The City Council unanimously approved on first reading a ban on smoking in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings at its Tuesday, January 13, meeting. The ordinance will become effective only after it is passed on its second reading, expected in the coming weeks.
The law would not make it a criminal infraction to smoke in outdoor common areas, including patios, garden and pool areas, and parking lots. But it would permit those objecting to such smoking the option of filing a civil action in court to get an injunction or collect as much as much as $100 in damages.
The new law would require that a tenant try to reach a peacible solution with the smoker before filing any civil action, including providing written notice of the law and a written request to stop smoking in the property’s common areas.
Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, who is in charge of consumer affairs, said, “Before taking it to court, they must make a good faith effort” to resolve the situation. In drafting the ordinance, Radinsky added, staff wrestled with whether to include condominiums (the proposed ordinance does) and whether to grandfather smoking rights for existing rent control tenants (it doesn’t).
The ordinance was passed on first reading more than eight months after the council directed staff to draft the ordinance. Some had worried that such a law might lead to the eviction of rent-control tenants by landlords who want to raise rents to market rates when a unit is vacated.
“It’s our job to weigh the ups and downs”, said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “It’s clear to me that I have to side with the health impacts.”