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Glendale approves new smoking restrictions

May 29, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

The City Council further clamped down on smokers Tuesday night, unanimously approving new rules that will ban smoking in all new apartment and condominium units and add another layer of punishment that can be applied to those who break Glendale’s anti-smoking rules.

“This council has taken great strides,” Mayor Dave Weaver said at the council meeting.

Since 2008, Glendale has implemented a variety of smoking rules as part of what’s known as the “Fresh Air Ordinance,” restricting smoking in many public areas, on patios of multi-unit buildings and even in common areas of apartment complexes.

But for the first time this week, the council banned smoking in all new residential units and gave private citizens the right to sue smokers in any civil court system, including small claims court, for breaking the city’s rules. The new rules are set to take effect in 30 days.

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While other cities, such as neighboring Pasadena, have banned smoking in all multi-unit buildings, Glendale officials limited the rule to new units as it will be simpler to implement.

While some developers of the nearly 2,000 units under construction or in the pipeline for downtown Glendale have complained that the ban gives an unfair advantage to older complexes, several developers, such as the one behind Lex on Orange, a 307-unit complex, and Veterans Village, a 44-unit affordable housing development, said they already planned for their buildings to be smoke-free.

After city officials review how cities like Pasadena fare after transitioning, the council may discuss expanding the new ban.

“We don’t have information, so it will return again,” Weaver said.

One of the biggest problems with Glendale’s smoking rules has been enforcement. Police or code enforcement officials can’t cite a smoker if they don’t catch them in the act. City officials said giving private citizens the right to sue smokers for breaking the rules is another tool to add more teeth to the smoking restrictions.

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.

In addition to approving the two new rules, the council also introduced another ordinance that would increase the buffer between smoking and non-smoking areas in outdoor dining areas from 10 feet to 15 feet. The council is set to vote on that change next week.

Esther Schiller, executive director of Smokefree Air for Everyone, an advocacy group, applauded the council for increasing restrictions on smokers, but said they could do more by barring children from sitting in outdoor smoking sections of restaurants.

“Allowing children to be seated in the smoking section of the patio, we suggest, sends an inappropriate message,” Schiller said.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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