Smoking ban yields few complaints

Nearly five months after passing the toughest secondhand smoke ordinance in the nation, only three smoking complaints have been filed with Belmont, two of which were not enforceable, and a third unfounded.

That hasn’t stopped one City Council member from continuing the fight against smoking by possibly bolstering the regulation.

Belmont’s landmark ordinance received nationwide attention last year. It requires landlords to put no-smoking clauses into new or renewed leases at most apartments that share a floor or a ceiling with another unit. Smoking is also prohibited in indoor and outdoor workplaces, parks, stadiums, sports fields, trails and outdoor shopping areas. First-time violators could be subject to a $100 fine under the ordinance.

But the small number of complaints hasn’t deterred Councilmember Coralin Feierbach. Feierbach plans to suggest the city place no-smoking signs outside of buildings and other places where smoking is now prohibited.

Feierbach said she wasn’t surprised there have been only a handful of complaints so far, since the measure is complaint-driven and will not affect multiunit, multistory residences until Jan. 9, 2009. Once in effect, she said, people may start filing complaints about “their property being invaded” by smoke fumes, she said.

She said she thinks some people may not be aware of the specifics of the ordinance, so she would like to see no-smoking signs posted.

Of the three complaints, two came from people who live in multiunit, multistory apartments, but the complaints are not enforceable until the January deadline, said city’s counsel Marc Zafferano. The third complaint came from someone at a restaurant who suspected another customer of smoking a hookah pipe, but that complaint was found to be groundless, he said.

Nonetheless, Zafferano interpreted the low number of complaints so far to people “complying voluntarily” with the ordinance.

Among the critics ofthe ordinance was the San Mateo County Association of Realtors, who still maintain their opposition, said Michon Coleman, the association’s director of public affairs.

Coleman said she was relieved to hear no one has been cited under the ordinance so far.

“I’m glad to see it hasn’t turned into something where there’s just multiple, multiple complaints, or a way to have neighbor disputes,” she said.

kworth@examiner.com

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