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Council Expands Residential Smoking Ban  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

July 29, 2010 – The City Council on Tuesday strengthened second-hand smoking protection in multi-family residential buildings with a ban on smoking within a 25-foot radius of doors and windows. Smoking is already not allowed in common areas, but this new restriction will cover private balconies, patios and other areas from which smoke can travel to other units and common areas.

As when the council members approved the common area ban last year, they did not approve any penalties for violating the restriction. Those who are bothered by a violator can take the person to small claims court. Nearly all the council members admitted this was not a great solution, but some feared including an infraction could lead to evictions.

“It’s the classic ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions,’” Council member Gleam Davis said. “What we are doing here is walking a very thin line trying to weigh and protect the rights of non-smokers and the rights of tenants.”

Mayor Bobby Shriver wants penalties for violations. He was the lone vote against the measure because he said it was not strong enough. Although he did not specify he wanted a ban on smoking within a unit, something some activists have demanded, Shriver said one does not have the right to do whatever he or she pleases in the home.

“Even though I fully take the home is your castle kind of concept, it’s not your castle for various things already under the law,” Shriver said. “You can’t have certain controlled substances in your home. You can’t engage in certain kinds of activities in your home. And why your right to engage in putting carcinogens into babies should be protected is beyond me.”

Shriver wanted to include a staff-proposed provision that requires landlords to designate units as smoking and non-smoking. This would be determined through a poll of the tenants. Once a tenant decides a unit is non-smoking, the person should be evicted if he or she smokes, Shriver said.

“That’s fraud or lying or whatever you want to call it in a colloquial sense,” Shriver said. “And I don’t think that tenancy deserves any protection.”

The majority of the council members at the meeting did not want to include the designation concept until they could get be assured of protection from eviction. Council member Kevin McKeown said he would feel comfortable taking a look at the concept again in November after residents vote on the ballot measure that requires “just cause” evictions among other tenant protections. If this measure is approved, he said this would eliminate the possibility of people being evicted for smoking in non-smoking units.

The council also asked staff to gather more information about banning smoking in hotels as well as all future residential units. Davis said she wanted information on the demographics of smokers, and whether it is true that low-income people are more likely to smoke. McKeown said he worried about gentrification.

“If we say that all [future] housing has to prohibit smokers from being housed, are we then condemning the homeless and the homeless veterans that have taken up smoking from being housed in Santa Monica?” McKeown asked. “I’m not saying I’ve made up my mind on the issue, but I want to get the information to evaluate it.”

Council member Robert Holbrook said he would not be persuaded by information that low-income people are more likely to smoke.

“If people need low-cost housing and it’s available in Santa Monica, then they just better quit smoking,” Holbrook said. “I think it ultimately is better for their lives in the long run.”

 

"Even though I fully take the home is your castle kind of concept, it's not your castle for various things already under the law. You can't have certain controlled substances in your home. You can't engage in certain kinds of activities in your home. And why your right to engage in putting carcinogens into babies should be protected is beyond me."
  Bobby Shriver

“If we say that all [future] housing has to prohibit smokers from being housed, are we then condemning the homeless and the homeless veterans that have taken up smoking from being housed in Santa Monica?”
    Kevin McKeown

 

“If people need low-cost housing and it’s available in Santa Monica, then they just better quit smoking, I think it ultimately is better for their lives in the long run.”
   Robert Holbrook

 

 


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