No smoking at Pasadena’s new Westgate Apartments

The 480 apartments coming to market in Pasadena don’t look much different from the competition, but they do smell different. Smoking isn’t allowed anywhere on the premises.

Developer Sares-Regis Group wants a coveted LEED certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council that means the property meets certain environmental standards. Among the standards is good air quality, and one way to achieve it is to make sure smoke doesn’t wend its way from one apartment to another.

That means that tenants and visitors who feel compelled to light up can be seen indulging themselves across the street from the eight-acre Westgate Apartments complex, said Nathan Carlson, director of development at Sares-Regis.

Westgate, at De Lacey Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard, will be one of the largest smoke-free apartment complexes in Los Angeles County when all 480 units are complete in February, said Esther Schiller, director of the Smokefree Apartment House Registry.

The decision to go smoke-free wasn’t easy, Carlson said.

“Our first obvious concern was what would happen if we did segregate a whole market niche from living here — people who smoke. That was a business concern of ours,” he said.

On the plus side, a LEED-certified green building is desirable to a large segment of renters, Carlson said. Smoke-free units are also cheaper to clean when tenants move out.

The decision is paying off so far. The rate of leasing since the first of nine buildings at Westgate opened in November is above projections, he said.

Tenants who violate the no-smoking pledge in their leases are given a warning, then fined. So far, none have hit the third step of eviction, he said.

Smokers, like pet owners, aren’t protected by fair-housing laws, Schiller said, so forbidding smoking is legal for landlords.

The matter hasn’t been tested in court, but the state has already backed prohibitions against smoking in bars, restaurants and most other public buildings, Carlson noted.

“California is very progressive in this area,” he said.