Smoke causes some ire

CITY HALL — Looking to bolster its secondhand-smoke laws, the City Council this week agreed to explore smoking prohibitions on private property and in common areas of multifamily buildings.

The proposals, which piqued the interest of council members after hearing from several special-interest groups and residents, could bar smoking at swimming pools, yard areas and private balconies and patios.

In all, the new laws could ban smoking at more than 400 private-parking structures and about 22,000 multifamily residential units, said Terre Hirsch, assistant community development director and administrator of license and code services.

Vice Mayor Anja Reinke characterized the proposed restrictions at condominiums and apartment buildings as a “logical, incremental step.” But her colleagues pushed back before agreeing to hear the matter early next year.

A draft ordinance awaits the completion of a full staff report and county-funded survey looking at how many residents are exposed to a neighbor’s tobacco smoke and their opinions on the matter. Hirsch also plans to bring back information on proposals slated to go before the Glendale City Council next month.

Restrictions on private property would beef up the city’s ordinance that took effect April 2007 with a six-month grace period on enforcement.

Since January 2008, police issued 1,363 smoking-related citations, the majority of them to people smoking in banned parts of the city, including outdoor dining areas, the Chandler Bikeway, city parks and facilities, public transit stations and at outdoor events.

Of the 1,363 citations, 322 were written to Burbank residents, Burbank Police Capt. Janice Lowers said.

“We do a lot of education here, and that will continue,” said Hirsch, whose team hands out business cards with information on the ordinance. “What’s quite different is getting the information out for an ordinance that covers every square inch of Burbank.”

Hirsch also warned that a smoking ban on private property would make enforcement tougher, especially considering the budget crunch.

“However, a law passed, even without enforcement, can still be helpful because it will empower the people who are suffering from a neighbor’s tobacco smoke to take action to protect themselves,” said Esther Schiller, director of the Newbury Park-based Smokefree Air For Everyone, which advocates for legislation that protects the public from exposure to secondhand smoke.

“When apartment or condominium residents are breathing a neighbor’s tobacco smoke, there’s absolutely nothing they can do unless a city or county has passed some kind of an ordinance,” Schiller said.

Ban advocates, including resident Doris Ticsay, also cited surgeon general warnings that tobacco smoke can drift between units through ventilation systems, plumbing and microscopic wall cracks.

Ticsay and her neighbors recently experienced a see-saw effect after their condominium complex’s governing body went from banning cigarette smoke to allowing it in some cases, she said.

Last weekend she counted more than 50 cigarette butts outside one unit.

“It’s quite disgusting to see it, but there’s no type of regulations in my building, and I seek your support,” Ticsay said.

Councilman David Gordon agreed to examine changes to the smoking laws, but called for more warnings instead of citations and court visits.

He joined Mayor Gary Bric in questioning the equity of potentially banning smoking for some individuals and not others.

“Why should I be any different from someone going out on their patio to smoke just because they live in a multifamily unit?” Bric asked. “They don’t want to smoke in their houses, and I don’t want to smoke in mine.”

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