S.F. no longer blowing smoke about ban

The City has just issued the first-ever $100 fine for violating a ban on smoking in San Francisco’s parks even though the law is more than two years old and people continue to smoke in parks. The first citation was issued last week to a patron of Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square, which has received attention recently from several city departments after Mayor Gavin Newsom visited the park in March and was angered by its condition.

The City Administrator’s Office — in conjunction with other departments including the Police Department and Public Works —has worked to clean up the park and also to inform users about the smoking ban.

Last week, Officer Rod Lee issued The City’s first-ever smoking citation after a park user was given a “stark warning” about not smoking and was later seen relighting a cigarette, said Gloria Chan, spokeswoman for Department of Public Works.

Despite the recent citation and outreach — which included the posting of no-smoking signs, installation of ashtrays on litter cans near park entrances and fliers handed out explaining the ban — at least six people were observed by The Examiner smoking Monday around 2 p.m. in different locations in the park. Smokers included members of card games and a man sitting on a park bench. No one was around enforcing the ban.

“I’m smelling [cigarette smoke] now,” said Terri Bookbinder, an Orinda resident, whose 7-year-old son was using the park’s playground. “There’s smoking going on. Nobody seems to be concerned about being stopped.”

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who wrote the law, said it was “outrageous” that the first citation was only just issued last week. “Clearly no one is enforcing it,” she said. The supervisor said she would look into “why this is not being implemented.”

When told about the smokers at the park, Chan said, “We are going to go out there and continue to do outreach and walk through the park and make surepeople are abiding by the law. Behavior is not going to change overnight.”

In 2005, the Board of Supervisors, citing the health risks associated with secondhand smoke, adopted the smoking ban in city parks and it was signed by Newsom. The law authorizes a $100 fine for first offenders and up to $500 for repeat offenses.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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