their reliance on bags. One clown, Aaron Goldstein, saw a chance to start a new businesses.
“The high unemployment rate has really helped us out this time,” said Goldstein, owner of the newly formed San Diego Sherpa Service. Goldstein said he had no trouble staffing up on short notice.
City Council President Ben Hueso promised to docket a fix to the law “as soon as possible.” Hueso noted that the recent discovery of the Magic Budget Fairy locked in a desk once belonging to Fred Sainz, former spokesperson for Mayor Jerry Sanders, had opened up a lot of time on the council's calendar.
This story was part of our April Fool's Day issue of 2009. Don't believe it.