Smoking issue ignites debate

The city’s much hyped smoking ordinance — once thought to be a complete ban on lighting up within city limits — has become a balancing act between individual and public rights.

Because smoking is a legal act, Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman was adamant that smokers be allowed to puff within the confines of their homes and in relative comfort during the day.

But nonsmokers cannot be forced to breathe what has been identified as a toxic substance; according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “250 chemicals in secondhand smoke are known to be toxic or carcinogenic.”

Belmont city officials hope the ordinance will strike a balance somewhere between those rights, once formally written and voted on.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, more than a dozen residents and the five council members shared thoughts on what Belmont can do to strike a balance.

According to Councilman Dave Warden, that balance lies in labeling smoking a public nuisance, similar to noise disruptions, when enforcement only follows complaints.

“If someone is enjoying a cigarette and they’re not bothering anyone, they should be allowed to do it,” Warden said.

A result of residents’ complaints at Bonnie Brae Terrace, one of the primary focuses of the ordinance is protecting residents in apartments, townhouses and condominium complexes from drifting smoke.

“The goal is to have it a public nuisance and to allow tenants in multiunit residences to have a remedy that works for them to stop the smoking without having to prove all kinds of things that would be expensive and time consuming for them to do,” City Attorney Marc Zafferano said.

One concern that still needs to be addressed is liability for the nuisance.

If smoking is ultimately banned in communal living areas and complexes, some residents are concerned that property owners would become liable for the private actions of their tenants.

“If this is really as insidious as they’re making it to be, this would of course be a benefit to residents. But once you start dictating to a resident what they can or can’t do in their home, where does it stop?” said Papia Gambelin, public affairs director for the California Apartment Association, Tri-County Division.

Zafferano said his office will likely set a date for the ordinance to be presented to the council within the next week. It will be brought up for discussion and a vote at a future council meeting. The ordinance may be adopted at a meeting that follows.

“We’re going to be drafting something that we think reflects at least a majority of their positions on all the different options,” Zafferano said.

jgoldman@examiner.com


What is your opinion of Belmont’s ordinance?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lakeshore Elementary School was closed in March shortly before SFUSD closed all schools due to coronavirus concerns. The district is now working to prepare all elementary schools to reopen by mid-January.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
School district preparing buildings for hybrid learning

SFUSD plans to use 72 elementary schools and 12 early education sites for first phase of reopening

There have been at least 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers at San Francisco International Airport. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supes back SFO worker healthcare legislation despite airline, business opposition

Costs of ‘Health Airport Ordinance’ in dispute, with estimates ranging from $8.4 M to $163 M annually

Thankfully, playgrounds that were closed due to the pandemic during the summer have reopened.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
The perils of parenting, COVID-style

At long last, it’s OK to take your little one out to play

Ten candidates are running for a seat on the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Community College District.. (Courtesy photos)
Strong leadership needed as City College faces multiple crises

Ten candidates vying for four seats on CCSF board

City officials closed San Francisco County Jail No. 4 on the top floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. in September, reducing the number of beds in the jail system by about 400. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
SF jail closure prompts doctor to call for release of more inmates

Reduced space increases risk of COVID-19 spreading among those in custody

Most Read