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Council to Consider Strengthening Smoking Ban

By Lookout Staff

April 8 -- The City Council Tuesday night is expected to boost Santa Monica’s anti-smoking laws by making business owners more liable, requiring more signage and banning smoking on all library grounds.

The council also could take initial steps to curb, if not ban, smoking in multi-unit residences, following the lead of ten other California cities.

One of the key provisions of the proposed ordinance would make business owners and managers liable for “knowingly and intentionally” allowing smoking in outdoor dining areas in violation of a ban approved by the council in November 2006.

Last December, the council heard evidence that restaurant and bar owners are not enforcing the ordinance. Between January and August of last year, Santa Monica Police issued 19 citations to restaurant patrons caught smoking outdoors.

Under the proposed ordinance, City staff, and not the police, would conduct “periodic undercover inspections” at outdoor dining areas, according to the staff report.

The new law would also reduce the fines for all violations of the smoking ordinance from $250 to $100 for first violations and require that outdoor dining areas include no-smoking signs “sufficient to apprise all diners of the law,” staff wrote

Similar fines and signage laws have been enacted in Calabasas, Burbank and Beverly Hills.

“City Attorney and Police Department staff have received complaints from some cited individuals that the $250 fee is disproportionately high, especially when taking into account the mandatory penalty assessment that the court adds in every criminal case, which increases the actual amount paid in some cases to $920,” staff wrote in its report.

The new law also would impose a “curb-to-curb” ban on smoking on library grounds, including “all ramps, walkways, and other common areas,” according to staff.

The council also will be presented with options to possibly regulate smoking in multi-unit residential buildings.

In the past year, staff has received some two dozen complaints and inquiries from the public on this issue, staff said. The inquiries seem to be increasing in recent months.

“Some tenants have complained that their health (or their children’s) is being damaged by other tenants’ smoking and they have requested action by the City to address this problem since no current law directly covers this conduct,” staff wrote.

But a ban on smoking in apartments could meet political resistance.

“Two concerns in this area raised at the previous Council meeting were preserving rent control tenants’ rights and educating landlords about potential legal measures to protect tenants from second-hand smoke while not infringing on smoking tenants’ legal rights,” staff wrote.

“Some have voiced a concern that anti-smoking laws might be used by some landlords to evict rent-controlled tenants,” staff wrote.

“Others have voiced a concern that smoking might be considered a ‘housing service’ for which a tenant would be entitled to compensation for removing, and which could create eviction protections in a tenant.”





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