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Santa Monica Council Revives Smoking Ban in Apartments

Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City Council

Ted Winterer for City Council 2012

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Re-elect Robert Kronovet for Rent Control Board

Pico Business Improvement District
7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

October 4, 2012 -- The Santa Monica City Council banned smoking in all new apartments after a 5-to-2 vote Tuesday finally approved a smoking ban after over a year of debate.

The ordinance, which which would prohibit smoking in new apartments and in all new tenancies, passed only after much debate over the “designate and disclose” portion of the ordinance, a caveat that requires tenants to tell their landlords whether they want their apartment to be smoking, non-smoking or undisclosed.

This is the third time the ordinance has come before the Council.

Council members Bobby Shriver and Bob Holbrook thought that an ordinance with the third option -- undisclosed -- did not go far enough.

“Our goal is for people who move into apartments to know whether the people next to them are smokers,” said Shriver. “The way this ordinance is structured now, there's zero incentive to designate a unit non-smoking.”

Shriver said that it wasn't fair to prospective renters that they would not know whether their future neighbors are smokers.

Instead, Shriver offered a substitute motion similar to one that failed before the Council in July, which would have designated each undisclosed unit automatically as non-smoking.

That motion failed.

Mayor Pro Tem Davis thought that would lead to “jeopardizing people's tenancies,” pointing out that for any number of reasons, a smoker could miss the opportunity to designate his or her apartment as a smoking unit and then be subject to eviction.

“You can't move from smoking to non-smoking,” she said.

Holbrook agreed with Shriver, saying “We need to take a stronger stance.”

He said that because the ordinance, as proposed by staff, allows for an undisclosed designation, and undisclosed apartments would only become non-smoking after a new tenant moved in, it could take upwards of eight years - - which Holbrook said was the average turn-around rate for an apartment in Santa Monica -- before those apartments become non-smoking.

Council member Kevin McKeown has maintained that though he agrees with banning smoking in apartments, the designate and disclose clause will lead to a smokers being harassed by landlords and neighbors.

Ultimately, Davis won over the majority of the Council with a motion that would allow for three designation option -- smoking, non-smoking and undisclosed -- but also would remind tenants that they could not be evicted simply for telling their landlord that they want their apartment to be a smoking apartment.

Her motion -- the fourth of the evening -- won 5-to-2, with Council member Pam O'Connor and McKeown voting against it.

Holbrook's “yes” vote came with a caveat - - that he could bring the matter up again in front of the Council after the November 6 election.

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