A proposed ban on smoking in new apartment buildings has ruffled the feathers of some new developers who say the restrictions will put them at an unfair disadvantage with older properties, but several Glendale City Council members say they still support pressing ahead with the measures.
The council began working through several new smoking rules for restaurants and multifamily housing developments in September. Although changes were made to outdoor dining areas, proposals to limit smoking in apartment complexes were left for further discussion.
They've been put on hold ever since, drawn out by opposition from some developers who contend a proposed ban on smoking in all new apartments gives older units an unfair market advantage.
“They wanted a level playing field,” City Manager Scott Ochoa said. “That does make sense. If you're putting $70 million into a project, you want to make sure you have every opportunity for success.”
Council members had gravitated toward banning smoking in new units months ago rather than forcing existing tenants to change their habits.
Some new developers weren't too happy about that, so officials have been drafting alternatives for the council to review.
However, several council members said they want to stick with the original proposal, with one taking it a step further and calling for smoke-free sections in existing complexes.
“I'm for no smoking in the new units,” said Mayor Frank Quintero. “That's a done deal as far as I'm concerned.”
Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she'd be open to listening to complaints from the developers, but she was still leaning toward the ban on smoking in new units. She said she also wants to recommend requiring apartments to create smoke-free wings over time as smoking tenants move out, an idea she floated months ago.
“I'd like to do them both at once,” Friedman said. “I would like to move as quickly as we can.”
But Surj Soni, managing partner of Legendary Development, which is building a six-story complex on California and Central Avenues, isn't on the same page.
“If it's applied in a discriminatory fashion, it's going to be a problem,” Soni said.
Tom Warren, chief operating officer of Holland Partner Group, which is developing the Brand/Wilson and Orange/Wilson projects, said such a policy would give a competitive advantage to the Americana at Brand residences, which are relatively new, but could still skirt the new restrictions.
Instead, Warren said he'd prefer all new leases to include nonsmoking clauses to level the playing field.
Councilman Dave Weaver, who has been pushing for a vote on new smoking rules in apartments before the April election, said while developers may not support the change, he has to vote on behalf of the majority of the residents.
“Some cities are totally smoke-free. They are, I don't know why Glendale can't be,” Weaver said.
San Rafael banned smoking in all multi-unit complexes in October. And in January, a Calabasas law that bans smoking in 80% of apartment buildings took effect.
Some developers said they wouldn't mind banning smoking in new units if the city allowed smoking in common areas, which has been against the rules since 2008. Currently, tenants can't smoke in hallways, patios or out their window if it's close to another unit.
For at least two new buildings, a ban wouldn't matter. Lex on Orange, a 307-unit complex, and Veterans Village, a 44-unit affordable housing development, are both slated to be smoke-free.
All 40 complexes operated by the developer of Veterans Village on Salem Street, Thomas Safran & Associates, are smoke-free. Some have benches outside the building for smokers to use, said Jordan Pynes, president of property management.
Lex on Orange — which posts the tagline “hip, urban, luxury” — plans to be smoke-free as a means to get a green building certification, said Nate Carlson, senior development associate for AMLI Residential.
“Not allowing smoking is becoming more and more of an expectation,” Carlson said.