In an effort to limit residents’ exposure to second-hand smoking, the Baldwin Park City Council adopted an ordinance this fall prohibiting smoking in rental units and apartment complexes, complementing a state-approved bill which takes effect Sunday, the first day of the new year.
Senate Bill 332, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, (D-San Fernando Valley), would authorize a landlord of a residential dwelling unit to prohibit the smoking of tobacco products on a property, in a dwelling unit, in another interior or exterior area, or on the premises on which the dwelling unit is located.
Baldwin Park previously adopted a citywide ordinance that limits smoking exposure to second-hand smoke in public places such as facilities and public parks, city-owned premises, dining areas and spaces within 20 feet from an entrance, exit or open window of any building open to the public.
The new ordinance is said to be an extension of the city’s ongoing efforts to safeguard public safety, said Salvador Lopez, associate city planner.
According to 2010 census data, 19.6 percent of Baldwin Park residents live in housing units in multi-unit structures, versus 30.7 percent statewide.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reports 12 percent of Baldwin Park residents smoke, compared to 15 percent in Los Angeles County, and the city ranks 44 (out of 127) in total estimated residential smokers countywide.
“The city has been on a healthy Baldwin Park venture, so it was only natural that we continue this work. It was actually a request from the City Council that staff come back to them with this proposed ordinance,” said Lopez.
According to the Senate bill, an apartment building’s smoking policies must be specified by any new leases before tenants sign them. As for existing leases, landlords are required to notify a resident in writing about revisions regarding smoking policies and give tenants ample time for them to comply.
Similarly, the city’s local ordinance gives members up to three years to comply with an 80-20 rule, so three years after the adoption of the ordinance, any owner must allow up to 20 percent of their units for smoking.
“That kind of helps the owner to group them throughout these next three years, to amend their lease agreements and so forth,” said Lopez.
Lopez said some of the highlights of the new ordinance include:
- No smoking permitted in common areas except in designated smoking areas (such as laundry rooms, patios, hallways, and balconies)
- Smoking restrictions in new units of multi-unit residences
- Prohibition of smoking in a single-family dwelling licensed as a family day care home during operation of the facility for that purpose
- Any person acting in the interest of the general public may bring a civil action to enforce the law.
“The whole purpose of this is to be self-enforceable by the owners; it kind of empowers them to change the culture of smoking in these settings and allows them to create a smoke-free environment for their tenants,” added Lopez.
Failure to comply will bring stiff penalties to property owners. “Our ordinance is very specific. It starts out as a fixed fine [of] $500 for the first violation and it goes up incrementally after that,” said Lopez.
Gene Weihe, owner of Myoral apartments at 4024 Puente Ave., said he does not support the new ordinance because he believes the law is too intrusive.
“We’re getting to be like a Communist country. This country was founded on tobacco and now they’re [politicians] cutting their arms offs. I think they are going too far with this second-hand smoke stuff,” said Weihe.
Weihe appears to be in the minority. Data provided by the city indicates 74 percent of Californians surveyed approve requiring at least half of rental units in apartment complexes be nonsmoking and 69 percent favor limiting smoking in outdoor areas of apartment buildings.