CITY HALL — A controversial decision to ban smoking for new tenants and condominium owners in Santa Monica looks likely to be reversed today with two of its former supporters signaling a change of heart.
Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and Councilmember Terry O’Day, who both voted to pass the ban on July 10, have expressed reservations in making it law.
Bloom wrote the Daily Press Monday to say that he intended to vote “no” in order to have the opportunity to discuss “a few points that came up at the last hearing and since.”
O’Day has not decided if he will change his vote, but indicated that he was concerned about gaps in the ordinance around medical marijuana usage and a lack of outreach to owners of condominiums.
The two voted to pass the ban alongside councilmembers Bobby Shriver and Bob Holbrook. Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor voted against the measure.
Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis was not present for the July 10 vote, but said Monday that she had problems with restricting legal activity “behind closed doors.”
If one or both of them choose to vote “no” on Tuesday, it will be a rare occasion that a measure does not pass on its required second reading.
Councilmember Bobby Shriver, who fought to strengthen the ordinance with more strict provisions, will not be at Tuesday’s meeting. He said he was shocked to hear about the possible change in the vote.
“I deeply regret the change of views, and I hope that when it comes back, public health concerns will override any other concerns,” Shriver said.
As passed, the ordinance would have banned smoking for all new residents of apartments or condominiums in Santa Monica. Existing smokers could continue to smoke, but would have had to declare their unit “smoking” by a certain date or lose the right.
If they didn’t, their unit would automatically default to “nonsmoking.” The list of smoking and nonsmoking units would then be distributed to existing tenants and new tenants as they joined the building.
That was a departure from the recommendation by city staff, which would have made “smoking” the default setting.
As written, the ordinance bans all smoking, and does not distinguish between tobacco products and marijuana, which is legal to smoke in California with the recommendation of a doctor.
When the matter first came before the City Council on July 10, O’Day threw his support behind the staff recommendation, but chose to vote for the more restrictive ban when the initial motion failed.
“Then the question I had was would I move ahead with something or would I continue to have no solution around these public health questions,” O’Day said last week about his vote. “I took something instead of nothing.”
He got heat for that decision from members of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), a major political organization within Santa Monica. He did not get the group’s endorsement for his council re-election run on Sunday, although SMRR has supported him in the past.
Michael Tarbet, a co-founder of SMRR, left O’Day’s name off of a list of candidates that he personally supported, a list which he distributed to the membership on Sunday.
Tarbet opposes the smoking ban. His reasons were identical to O’Day’s reasons to reconsider his vote — no outreach to condominium owners and a lack of consideration for medical marijuana users.
“The anti-smoking ordinance needs work,” Tarbet said Monday. “The one thing that’s wrong is that nobody communicated in any systematic way.”
He has spent some time in the intervening two weeks talking to council members to sway them to change their vote.
The subject is an emotional one for many Santa Monica renters who came before the City Council to talk about the health issues caused by living next to smokers.
Second-hand smoke has over 60 carcinogenic substances, and has been proven to seep through shared walls and pass through electrical sockets and other small openings.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, at least 30 percent of the air in one apartment originated in another in the same complex, meaning that a smoker’s fumes can impact their neighbors.
It’s one of the reasons that Esther Schiller, director of the Smokefree Apartment House Registry, is saddened by the news of the measure’s probable failure.
“I think that something like this will pass eventually because the problem is so egregious,” Schiller said. “It’s very disappointing it won’t be happening [tonight].”