Glendale to explore tighter smoking restrictions for multi-unit residential buildings

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to work toward a smoking ban for all new apartment units, and eventually, creating smoke-free sections for existing multi-unit buildings.

With several new developments in the pipeline for downtown, more than 1,200 new units could be affected by the ban.

Currently, smoking isn’t allowed in common areas or on private patios in multifamily buildings, but many speakers at City Council meetings have complained that the law has no teeth because enforcement officials have to catch smokers in the act.

“How come we can’t help these people? They’re trapped,” said Councilman Dave Weaver.

There are only three code enforcement officials in Glendale. And in the wake of deep budget cuts, there are no more annual checkups at apartment buildings, officials said.

City Atty. Mike Garcia said he plans to review a system in which residents can take violators of the ban directly to small claims court, lifting the enforcement responsibility from the city’s shoulders.

While that may empower people fed up with those who break the law, taking a neighbor to court isn’t easy, council members said.

“It’s going to take some guts,” Mayor Frank Quintero said.

Officials also plan to review creating a law that allows people fed up with smoking neighbors to break their leases early.

“I think that’s a large disincentive to the landlord,” said Councilman Ara Najarian. “I think the free market will take care of itself at that point.”

But moving didn’t help Roxana Perez, who changed apartments because of smoking issues. But now her new neighbors are smokers too, she said.

“I’m just basically pleading for our lives and the lives of other families being exposed to” second-hand smoke, Perez said.

Several others on Tuesday complained about the health effects of second-hand smoke and one woman, who began crying at the podium, said she has resorted to wearing a hospital mask in her apartment.

City officials could bring back an ordinance banning smoking in all new apartments before the holidays, but a law that would clump smoking units together won’t come back for consideration until next year.

Meanwhile, the City Council on Tuesday also agreed to loosen smoking restrictions for larger outdoor dining areas — those at least 5,000 square feet. Few restaurants in Glendale meet that threshold, city officials said, but if they do, they will be allowed to have smoking in 50% of the floor area, up from the current 25%.

That angered Kevin Aksacki, owner of Hollywood Hookah Lounge, in downtown Glendale. He limits 25% of his 2,000-square-foot back patio to hookah use, but he said the rest of his outdoor tables remain empty. He needs a larger smoking section to keep his business viable, he said.

“It’s ridiculous,” Aksacki said.

The City Council will take a final vote on the outdoor dining restrictions next week.

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ or Twitter: @brittanylevine


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