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Smoking warnings might be over

Council will consider whether to end provision, add restrictions in apartments.

February 23, 2010|By Melanie Hicken

CITY HALL — More than a year after citywide smoking regulations went into effect, the City Council tonight will consider several significant changes, including requiring apartment buildings to separate smoking and nonsmoking units.

With more than a year of outreach complete, the council will also consider erasing a warning provision, which officials say has made enforcement difficult.

Since the restrictions took effect in November 2008 with an emphasis on public education, hundreds of warnings have been given, with only 24 citations issued, leading many residents to push for stricter enforcement.

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“A lot of people are asking for that,” Armine Jiminez, the city’s fresh-air ambassador, said of removing the warning. “People really feel that it’s time to enforce it.”

The City Council initially opted against requiring the separation of rental units when they first approved the ordinance, which bans smoking in nearly all public spaces. But council members directed city officials to take a second look at the issue in June after hearing from a slew of affected tenants who said they were exposed to smoke from neighboring units.

Councilman Dave Weaver was especially vocal about strengthening protections for apartment dwellers, citing that the current conditions were “hurting children.”

The proposed requirement would be phased in during a three-year period. Current recommendations only suggest that rental owners separate smokers and nonsmokers in apartment buildings, while smoking is banned in publicly accessible areas.

But local rental property owners have told city officials they would prefer that the City Council ban smoking in all rental units as opposed to the forced separation.

“Separation is really impractical,” said Laura Romo, office manager for the Foothill Apartment Assn., which has met with city officials in recent months to discuss the proposed changes. “Glendale has primarily smaller units, and it’s very hard to put that separation in.”

She added that she has already begun advising all her member apartment owners to make their buildings completely nonsmoking as more cities institute smoking regulations coupled with financial incentives.

“It costs at least twice as much to refurbish a unit when you have a smoker in there,” she said.

The high costs associated with maintenance of smoking units motivated local property manager Nick Nagy to institute a no-smoking policy for all of his units more than a decade ago.

“I thought I was going to face a lot of complaints about it. Oddly enough, I didn’t,” said Nagy, owner of NN Property Management, which offers units throughout the San Fernando Valley. “So it was really pretty well received.”

Tonight, city officials will also request input on how to regulate secondhand smoke exposure in condominiums and town homes.

The council stayed clear of the issue initially because of property-rights concerns, but Jiminez said she repeatedly hears from condo owners who say they are routinely exposed to smoke in their homes.

“The concern is, yes it is private property, but there are a lot of common areas,” Jiminez said. “They can’t understand why it doesn’t apply to condos and town homes.”


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