Taking up the habit
Pasadena City Council set to discuss smoking ban for apartments and condos
By Jake Armstrong 03/31/2011
Pasadena City Council members will consider further snuffing out tobacco smoke in the city when they discuss a clampdown on lighting up near condos and apartments Monday night.
After more than a year of discussion in committee on such a ban, the council will debate declaring secondhand smoke a public nuisance as well as placing smoking prohibitions on patios, balconies and common areas of residential complexes with two or more units.
Violations would be an infraction, but the ordinance would not extend to all 33,717 multi-family units in the city until 2014, the deadline city staff is proposing.
Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, a member of the Public Safety Committee, which has been discussing the issue for the past year, said she leaned toward supporting a ban because nonsmokers — about 88 percent of the city’s population — have no other ways to avoid smoke at home.
“I think it is an issue we have to address as a city,” she said. “As much as it is an individual right for someone to smoke or engage in that activity, it is also someone else’s right not to be subjected to it.”
But in a city that has already acted to ban smoking in most public places, the question among supporters is, Why the wait?
After living with secondhand smoke for 20 years, Nancy Sagatelian, one of the most vocal supporters of the ordinance, says the nearly three-year phase-in period city staff proposes is too long of a wait for people already living with unwanted smoke in their apartments.
“There’s no need for something that long. We’re not trailblazing,” she said, adding that several other cities with similar ordinances acted in as little as 17 months to enact a full ban. South Pasadena and Glendale have both enacted bans in recent years.
How a city shedding staff and cutting budgets will enforce a new anti-smoking ordinance is another question. But Sagatelian believes that may be an overreaction. “Once we pass this ordinance they won’t have to work on this issue anymore and they can concentrate their efforts on enforcement,” Sagatelian said.
In 2009, the Pasadena City Council unanimously outlawed smoking outdoors at shopping malls, bars, restaurants and near lines for ATMs or movie tickets. Five years prior to that, the council voted to prohibit smoking in city parks and within 20 feet of workplace entrances.
A multi-unit smoking ordinance would have benefits beyond better health, and support is widespread among those it would affect, according to city staff.
Fourteen fires — six in brush, three at structures, one in the trash and four others — have been associated with tobacco use, according to the Pasadena Fire Department. A ban could reduce maintenance and fire insurance costs, city staff said.
Nearly 80 percent of residents in multi-unit buildings said they wanted to keep smoke from entering their apartments, with 72 percent supporting an all-out tobacco ban for their building, according to a city survey of multi-unit dwellers.
The council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers at Pasadena City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Ave., Pasadena.