Council’s Smoking Ban Applies Only to New Tenants and Doesn’t Include Cannabis

Anti-smoking advocates hoping for a sweeping ban on smoking in West Hollywood apartments were dealt a crushing defeat Monday night as the City Council opted to allow existing tenants in apartment buildings to continue to smoke both tobacco and cannabis in their units.

The Council cited medicinal uses of smoking marijuana and a failure to get sufficient input from residents for its decision not to implement the ban.
The anti-smokers’ only victory of the evening came with the Council’s decision to ban all new tenants from smoking tobacco in their units. But even that victory was less than hoped for as new tenants will still be allowed to smoke marijuana in their rentals.

Anti-smoking advocates have long pushed for a total smoking ban, covering both tobacco and cannabis, in apartments/condominiums, citing the health dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke. They noted that smoke from neighboring units can seep into other units through windows, walls, floors and ceilings. The U.S. Surgeon General has said there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Councilmember John Duran urged separating cannabis smoking from tobacco smoking in the discussion, noting the city’s long history of support for policies regarding cannabis, especially the medicinal use of cannabis.

“We’ve spent a significant amount of time creating progressive cannabis policy. And to suddenly turn our back and completely ignore where we came from and toss it aside as if none of that happened, it doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s irrational,” Duran said.

Duran also pointed out state law forbids smoking cannabis in public places like the sidewalk, thus making a person’s home the only place they can legally smoke cannabis, except for the city’s handful of cannabis smoking lounges.

With a 3-2 vote, the Council then opted to exempt cannabis and vaping from the possible ban. Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Councilmember John Heilman voted against the exemption.

The rest of the Council’s two-hour discussion then centered solely around tobacco smoking.

Councilmember John D’Amico pushed for an immediate ban on tobacco smoking in apartments and said he hoped to soon ban tobacco smoking everywhere in the city.

“I’m interested in removing tobacco use from our city,” said D’Amico. This was a complete 180 for D’Amico who, when first running for Council in 2011, spoke against the then-proposed smoking ban on restaurant patios.

Heilman also wanted a complete ban on both tobacco and cannabis smoking in multi-unit buildings, citing a person’s right to breath smoke free air. However, he also conceded a total ban was not something that could be implemented quickly, that the city would have to give residents time to adjust.

Councilmember Lauren Meister favored a ban, but pointed out what she saw as many flaws in a residential survey upon which city staff had based many of its recommendations for the smoking ban. She noted that if the survey was correct and 21% of residents smoke (the survey failed to distinguish between tobacco smoking and marijuana smoking), that still means some 7,700 residents of the city’s 38,000 residents were smokers.

Meister also noted that city staff had failed to get sufficient input from groups representing those that will be affected by the ban. She pointed out that tenant advocacy groups like the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) had not been contacted and the homeowner’s associations of various condominium complexes had not been notified. She further noted that while the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) landlord association had been contacted, it had failed to spread the information widely to its members.

She also noted that the city has no idea how many units are currently designated as smoke-free. And she questioned whether landlords even knew they could declare any vacant units as smoke-free under existing city law.

With so many questions regarding notification and input, the Council could not justify banning tobacco smoking for existing tenants and never brought that portion of the ban for a vote. However, once the city does greater outreach to affected groups and proper surveys of residents, this apartment smoking ban will likely come back before the Council.

The only thing the Council could unanimously agree upon was banning tobacco smoking for all new tenants. That ban will go into effect 90 days after the Council finalizes the language on that portion of the ordinance, likely sometime around Jan. 1, 2021.

With that vote, the council also banned tobacco smoking in the city’s parks and parklets as well as the common areas of apartment/condominium buildings.

As the discussion concluded, Horvath noted that none of the Council’s actions had done anything to help the people who had been pushing for the ban, the ones currently being affected by a neighbor’s smoking.

Meister suggested including those people in the city’s inclusionary housing waitlist as a means to help get them away from the smoking neighbors.

The Council was originally scheduled to consider this ban at its Aug. 3 meeting, but an internet outage on the city’s Eastside that night meant not all residents could participate in the teleconferencing meeting. So, the Council heard 22 public commenters that night, but delayed its discussion until Monday night.

Separating tobacco smoking and cannabis smoking is a move that could backfire if lawsuits are filed. State law says that cannabis smoking is forbidden everywhere tobacco smoking is banned. However, a memo from City Attorney Mike Jenkins noted that law had never been tested in the courts. Thus, the Council moved ahead with separating the two.

Meister also cited concerns about landlords trying to evict residents for violating a smoking ban. However, Peter Noonan, the city’s rent stabilization and housing manager, said that in 2011 the city declared smoking not to be a nuisance, thereby eliminating the possibility that smoking could be grounds for eviction.

Heilman noted the city does not get many complaints about smoking because it has no means of enforcing those complaints. He suggested the city should develop enforcement standards for smoking similar to noise complaint standards.

