Restaurant owners and managers can now be fined for “knowingly or intentionally” allowing patrons to smoke in outdoor dining areas under an ordinance adopted on “first reading” by the City Council on Tuesday, April 8. The other items that dominated the Council’s agenda were an update of the green building requirements in the Municipal Code and direction to City staff to proceed with the negotiation of a Development Agreement for a proposed 153,000-square-foot entertainment production building that would be headquarters for Lionsgate Entertainment Group.
Outdoor Smoking Ordinance
The Santa Monica outdoor smoking ordinance was broadened in November 2006 to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas, among other places, but provided for fines against smokers only and not the establishments in which they smoked. Responding to the Council’s direction in December 2007, the City Attorney’s office presented an ordinance on April 8 that would create liability for business owners and managers that permit smoking.
The new ordinance, which will come back to the Council for “second reading” and final approval at a later meeting, would also (a) require the posting of signs announcing the smoking prohibition in outdoor dining areas, (b) reduce fines for all violations of the ordinance from $250 to $100 for a first offense, and (c) add public library property to the areas in which outdoor smoking is prohibited.
Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky presented the proposed ordinance to the City Council and explained that the “knowingly or intentionally” language tracks state law regarding indoor smoking and has been litigated to the point of clarity to impose liability on owners/managers who know that smoking is occurring but fail to take reasonable steps to prevent it, short of physically ejecting patrons or placing themselves at risk of injury. City Attorney Marsha Moutrie added language at the Council meeting specifying those standards.
Radinsky also recommended that the effective date of the ordinance be delayed 90 days rather than the more common 30 days so as to give proprietors time to comply with the signage requirements and to coincide with a planned outreach and publicity effort by the City Manager’s office. Convention and Visitors Bureau President/CEO Misti Kerns and Chamber of Commerce Chairman Tom Larmore, speaking during the public comment period that followed Radinsky’s presentation, supported the 90-day delay, although Kerns cautioned that it would make the effective date fall in July at the height of the tourist season.
­Finally, Radinsky explained that the fine reduction was consistent with most other cities’ ordinances, especially in view of the fact that fines carry a mandatory court assessment that nearly triples the actual amount the violator must pay. After the first offense, a violator under the new law would be fined $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third and subsequent offenses in any one-year period.
Most of the two dozen persons who spoke during the public comment period did not address the proposed ordinance itself – that seemed to be a foregone conclusion – but rather addressed the regulation of smoking in multi-unit residential buildings, a subject on which the Council had asked the City Attorney to present information on other cities’ legislation. Nearly all of the speakers – from a Samohi student to a UCLA associate professor of public health – asked the Council to take action in that direction. But the vice-president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, William Dawson, encouraged the Council “to proceed with caution and with thoughtfulness” on the subject.
In the end, the Council adopted the proposed ordinance, directed staff to draft a municipal tobacco retail licensing ordinance and an ordinance to ban smoking in common areas of multi-unit residences, and finally directed staff to conduct public workshops with appropriate City agencies on regulation of smoking in all residences in the city.
Green Building Requirements
The City Council passed on first reading amendments to the Municipal Code to update the City’s green building program, the principal effect of which is to include new construction and substantial remodels of single family homes and duplexes in the program as well as multi-unit residential and commercial buildings already covered. These changes include landscape irrigation and design standards, as well as construction and demolition waste handling requirements.
The Council also extended the City’s Green Building Grant Program to provide a limited number of grants for LEED-certified buildings.
Lionsgate Development Agreement
Jack Walter, the owner of a large parcel at Colorado Avenue and Stewart Street, running over 400 feet south on Stewart from that intersection, had applied for a Development Agreement to build a 153,00-square-foot entertainment production facility that would be sold to Lionsgate Entertainment Group as the company’s headquarters facility. The proposed Development Agreement is a device whereby a developer negotiates for a project that varies from zoning regulations in return for contributing public benefits not otherwise required.
Lionsgate, which now leases space in Santa Monica, under a lease that expires in 2011, wants a local home it owns, according to Walter. The Planning Commission recommended on December 12, 2007 that the Council proceed with the Development Agreement process. Although Councilmember Ken Genser opined that “the time for [office/commercial] buildings of this size [in Santa Monica] is over,” – citing an imbalance of office v. residential development – the Council voted 5-1 to direct staff to proceed with the negotiation of a Development Agreement for the site. (Mayor Katz, an architect who is involved in an adjacent project, recused himself from the discussion and the vote.)
Those speaking during the public comment period were generally supportive of the project, particularly Oscar de la Torre of the Pico Youth and Family Center which is working out an intern and employment program with Lionsgate, although Friends of Sunset Park representatives expressed concerns about traffic the project would generate.
In Other Action . . .
The Council declared April to be “Month of the Young Child” in Santa Monica, supporting early childhood education; approved an exemption for companies providing banking services to the City from the living wage ordinance, whereby companies doing business with the City are required to certify they pay employees an above-minimum-wage salary; and allocated $11,900 for the production of the second annual Main Street 4th of July Parade.