Huntington Park bans smoking inside apartment units

By Arnold Adler
Los Angeles Wave, March 1, 2012

HUNTINGTON PARK — Smoking in public areas of apartment and condominium complexes will be banned as of July 1, smoking inside new units will be prohibited as of Jan. 1, 2013, and smoking in existing units will be outlawed as of July 1, 2013, under an ordinance approved 5-0 by the City Council Feb. 21.
No one spoke against the bans. In fact, Don Brabant of Brabant Realty and Property Management in Huntington Park, and Nancy Ahlswede of the Apartment Association of Southern California, spoke in favor of it, as did several residents who told the council their health has been affected by second-hand smoke from nearby units.

Brabant and Ahlswede were on the committee which worked out the ordinance with city staff and representatives of Project TRUST, part of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s tobacco control and prevention program, which provides education on the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Final action on the ordinance is expected at the March 5 council meeting. It would take effect 30 days later.

Senior Planner Albert Fontanez said the city’s code enforcement division will enforce the ban, with fines of $100 to $1,000 to violators. He noted that the fines would be levied on the smoker and there would be no liability to landlords as long as they make provisions of the ban known to tenants and insert them in rental lease agreements.

He said he will asks the City Council Monday to remove one provision, which would allow a condominium homeowners group to vote on whether smoking in 20 percent of a complex might be allowed if the ban limits tenants of the other 80 percent.

Fontanez and several speakers urged the council to require a 100 percent ban in all units.

In a written report to the council, Fontanez said the ordinance would affect all apartment and condominium complexes of two or more units except for hotels, motels and single-family homes with attached units for relatives.

A common area includes such places as hallways, laundry rooms, lobbies, play areas including swimming pools, patios, balconies, decks and walkways.

Ten percent of a common area may be designated for smoking as long as it is an open area and at least 25 feet from a building.

It is the first city law dealing with private property. Smoking in municipal buildings, parks, public rights-of-way and at city-sponsored events was banned last year.

“Landlords will benefit from the ban as they will not have to spend as much getting a unit ready for a new tenant if they don’t have to get the smoke odor out of draperies, stuffed furniture and carpets,” Ahlswede said, adding “it’s impossible to handle drifting smoke.”

David Reynoso of Project TRUST said drifting smoke is thought by many medical experts to affect the health of neighbors.

It can come in through cracks in the wall, vents, under doorways and through windows, he said.

He acknowledged that citing someone for smoking inside their apartment or condo would require neighbors and residents of the complex to complain to the city.

However, one resident said she was sure the neighbors would make such complaints.

Esther Schiller of Smoke-Free Air for Everyone said the ban is a good business decision for landlords as it would make it easier to fill vacancies. And some insurance companies may offer a discount if smoking is not allowed in a complex, she said.

“Many landlords have had fewer vacancies with no-smoking apartments,” she added.

Second-hand smoke is responsible for as many as 73,000 deaths among non-smokers each year, the ordinance states.

“Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease by about 30 percent. Second-hand smoke exposure causes lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis in as many as 300,000 children in the United States under 18 months each year and exacerbates childhood asthma.”

Council members did not comment on the issue other then voting to approve the ban, which had also been approved by the Planning Commission.

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