Smoke issue creates buzz

As Glendale officials take more time to review proposals that could restrict smoking in apartment buildings, City Council members have been getting an earful from residents in favor of stricter rules.

“In advance of the decision-making and the hearing, they’re proactively reaching out, which is generally only seen in more high-profile issues,” said Councilman Ara Najarian.

Officials postponed reviewing the controversial matter to give staff another 30 days to focus their proposals, said City Manager Scott Ochoa, adding that the city attorney will also be reviewing the report before it comes back for an initial review.

Most council members aren’t keen on banning smoking in units altogether — an option they have been scheduled to review for the past two weeks. Several council members have instead said in interviews this week that they would prefer to require apartment owners to create smoke-free sections within their buildings.

“It seems to me that wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s right to find a smoking apartment,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, adding that it would also give nonsmokers some reprieve.

Mayor Frank Quintero and Councilman Ara Najarian have also been leaning toward that option, but none has made a final decision.

Council members said any extra restrictions would be difficult to legislate. Apartment dwellers often complain about people breaking anti-smoking rules that are already in place, such as a ban on lighting up in common areas and private patios.

Najarian said he’s received several emails from apartment owners and associations opposed to more rules because they feel they’d be responsible for enforcement.

“They sort of think they’ve got a delicate balance in place,” Najarian said. “If we further restrict [smoking], I think they’re concerned the burden, at least the front line, is going to be on them to enforce that or to take action. They don’t want to do that.”

Councilman Rafi Manoukian said apartment owners can create smoke-free sections voluntarily. Eleven apartment buildings have voluntarily been certified as smoke-free buildings by the city.

Pro-smoking comments have been few and far between in council members’ inboxes. And emails about apartment restrictions have far outnumbered complaints about outdoor smoking, council members said.

As officials review smoking rules for apartments, they are also set to discuss loosening rules on smoking in outdoor dining areas.

Glendale restricts smoking in outdoor dining areas to 25% with barricades. But some restaurant owners, especially those who allow patrons to smoke hookahs, say they need more outdoor space.

Some residents, however, have told council members that they don’t want new sanctions for hookah lounges. Currently, Glendale officials know of two businesses that offer hookah smoking.

The council discussed changing outdoor smoking rules last August, but the majority voted to keep the status quo.

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