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An ordinance that proposed banning smoking for new occupancies of multiunit residences moved forward on Tuesday.
An ordinance that proposed banning smoking for new occupancies of multiunit residences moved forward on Tuesday.

News, City Council, Health, Santa Monica

Smoking To Be Banned In Santa Monica Apartments, Condos

Posted Jul. 13, 2012, 1:48 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Smokers across Santa Monica are on the verge of having one less place to light up: their own homes.

Four of the six city council members present at Tuesday’s public meeting voted in favor of an ordinance that proposed banning smoking for new occupancies of multiunit residences.

The ordinance would also designate all existing residential units in multi-unit properties are designated as either smoking or non-smoking, and that the smoking status of units be disclosed in certain ways.

“The primary purposes of the requirements would be to provide information to those making decisions about where to live, and to decrease exposure to second-hand smoke in residential properties,” City staff said. “Under the proposed law, current occupants of apartments and condominiums would be able to choose either smoking or non-smoking status for their dwelling unit. If a unit is designated non-smoking, then smoking would thereafter be prohibited in that unit. If a unit is vacated (including a smoking unit), the unit’s designation would be non-smoking for the next occupant and thereafter.”

Staff added: “The designate and disclose rule would not apply to properties or units that are already smoke-free.”

The proposed ordinance, which would not apply to single-family residences, also suggested “an explicit prohibition against smoking in all units that are designated non-smoking.”

“All current tenants who choose to designate their units for smoking, or those that remain undesignated, would be exempted,” City staff said. “Thus, all current tenants who smoke would thereby be allowed to continue smoking in their units.”

Nearly two dozen speakers addressed the council during the agenda item – many expressed support of the ordinance. Some speakers who lived in apartment complexes told the council they personally experienced difficulties with asthma because of tenants smoking in neighboring units.

“This ordinance would be a major step forward for the health of Santa Monica residents,” Michael Ong, a UCLA physician, Sunset Park resident, and new father told council members. “The bigger issue is for those places like multiunit housing, particularly apartment buildings or condominiums, the probability of (smoke) spreading is much higher because of all the shared spaces that exist between each of these different types of units or homes.”

Another resident, Willow Evans, applauded the ordinance, but pondered whether it was expansive enough.

“I know the ordinance before you will do a lot of good in this city,” Evans said. “However, what about the people that are suffering now? They would not be helped at all by this ordinance and would have no remedy except to move. It doesn’t help all the neighbors that are breathing smoke right now.”

Council member Bobby Shriver agreed, saying while Santa Monica often liked to consider itself a leader, in this situation, the city was a follower.

“We’re way behind the curve here. I don’t care what anybody else says. Santa Monica likes to think of itself as a leader. It’s a follower here,” Shriver said. “I see Pasadena taking the lead on this. I don’t know why we don’t have a policy where we say all the units are going to be smoke-free. Why isn’t that a good policy?”

Seven California cities already have similar but more expansive ordinances that will eventually apply to all multi-unit residential properties in those respective municipalities.

“We have dillydallied while people have presented these stories to us in the hope that somehow we’ll protect the tenancies of chain smokers over the tenancies of women with children who are coming down here and telling us about their asthmatic conditions,” Shriver continued.

He also said the full disclosure requirement “has to happen or none of this is meaningful.”

One of the two votes against the ordinance, Council member Kevin McKeown said while he is not a fan of smoking and supports controlling the consequences of secondhand smoke, he believes the ordinance, as proposed, is not completely equitable.

“I can accept the idea that all new buildings and even all new tenancies in existing buildings should be non smoking” McKeown said. “And that has am impact on freedom of people to live where they want to, but maybe that’s a trade off we have to make in the interest of public health. We need to keep health important. But I think we have to give a clean deal.

“I’m not comfortable with using second-hand smoke to create second-class citizens. I’m afraid that’s what the document and disclose of this provision is going to do.

McKeown said the full disclosure requirement would effectively mark units occupied by smoking tenants with a scarlet letter – or a “Yellow S.”

