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News, City Council, Santa Monica

Santa Monica City Council Opposes Bill To Criminalize Smoking Indoors

Posted Mar. 25, 2013, 9:43 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Santa Monica is no stranger to regulating smoking in multi-unit housing. However, when a freshman assemblyman recently introduced a bill to potentially allow landlords to evict a tenant for smoking in a multi-unit property, the Santa Monica council cried foul.

For the final topic of council’s Tuesday special meeting, Council member Kevin McKeown requested his colleagues join him in going on the record to oppose Assembly Bill 746, which would, as City staff phrased it, prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of multi-family dwellings, including within the units of existing tenants otherwise protected by rent control and/or other local housing security and stability measures.

Non-compliance with the smoking prohibition would make smokers subject to eviction.

McKeown explained how the proposed bill would make smoking within any multi-family unit a criminal infraction.

“We have been extraordinarily careful in balancing health concerns against housing stability to craft ordinances in Santa Monica that would not lead to the eviction of anybody,” McKeown said. “In Santa Monica, you can only be evicted for just cause. Criminal activity in your unit is just cause for eviction. So this law, as it has been introduced, means people would be evicted from … a rent-controlled (unit). Given our history of being so careful I think we now need to make a statement.”

McKeown also said he understood the health concerns of wanting to regulate smoking in multi-unit properties. Yet keeping people within their homes was also a primary right worth protecting.

“Many of the anti-smoking advocates are rightfully concerned about health but don’t realize in Santa Monica, with rent control and housing stability, we also want to keep people in their housing,” McKeown said. “Preventing evictions is still important to us.”

Council member Ted Winterer added he hoped Santa Monica, not Sacramento, would retain control over whether a tenant in a multi-unit complex could be evicted for smoking.

The sole nay vote was cast by Council member Bob Holbrook, explaining there is very little difference between the risk of dying from smoking or dying from secondhand smoke.

Under state law, a landlord cannot evict a tenant of multi-unit housing for smoking.

“This bill would prohibit the smoking of a cigarette or other tobacco products in all areas of multifamily dwellings, except those areas designated as areas where smoking is permitted, as specified,” language from the proposed bill reads. “This bill would define, for the purposes of these provisions, multifamily dwellings to mean residential property containing 2 or more units with one or more shared walls, floors, ceilings, or ventilation systems. This bill would provide that any person who violates the requirements of the bill is guilty of an infraction. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”

The bill was introduced by freshman Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael).

It was clarified during the discussion that the opposition would only apply to the bill as currently written. Should the bill be amended to include more protections for renters, the council could rescind its opposition.

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