Belmont’s smoking ban scaled back

The once-incendiary claim that Belmont was going to end smoking within city limits has been pared down in the last two months, and on Tuesday, the City Council will discuss a much more reserved, restrained attempt to protect residents from secondhand smoke.

Since the draft smoking ordinance was first presented on March 13, city staff led by City Attorney Marc Zafferano met with eight groups of stakeholders to discuss the possible ordinances. The general sense from those groups was that while an all-out ban was uncalled for, limits to protect nonsmokers from unwanted fumes would be acceptable.

“I think that staff has done a good job of focusing us,” Mayor Coralin Feierbach said. “If we do this moderately, and with concern for the people who live in apartments and other areas, then I think we’re doing it right.”

Feierbach said that while she believes all-out bans on smoking are not far off in California’s future, at the current time, it is more important to work on making smokers aware of the effect on the people around them and alerting residents to the effects of secondhand smoke even in outdoor areas.

Zafferano met with representatives and health advocates from the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association, business leaders from the Chamber of Commerce, California Apartment Association and Hotel Association, and resident groups from Notre Dame de Namur University and neighborhood associations.

Eric Weigers, executive director for the Tri County chapter of the California Apartment Association, said that while protecting nonsmoking residents from smoke is important, limiting smoking in apartment complexes would infringe on a landlord’s right to govern the property.

“This is the city attempting to mandate what rental property owners can and can’t do with their own property,” Weigers said. “We don’t see the need to mandate something in Belmont when a lot of our members are already making specific areas nonsmoking in their complexes.”

And while less than 15 percent of the people in the county smoke, Chamber of Commerce President Ron Denman said outlawing lighting up in bars and restaurants could put the city at a competitive disadvantage for customers.

“If you can smoke inside or around a restaurant or bar in the cities around us, but not in Belmont, that is going to impact us,” he said.

The City Council will address the issue at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers, One Twin Pines Lane. For more information, visit www.belmont.gov.

Key issues

» Whether, or to what extent, to prohibit smoking in all indoor and outdoor workplaces.

» Whether to declare exposure to secondhand smoke a public nuisance.

» Whether, or to what extent, to restrict smoking in outdoor public places, including streets and sidewalks.

» Whether, or to what extent, to restrict smoking in individual units of multiunit residences, including condominiums and townhouses.

» Whether to use a variety of private and public enforcement and education mechanisms with respect to the new ordinance.

Key points courtesy of the staff report by City Attorney Marc Zafferano.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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