He continued that, as an unintended consequence of the ordinance, landlords may be motivated to find creative ways to have tenants of disclosed smoking units evicted in order to prevent future tenants from being scared away.

“It’s not so much that the other tenants will be upset, but if I’m the landlord of an apartment building, and I find as I am showing the property to new tenants, they look at the map, and they say, ‘Oh, you have a vacant unit and it’s next to a big Yellow S, I’m not going to move in there,’ doesn’t have to be a very smart landlord to start figuring out that that long-term tenant who is paying a lower rent because they’re rent controlled is keeping him from getting top market rate on the adjacent apartment,” McKeown, who was joined by Council member Pam O’Connor in dissent, explained.

“What do I do if I’m a landlord? I start to think of creative ways to encourage that person to move. I’ve spent my whole time on the city council trying to make sure that renters in this town don’t get encouraged to move for one reason or another,” he added.

City Hall began regulating smoking in residential areas in 2009, when the council approved an ordinance that prohibited smokers from lighting up in the common area spaces of an apartment complex or condominium. As part of the ban, secondhand smoke victims were permitted to sue smokers.

In 2011, another approved ordinance had banned smoking in any new hotel to be constructed within Santa Monica.

Tuesday evening’s vote now regulates smoking within private residences in multiunit properties. Once the second reading is approved – probably later this month – the new law would officially be on the books 30 days thereafter.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis was the sole council member absent July 10.

Post a comment


Jul. 13, 2012, 3:13:08 am

Ingrid said...

Everyday walking in Main Street or Promenade there are so many people smoking pot, and no one complain. Why the problem with cigarettes is so big? Cigarettes are not taxed enough for Santa Monica City? The way will be quit smoking and start smoking pot, since marijuana is more legal than cigarettes in this city....

Jul. 13, 2012, 3:13:39 am

laurie frank said...

This is as invasive and hurtful policy. Santa Monicans should be ashamed of their representatives. They have all lost my vote

Jul. 13, 2012, 3:40:09 am

franca m. paganucci said...

I Recommend YESof No Smoking everywhere that WE breath Air

Jul. 13, 2012, 3:49:09 am

franca M. paganucci said...

No POT SMOKING It KILLS our LUNGS, same is cigaretts!!!

Jul. 13, 2012, 5:00:23 am

CAROL said...

Yet another way we are slipping into a fascist state/city of the entitled republic of SMO

Jul. 13, 2012, 5:18:28 am

rip said...

How is this not constitutionally illegal on many, many grounds? I'd like to see this hold up in a court. What you do in your personal residence has many protections. Among which is right to privacy and the freedom to do things like get stinking drunk or walk around naked if you want to. Things that would be illegal in public places. Apparently, smoking pot is exempted from this? Why? I'm personally highly allergic to certain perfumes. It poses a real health risk to me. How about a ban on perfume use in public places and by neighbors? This is absurd, Nazi-esque legislation. I'm all for public health safety. But, as an American, not when sasid legislation impedes on my fundamental rights and freedoms as an American citizen.

Jul. 14, 2012, 2:05:01 am

xboomer said...

What about the the property owners? They should make the decisions about how their apartments are used. I remembered when Father's Office chose to have his bar "smoke free" That was his choice, thats the way it should be. If a property owners wants his building to be smoke free, that should be his choice, not the city.

Jul. 13, 2012, 1:50:50 pm

B. B. said...

Smoking is still LEGAL therefore this new "law" should be illegal. People are so concern about cigarettes but they are not about the carbon monoxide from CARS. This is 100% more dangerous than cigarettes. So, I will start a petition to banned cars in SM.

Jul. 15, 2012, 6:47:22 am

Native Santa Monican said...

I applaud the city council for bringing us to the 21st century. I know several people who've been suffering for years in the privacy of their own homes because the smokers living adjacent to them either don't care that their habit is causing harm to others, or because they disregard the sound science. Hats off to Shriver as well as to all the smokers who have been bringing their cigarettes outside for all these years.

