Council Passes Smoking Ban for Multi-Unit Residences
October 16, 2014
By Lynne Bronstein
Smoking-of any substance that creates smoke-is no longer legal within the walls of multiple unit residences (condos and apartments) in Culver City.
The Council on October 13 acted as anticipated and passed an ordinance that, by forbidding smoking in shared residences, would help to dissipate the threat of health hazards from second hand smoke.
The Council’s vote was 4-1 in favor of the smoking ban. The sole dissent came from Jeff Cooper who thought the ordinance, while well-intentioned, contained “no teeth” and would be impossible to enforce.
The issue of how to enforce a ban on a practice such as smoking in private residences was indeed not an easy one to resolve. While comments from the public, both at an initial discussion on August 11 and at the October 13 meeting, were largely in favor of a ban, a number of people from condo homeowner associations had their doubts and expressed fear of “smoking police” and an invasion of privacy.
Homeowners associations included those of large complexes like Raintree and The Meadows. Representatives from these and other HOAs (Homeowner Associations) suggested that smoking issues be resolved between landlords and tenants and by the HOAs themselves.
Cooper seemed to believe the problem was something for the individual tenant to resolve. He asked one speaker who complained about smoke affecting her health why she didn’t just move to another residence.
“It’s a stressful process,” she replied. “I just want to feel I have a stable home. We moved to this location because of its proximity to work.”
The other Council members however, supported the anti-smoking speakers. Andrew Weissman felt that the ordinance had been “a long time in coming” but was very welcome.
Jim Clare quoted an old adage that “the good is not the enemy of the perfect,” meaning that although the ordinance is not perfect, it is necessary and could be enforced by “voluntary compliance.”
The ordinance calls for “private enforcement” as City police would not have the time to do so. There will be anti-smoking signage in shared areas of multiple unit residences, including smoke-free “buffer zones” to be established within 25 feet in any direction of any doorway, window, opening, or other vent into an enclosed non-smoking area.
Substances that are prohibited include all tobacco products and medical marijuana. E-cigarettes are not included in the ban but the Council noted that a discussion on what to do about e-cigarettes in public spaces is imminent.
There will be an 18-month phase-in plan that will give landlords and HOA boards sufficient time to amend their rules and regulations to cooperate with the smoking ban. The phase-in plan includes a required period of time within which landlords and HOA boards must notify tenants and homeowners, as applicable, of the new smoking regulations and the “effective date” on which the non-smoking regulations will be enforced (18 months after the effective date of the ordinance).
Mehaul O’ Leary and Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells both suggested an additional motion to allow a review, one year after the ban takes effect, to pinpoint and correct any problems with the prohibition.
Assistant City Attorney Heather Baker explained that the one-year review could be included in the basic ordinance.
As for how the private enforcement will work and how long it might take, Baker noted the similar process when smoking was banned in Culver City restaurants and bars in 2000. Signage went up, people were warned by management, and gradually, people complied.
A spokesperson for the Culver City police said he did not recall the department receiving many complaints about non-compliance with the restaurant smoking ban –compared to complaints about loud noise “which we receive every week.”
“Education and warnings” concluded Baker, would in time, help people to comply with the residential anti-smoking regulation.