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Smoking Banned in New Hotels, Not New Residences

The Santa Monica City Council will revisit possible prohibitions to smoking in residential units in as few as 90 days.

Santa Monica is snuffing out smoking in new hotels.

Tenants of apartment complexes, condominiums and other multi-unit residences, however, can continue puffing.

The City Council on Tuesday, responding to “mounting public health concerns” related to secondhand smoke that wafts through shared ventilation systems, voted 5-1 to place the restrictions on hotels. A majority, however, said they weren’t ready to do the same to people's homes.

"If we're going to do this, I want to do it right," said Councilwoman Gleam Davis.

Before the council was a proposal to prohibit smoking in newly constructed and newly vacated residential units. It would have also required that all existing residential units in multi-unit properties be designated as either smoking or nonsmoking and that landlords and homeowners associations maintain rosters of all units’ smoking status. The rosters would then be distributed to current and prospective occupants.

Landlords objected, saying that would violate their tenants' privacy; residents said they felt discriminated against; and even a few council members said there were holes in the proposal, such as how the ban would apply to smokers of medicinal marijuana and how it would jibe with

The council will reconsider a revamped proposal in as few as 90 days. The ban on hotels will require a final vote, likely to take place at a meeting in January.

“The prudent thing for us to do is pause,” said Councilman Kevin McKeown.

Two council members advocated for the immediate passage.

“People are smoking, putting the smoke into the ventilation systems, and it's pumped right into that little child's house,” said Councilman Bobby Shriver. "It’s a sad day ... that the council has failed to pass this."

But McKeown said the proposed prohibition overreached and that the city had moved “to somehow trying to make all of Santa Monica a smoke-free zone.”

The city has incrementally placed prohibitions on smoking. In June 2010, the council banned smoking in common areas and patios of multi-unit residences. Four years earlier, it placed a ban on the and outdoor dining areas. At that time, lighting up on the beach was already prohibited.

Councilman Robert Holbrook, a pharmacist, joined Shriver in wanting the ban passed Tuesday night. Those who want to smoke will adapt; they will take a walk outside, smoke inside their cars or find some other place to do it, he said.

"Smoke is pervasive; it will creep under door jambs and everywhere else," he said. "It's tough. It's really hard on people who don't smoke and who are trying to remain healthy."

The decision to delay the vote was prompted by Sarah Letts, executive director of Community Corp. of Santa Monica, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable housing in the Los Angeles area.

She asked for more time to research how landlords would implement the ban.

"It raises a lot of questions and concerns," she said, including those of personal privacy. Landlords would be required to deliver to each unit a final designation list that would essentially “call out tenants who are engaging in a private activity."

The council also heard from tenants whose asthmatic children were sickened by smoke coming from neighbors' homes. They also heard from representatives of the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Michael Ong, chair of the state's Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee; and several local pediatricians.

"I have had many pediatric patients whose asthma and other conditions were worsened by secondhand smoke," said Cambria Garell, a third-year resident in UCLA's pediatric program and a volunteer at a local clinic on Pico Boulevard.

Garrell said she's written pleas on behalf of her patients—many of whom cannot afford to relocate—to landlords, asking them to move them into a unit away from smokers.

A new state law set to take effect in January would allow landlords to designate a rental unit or an entire apartment complex as "nonsmoking."

While many apartment complexes already have smoke-free policies, until now there was nothing in state law that explicitly permitted a landlord to restrict smoking.

The law requires landlords to place smoking restrictions in rental agreements. Tenants violating the terms of the rental agreement would be at risk of eviction, unless they are tenants of a rent-controlled complex.

City Councilman Terry O'Day was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

lahope December 14, 2011 at 03:42 PM
If smoking endangers the health of other residents, especially children, why should tenants of a rent controlled complex be exempt from a no smoking restriction?

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