Jul. 15, 2012, 7:39:31 pm

Michael J. McFadden said...

So, can you be evicted even if an overnight guest snuck a smoke in your bathroom or out on your balcony while you were fast asleep? And on forced registration: yes. If you had an administration comprised of strict pork-avoiding Muslims, can you now have a law passed registering those who might cook bacon/pork in their apartments and offend their neighbors (Aside from offensive odors, there's a health component to meat-frying fumes.) or if cat-hating-allergic-asthmatics took control you could have cat-owners registered? Amazing what you can do once you open that door, eh? Michael J. McFadden Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Jul. 17, 2012, 2:53:48 am

JasonLee said...


Jul. 17, 2012, 3:46:03 am

Marilyn said...

Instead of Santa Monica wasting time on an ordinance like this, why doesn't it concentrate on enforcing the immigration laws and invetigating Section 8 fraud in Santa Monica. I find this l law is a violation of civil rights,!!! Much like the rights people think are being violated when stopping illegals!!!!

Jul. 19, 2012, 9:25:36 am

Michele said...

I hope that someone sues under the constitution. I do not smoke but for these tinpot dictators to start telling people what they can or cannot do in their own homes is a step too far!! No soda drinking? No incense burning? No coal fires? No frying of food? This is fascism!

Jul. 21, 2012, 9:21:33 am

jonik said...

Doesn't anyone see problems in banning this and that use of so-called "tobacco" products, while not a word is said about banning the contamination of typical cigarettes with some of the worst of the worst industrial toxins and carcinogens? That's about severe imbalance..."imbalance" being a synonym for insanity. NOT banned are residues of any of 450 or so registered tobacco pesticides, carcinogenic radiation from PO-210-contaminated phosphate tobacco fertilizers, burn accelerants and other fire causing techniques, kid-attracting sweets and flavors galore, dioxin-creating chlorine pesticide residues and chlorine-bleached paper, addiction-enhancing additives, fake tobacco "helper" made from non-organic industrial waste cellulose, or any of the 1400 or so untested, non-tobacco additives that manufacturers select from to concoct their secret recipes. None of that's banned. But the unwitting, unprotected, secretly-poisoned, sickened, defrauded and even killed victims are blamed and prosecuted. The injustice is significant....whether or not one smokes or likes the smell of tobacco or cigarettes or not. Check out for ample references to use to become informed on this topic. By the way, a REAL "nanny" would protect "her" children from those non-tobacco cigarette toxins and carcinogens and the rest. This govt is no more a "nanny", by blaming the victims of big time corporate crime, than the man in the moon.

Jul. 24, 2012, 6:46:09 am

Bill S said...

Smoking ban in 2013 or 2015? - YES! This ordinance? NO!! This ordinance requiring a public registry of smoking status will decrease my property value 25-50% overnight because I live next to a chain smoker and no one will ever buy my unit if a scarlet "S" is next to my unit. This ordinance has no recourse for me - ever. My neighbor will not move, I have lost 50% of my condo's value overnight, and I have to endure his smoke through my walls forever. PLEASE City Council, do not pass this ordinance for condos! It works for apartments because tenants don't own and there is turnover, but it doesn't work for condo owners. I'm the non-smoking advocate, and it is a LOSE-LOSE proposition for me and all condo owners in my situation. My chain smoking neighbor is the WINNER!

Jul. 25, 2012, 11:01:34 am

Michael J. McFadden said...

BillS, you claim the bill will lower the value of your unit by 50% when a prospective buyer learns it will be next door to a smoker. Yet at the same time you claim you "have to endure the smoke through the walls FOREVER!" If the smoke is REALLY coming through the walls so much that you have to ENDURE it.... don't you think the prospective buyers who would be "put off" by the Big Red S on the door might notice it? Or could it be that a mild scent of smoke is unnoticeable and infrequent enough that you don't expect prospective buyers to have a problem with it when inspecting your condo unit? - MJM

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