This is in response to a letter to the editor published Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 from A. Borden (“Agenda behind smoking ban”) accusing me of dressing a landlord plot to evict tenants in a public health gown.
As the maker of the smoking ban motion to expand the protections offered by the current smoking ban passed by the City Council and the Rent Control Board, I felt compelled, along with 83.5 percent of respondents to the below smoking survey, to stand up to A. Borden’s false accusations. We will not stand silent and have the only voice the people hear touting false charges that the housing industry is promoting public health only to “serve the profit interests of wealthy landowners.”
Your accusations additionally are a slap in the face to the American Lung Association, California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General and Santa Monicans for Non-Smoking Renters Rights, just to name a few.
My motion is to prohibit smoking in individual units and their patio/yard areas of multi-unit, multi-story residences (apartments, condominiums and townhouses) that share common floors and/or ceilings with at least one other such unit. Landlords will be required to insert no-smoking provisions in any new or renewed residential leases; condominiums will add this regulation to their Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CCRs). Landlords may designate outdoor smoking areas if they are more than 20 feet away from operable doors or windows used by the public.
First-time violators could be subject to a $100 fine. It also establishes a method through which residents could challenge a neighbor who smokes in a common area, allowing them to seek damages of at least $100 in small claims court. The minimum damages increases to $200 for a second violation that is committed within one year, and to $500 for the third offense within the same period.
First, your argument is not only with me but 83.5 percent of your fellow Santa Monica residents surveyed.
This report from S.A.F.E. — Smokefree Air For Everyone — presents data collected between Sept. 11, 2005 and June 2007 with Santa Monica apartment residents. Nearly 1,400 respondents completed this survey, representing persons of varied sex, age groups, racial/ethnic groups, housing types and tobacco use status. Sixteen percent of respondents currently use tobacco products, while 30.8 percent of respondents used tobacco products in the past. (People who used to smoke often find themselves more sensitive to tobacco smoke.)
Ninety percent of current tobacco users and 98.9 percent of non-tobacco users believe secondhand smoke is harmful to their health. Of the respondents that support restriction of smoking in housing, 96.6 percent believe that smoke-free housing laws should apply to new multi-unit housing complexes, and 73.9 percent believe that smoke-free housing laws should apply to existing multi-unit housing complexes. Eighty-three percent of respondents would prefer to live in a smoke-free part of a building, such as a smoke-free unit or floor; 37.2 percent of current tobacco users and 94.5 percent of non-tobacco users would prefer to live in a smoke-free section of a building; 76 percent of respondents would prefer to live in a completely smoke-free building.
This material was made possible by funds from the Proposition 99 tobacco tax initiative from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Second, this proposed ban mirrors a current ordinance in the city of Belmont, Calif. where it has been working very well and public health has been well served.
Third, as the writer of the letter how can you, A. Borden, stand behind the following statement, “The assurance that possible smoking violations will not be used to evict tenants is irrelevant.” Well, Belmont, Oakland, Glendale and Santa Monica all have the opposite view and have gone to great lengths and expense to make it clear that the violations are complaint based and the penalties are monetary only.
Fourth, some will point their finger at me and say I am attacking the sanctity of the home: “How dare government tell me what to do in my residence.” I believe our most important right is that of due process before government may enter our home. In our nation, the rights of the individual are above the state. I will never allow our freedoms to be infringed.
But the difference is that I understand that my freedoms end when they begin to infringe on yours. I believe that smoking — like loud music — infringes on my neighbors’ rights of health and quiet enjoyment.
The above proposed regulation will be a discussion item on the Rent Control Board agenda. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, Thursday, Dec. 3.
Robert Kronovet is a member of the Santa Monica Rent Control Board and the owner of Kronovet Realty Co., a property management firm on Pico Boulevard.