Senior complex bans tobacco smoking

Seniors have finished moving into a converted church in Haight-Ashbury, believed to be The City’s first apartment building to open with a no-tobacco-smoking policy.

The 92-year-old former Christian Science church, across the street from Buena Vista Park, was converted over the past two years into 40 subsidized-rate studio and single-bedroom apartments for people older than 60 who earn less than $40,000 an year.

The nonprofit Citizens Housing Corporation opened the apartments with the help of $13 million of taxpayer money from state and city agencies, according to figures provided by director Liz Pocock.

“We’re simply asking people, ‘Please don’t smoke on our property,’” Pocock said. “We’re not asking people not to be smokers.”

Medical marijuana may be smoked in the building, according to Pocock, and tobacco is allowed to be chewed or sucked.

Pocock said the no-smoking policy may be extended to two apartment buildings the San Francisco-based group plans to open next year in The City.

The converted church is part of a “growing movement” among apartment owners and developers who forbid smoking in their units, according to American Lung Association Bay Area Policy Director Serena Chen.

Cities are also starting to regulate smoking in multiunit apartment buildings. Smoking was banned in multiunit apartment buildings in the city of Belmont, between San Mateo and San Carlos, following a 3-2 City Council vote in October.

Two Southern California cities require some no-smoking areas in apartment buildings, according to Chen.

But the idea is novel in San Francisco.

The City’s Tobacco Free Project Director Alyonik Hrushow was asked to help draft the no-smoking policy. “As far as I know,” she said, the Haight-Ashbury apartment building is The City’s first to open with a no-smoking policy. Tenants have introduced no-smoking policies to some apartment buildings after they opened, she said.

“I think it’s fantastic, especially when you have seniors who are so vulnerable to secondhand smoke,” Hrushow said. “Seniors will oftentimes have problems that can be exacerbated, like chronic pulmonary disease, or they might have heart problems that could be made worse by secondhand smoke.”

Secondhand smoke — a toxic air contaminant, according to the California Air Resources Board — can drift between apartments through gaps as tiny as electrical sockets, ceiling cracks and floorboards, Hrushow said.

“We get numerous complaints from people who live in multiunit dwellings,” Hrushow said. “People really are expecting to have clean air to breathe in their homes.”

jupton@examiner.com

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