The Glendale City Council on Tuesday agreed to revisit the city’s smoking ordinance after getting blowback from anti-smoking advocates regarding the recent decision to ease restrictions for restaurants with large patio areas.
Last week, the City Council approved a three-tier system of smoking regulations for outdoor dining areas at the last minute, amending a tighter ordinance they pushed forward two weeks ago when more than a dozen anti-smoking advocates filled the audience.
The changes, approved on a 3-2 vote, would allow smoking in 25% of outdoor dining areas that are less than 2,000 square feet, in 50% of areas between 2,000 and 5,000 square feet, and in 66% of any larger open-air dining spots, of which there are very few in Glendale.
Restaurant owners that offer hookahs praised the decision last week, adding that their non-smoking sections remained empty because of the 25% limit enacted nearly four years ago. But the decision angered anti-smoking advocates, who showed up on Tuesday en masse to voice their displeasure.
“It’s very disappointing to see the city go backwards,” Esther Schiller of Smokefree Air for Everyone said Tuesday.
After receiving a large number of emails expressing similar sentiments over the past week, City Council members decided to look at outdoor smoking rules once again in one or two months, when they no doubt will be under close scrutiny.
“The hospital and the public are watching,” Michael Olivares, an outreach specialist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, told the council Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the ordinance approved last week is set to take effect in three weeks.
Rather than focus on the percentage of space allotted to smokers, council members want to focus on rules regulating the distance between smoking and non-smoking sections.
Currently, city rules require a 10-foot space between sections. While the original 25% limit was an arbitrary number, the 10-foot space was adopted from a UC Berkeley study.
“This was not a number we pulled out of thin air,” said Councilman Ara Najarian, who came up with the three-tier system, but who agreed to review the ordinance yet again.
But academic studies offer differing opinions on what distance is sufficient to curb impacts of second-hand smoke. They range from 6 feet to 20 feet, council members said.
For some anti-smoking advocates, there isn’t a distance that is far enough.
“Second-hand smoke doesn’t respect boundaries. Second-hand smoke drifts,” said Roy Rosell, vice chairman of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free L.A. County.
Mayor Frank Quintero and Councilman Dave Weaver were against the three-tier system from the beginning, and although Councilwoman Laura Friedman voted for it last week, she said she was willing to take another look at the ordinance in terms of possibly increasing the buffer zone.
“If Mr. Weaver and I weren’t on the same wavelength last week, we are today,” she said.