City ordinances smoking residents out of Santa Monica

Since Santa Monica's expanded no smoking ordinance took effect on Sept 9, many residents living in multiple family residences have found themselves with nowhere to go. Last year's expansion of the No Smoking Ordinance, which added public areas like courtyards within apartment buildings to the list of places the city prohibits smoking is minor compared to this year's inclusion of multi-family residential balconies, patios, porches, and other outdoor locations that come within 25 ft of another's property.

A violation of Ordinance 2318 is punishable by a court-ordered fine, and only requires a brief notification phone call to Santa Monica Police.

Patricia Hoffman, co-chair for Santa Monicans for Renter's Rights, remains opposed to the expansion of the ordinance primarily because the expansion lacks protection for residents of multi-family dwellings by "not creating grounds for people to get evicted."

Hoffman has known a lot of families where the kids have been in and out of rehab, do not use drugs anymore, but continue to smoke. This places the parents of recovering addicts in a virtually unsolvable predicament of choosing between losing their Santa Monica apartment or losing their child.  And if the family should, "get evicted from a rent controlled apartment, that puts such a burden on people," said Hoffman.

According to Hoffman, it's not easy to find a vacant rent controlled apartment: imagine if you got evicted with a small child, no additional funds, and nowhere to live because your eldest child smokes cigarettes.

According to Adam Radinsky, Santa Monica's Deputy City Attorney for Consumer Protection, cigarette smoke "is not safe on any level."  However Hoffman believes that Radinsky is guilty of "reversing statistics" because "secondhand smoke has been shown to be harmful, but there isn't an established limit to how much you can be exposed to."

Radinsky said that, "most laws are made by ordinance, national laws, state, and city, and these laws help make it easier for residents."  Additionally, smokers should not look for sympathy from City Hall who views the habit as a "public health issue," and the ordinance as s "protection law."

Although it is still legal to smoke inside a multi-family unit, that could be the next to go, because according to Radinsky, "we have always passed these laws in phases."

Santa Monica is home to many buildings with shared ventilation units in which secondhand smoke could travel from one unit to another, and Radinsky said that this is another issue the city council is already looking at.

Additionally, Radinsky describes the constitutionality of City Hall's decision to ban smoking on privately leased outdoor areas as "a non-issue." He said that the U.S. Constitution doesn't "protect the right to smoke," and nobody will be grandfathered in, just as no residents received the right to a vote on expanding the ordinance.

However, while Hoffman questioned the popularity of the new laws in Santa Monica, Radinsky disagreed. "If anything, people say they don't go far enough," Radinsky said, estimating that City Hall receives, "a couple dozen complaints a year."

Even some professionals within City Hall seem to be struggling with the ban. According to Sandra Santiago, assistant to the City Manager, she sees, "well dressed men and women jumping out from behind trees and bushes" sneaking a cigarette.  "I guess they have it all measured out.  It's funny."