Stricter anti-smoking regulations being considered in Foster City may prohibit residents from lighting up in their own apartments.
The City Council sent an amended smoking ordinance proposal back to the drawing table Monday after recommending to expand restrictions on smoking on sidewalks inside multi-unit residential complexes to include all common areas and even the units themselves.
"I do favor, because of the impact to others, a ban on smoking in multiunit dwellings. I think that those people are of lesser economic ways and means; they have lesser choices," said Councilman Herb Perez. "The last thing they should have to consider when they're renting that apartment is whether a smoker lives next door."
The motion to broaden the restrictions came after an hour of public comments, many of which were impassioned pleas to reduce the harmful impacts of secondhand smoke within close living quarters.
The lone vote of dissent on the motion came from Mayor Charlie Bronitsky, who expressed a willingness to ban smoking in apartment buildings constructed after the ordinance takes effect, but opposed selectively repealing the rights of existing residents to smoke at home.
"If I live in an apartment, I can't smoke in my house. But if I live in a single-family residence, I can smoke on the sidewalk and in my house and in my backyard and on my roof and anywhere I want around my house. I don't understand the logic of that," Bronitsky said of possible selective enforcement.
"Either you shouldn't smoke regardless of where you live or you should get to smoke in your house," he added.
If the ordinance indeed bans smoking inside residential units, it could allow the activity in designated outdoor areas within housing developments but far from entryways and amenities. Property owners would likely not be held liable for tenant violators who have been properly informed of new policies.
Several other restrictions are expected to be included in the updated ordinance, which was originally passed in 1996.
If approved, the revised law would prohibit smoking on all city property and at all communitywide events, as well as on sidewalks in front of commercial and retail businesses and in shopping centers.
An expanded definition of smoking will also include electronic cigarettes and hookah. This was a contentious issue in early study sessions because of the anticipated negative impact on businesses such as Waterfront Pizza, a popular Mediterranean eatery with an outdoor hookah bar. A provision in the new ordinance, however, will allow smoking in 50 percent of outside seating areas, provided they are not within range of a primary entrance to the establishment.
Several prohibitions that have been incorporated into California state law since 1996, such as bans on cigarette vending machines and smoking in bars, will be removed from the local ordinance to reduce redundancy.
The new ordinance would not take effect until 2015. A six-month grace period will give businesses and property managers time to post signage and sort out compliance issues.