Glendale considers clamping down further on smoking

Being a smoker in Glendale could get a lot more restrictive in the coming months after officials this week proposed a number of new laws to limit the reach of second-hand smoke.

The City Council on Tuesday moved to ban smoking in all new apartment and condominium units, give individuals the right to sue others who break smoking rules and increase the distance between smokers and non-smokers in outdoor dining areas.

Since 2008, Glendale has implemented a variety of smoking bans, from common areas to private balconies and patios in multi-unit buildings. Many wide-sweeping prohibitions have taken effect, but there have also been tweaks to the rules, making smoking restrictions a recurring topic of discussion at City Hall.

The proposed ban on smoking in new condo and apartment developments may impact roughly 2,000 new units springing up in downtown. The developments could apply for an outdoor smoking permit, but they’d have to pay about $200 in addition to $50 annually as a registration fee and set up the space in a way approved by city officials.

“We got to try to make an effort,” said Mayor Dave Weaver.

The proposal enjoyed unanimous support on the dais, but council members declined to extend the restrictions to existing multi-unit development — similar to what’s been done in cities like Pasadena — saying it would be too difficult to enforce.

In fact, the ability of the city to enforce any new anti-smoking rule would be a challenge, officials said.

“Folks are going to smoke,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa in asking council members to temper their expectations. “You’re not going to get 100% of everyone to do everything that you want.”

The city’s already had problems enforcing existing restrictions. The bulk of enforcement is complaint-driven, but often a police or code enforcement officer doesn’t arrive on scene to catch the smoker in the act, which is needed to issue a violation.

Enter the latest proposal: allow those who catch smokers breaking the law to sue the violator.

“It seems to me that this is maybe the only way that we can get compliance with these codes,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who introduced the idea.

If found guilty, violators could be fined $250 for every day they violate the law, according to a city report, although they would first have to violate the law twice and receive a written notice before being sued.

The smoker could also have to pay for the costs of the lawsuit if found guilty.

“It’s just an additional tool. It doesn’t replace the city’s enforcement,” City Atty. Mike Garcia said.

The lawsuits could be brought against those who break smoking rules in multi-unit buildings and in outdoor dining areas.

The City Council on Tuesday supported a proposal to increase the space in outdoor dining area between smoking and non-smoking sections from 10 feet to 15 feet if the restaurant doesn’t install an impenetrable barrier. Restaurants that want a smoking patio will also have to pay a registration fee so city officials can better track compliance.

The proposed ordinances banning smoking in new units and giving private citizens the right to sue are scheduled to come back for a final vote in two weeks. If they pass, the new rules would take effect the following month. It was unclear when the outdoor dining changes would return for consideration.

-- Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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