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Santa Monica moves toward smoking ban in apartments

July 11, 2012 | 12:59 pm

The Santa Monica City Council has approved an ordinance that would prohibit smoking for new tenants in apartments and condos.

The ordinance, passed Tuesday night by a 4-2 vote, would allow existing tenants to continue to smoke in their residences if they seek to have them designated as "smoking," said Adam Radinsky, head of the consumer protection unit of the Santa Monica city attorney's office. "If you want to keep your unit for smoking, you may do so, but you must speak up," he said.

That grandfathering in of existing tenants satisfied the chief concern of Patricia Hoffman, co-chairwoman of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights. "Protecting the rights of existing tenants in rent-controlled units was the biggie for me," she said.

Whether that condition will endure is uncertain. In a related action, the council directed city staff to recommend a date on which all existing apartment and condo units in the city would be deemed smoke-free. "They're asking for more information," Radinsky said. 

Santa Monica joins a growing number of other California cities seeking to curb the health effects of secondhand smoke. Among municipalities that have imposed restrictions are Huntington Park, Compton, Baldwin Park, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Burbank and Alameda. Many of those cities plan to designate apartments and condos as smoke-free during 2013.

Neither police nor landlords would be responsible for enforcing the new rules, Radinsky said. Should informal efforts to resolve disputes fail, neighbors could file actions in small claims court, with fines for smokers of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third.

Such penalties have proved to be deterrents, Radinsky said. "The overwhelming way these laws are effective is that the culture changes as a result of the law changing," he said.

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-- Martha Groves

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