February 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Outdoor Smoking Ordinance:

The first five days of Santa Monica’s expanded outdoor smoking law went off without incident, according to SMPD spokesman Cpt. Alex Padilla (no arrests, no citations) and Consumer Affairs Specialist Paula Rockenstein of the City Attorney’s Office (just telephone calls with questions and requests for additional brochures).

Much effort went into the lead-up to the Thanksgiving Day effective date of the ordinance. A logo and a button were designed, a website was established (www.freshairsantamonica.org), brochures and fliers were prepared and distributed, signs bearing the logo were distributed to merchants, Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky met the roll call at each of the Police Department shifts to explain the new law and its enforcement and the Big Blue Bus ordered signs for bus stops. On Thursday, November 16, one week before the effective date, the Chamber of Commerce and the City Attorney’s Office hosted an educational forum to prepare businesses for the new law, and about 50 business people, residents and other interested parties attended.

Both new Chamber President Jim Lynch and Radinsky acknowledged the importance of tourism to Santa Monica, and they strove to put a positive face on the new law as a vehicle to promote “the beauty and health of our community.” The meeting settled down to specific questions concerning the application of the ordinance. Some examples:

Any building open to the public. Smoking is prohibited “within 20 feet of the entrance, exit or open window of any building open to the public.” Radinsky said this does not apply to residential buildings; it does apply to stores, restaurants and the like. Thus the patrons of, say, a bar on Main Street cannot smoke within 20 feet of the door of the bar, but must walk down the sidewalk until they are 20 feet from that door – or any other “open” door. Early in the meeting, Radinsky said that a building “open to the public” included a store that was closed for the evening so long as it was regularly open to the public, although he added that he did not expect the prohibition to be enforced in such a case. Later in the meeting, he indicated that the ordinance would simply not apply to a store that was closed at the time.

Bus stops. Smoking is prohibited at any “outdoor service area” – that is, “a place where people use or wait for services…” including “bus stops, ATM lines, information kiosks and theater lines.” A woman who admitted to being a former smoker who “loves secondhand smoke” commented that the bus stop rule was unfortunate since everyone knew that the smoker lighting up was what made the bus arrive. She then asked Radinsky what the limits of a “bus stop” were. He first noted that there was no 20-foot rule at bus stops and then explained that the size of the stop grew or contracted to encompass an area reasonably necessary for the number of people waiting for the bus – if there were only one or two waiting, it was simply the bench; if more were waiting, the area would be larger.

Outdoor dining areas. Smoking is prohibited in any “non-residential location where food or beverages are served by a business or routinely consumed by customers.” A hotel operator inquired about the poolside deck, which was not a café area in the usual sense but to which the hotel would deliver cocktails at the special request of a guest. This reporter did not hear a definitive answer to that question.

A few hotel and restaurant businesses posed particular problems concerning the relative layout of dining patios, valet parking waiting areas, service entrances and nearby bus stops that caused one senseless jokester to ask whether the City Attorney’s Office would dispatch teams of surveyors armed with transits, leveling rods and chalked string to businesses on request.

Citations for violation of the new provisions carry a $250 fine, the same as the fine for the prior smoking ordinance. Businesses cannot be cited under the law, only the smokers, but “business owners are expected to request that their customers follow the law – as with similar laws for indoor smoking, fighting and disturbing the peace,” according to the City Attorney’s Office. The law will be enforced with warnings at first, as citizens are becoming familiar with its provisions, and it is expected that “voluntary compliance” will become the norm as it has with earlier smoking ordinances.

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