Of the 16 people speaking during public comment, nine spoke in favor of the ban, primarily citing health concerns of second-hand smoke. Of those speaking against the ban, they primarily cited rights to privacy and pleaded not to stigmatize marijuana users.

5 1 vote
Article Rating

24 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
BBM
BBM
1 month ago

This article omits the statement from Duran that people who pay $800+ for their condo expects to be able to smoke pot. Really?! Complete disregard towards the little guys or the other 80% of the City’s residents who don’t smoke.

James Francis
James Francis
2 months ago

In my opinion the law does not go far enough and should be retroactive to prohibit any apartments with multi-units should not be grandfathered because that’s where the heaviest smokers have lived there decades and it’s not fair to incoming or residents who haven’t lived in places for 10-20+ years. There should be enforcement and it shouldn’t be new tenants only but current residents as well! This is a critical issue that even the state and county recognized as a serious issue of concern, that articles and billboards and commercials on television express this issue that only brings more health… Read more »

Angela
Angela
2 months ago

Yeah this won’t be enforceable. And with people being so crazy nowadays, people trying to enforce it may wind up with a cigarette being stomped out on their face.

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
2 months ago
Reply to  Angela

^^ this

greeneyedboy
greeneyedboy
2 months ago

I am truly disgusted by cigarette smoke. SO HAPPY with this decision.

Can't Breathe
Can't Breathe
2 months ago

I watched the Council meeting and was happy to see Mayor Horvath express her “disappointment” with the rest of the Council (save for Heilman) in not being able to help protect the majority of renters and the ones asking for a non-smoking clause in the first place. Horvath and Heilman thought things through from both angles and brought common sense and progressive policies (yes, non-smoking is actually progressive) to the table. I also applaud D’amico who tried to get something anti-tobacco on the books that wasn’t decades in the making (i.e. grandfathering in existing tenancies). Meister brought up some very… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
2 months ago
Reply to  Can't Breathe

Vaping is really not much better than smoking pot straight out. hate to tell you. Not sure why you say it does not emanate from one home to another.

JF1
JF1
2 months ago

I don’t smoke…anything. And I don’t want to smell your smoke…nor do I want the negative health effects breathing in your crap does to me. If I had a neighbor that wouldn’t stopping smoking in public areas, I’d buy a giant fan and blow that crap right back at them. But I’d like to think my neighbor would do the polite, considerate thing and smoke only in their own private space.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago

I hate smoking, but what I hate exponentially more is legislative overreach by a nanny state, especially into the private behavior inside ones residence. Some of our so-called “progressive” politicos are borderline fascists on their pet peeves and project issues. Let’s not forget that until Lawrence v. Texas (2003) it was illegal for some people to engage in sexual activity within the privacy of their own home.

BBM
BBM
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I think the difference here is that sexual acts within the home is private. One’s neighbor is not forced to watch one engage in sexual activities. The problems here is that the smoke goes into other people’s apartment/condo. Their choice and freedoms are impacted.

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher
2 months ago

A better outcome than I expected. You’d think a city with so many Democrats would be sensitive to the fascism the proposed ban would have imposed.

And no, I am not a smoker.

Manny
Manny
2 months ago

“fascism”?!……Regulations that protect public health is not “fascism”. Protecting the individual rights and health of non-smokers is not “fascism” Stopping at a red light to allow others to cross safety is not “fascism”. No Trespassing (physically or with toxins) is not “fascism” Wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic is not “fascism”.

Let’s not diminish the impact and real definition of fascism.

JF1
JF1
2 months ago

It’s funny…the democrats are the ones that are usually behind the banning of things these days…people, different thoughts, fur, smoking, paper bags, plastic straws. lol

Manny
Manny
2 months ago

More outreach? Not enough outreach? If you’re a smoker and didn’t hear about this, someone better check your pulse.

The “progressive” city. This decision sounds more 1977 than 2020. So much for progress.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
2 months ago

As for Lauren Meister, her comments make the city staff look like total incompetents. Why isn’t this city council now cutting back on these city employee losers – a bloated bureaucracy – firing them or cutting salaries? Or laying off these incompetents, according to the expert Meister, and city employees.

Meister is now onboard with the new “Get High 3”: Duran, D’Amico, and Meister.

At least we can get rid of the “tax lien king” and scandal-ridden embarrassment John Duran in November.

Then D’Amico and Meister in two years!

James Palmieri
James Palmieri
2 months ago

This ban was never going to be enforceable. It is a law like the mask law, noise law, etc. WHO WILL ENFORCE IT? We can’t get sheriff’s out for more important crimes. Did anyone think this ban would be the panacea or magic wand to rid Weho of smokers? Then to punish cannabis users whether medical or recreational? Is someone supposed to show a “smoke ban enforcer” their private medical records as to whether it is medicinal or not? I’d love to see how much that would cost the city with medical privacy laws, and disability laws. This ban was… Read more »

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  James Palmieri

Precisely. What, someone is going to call code enforcement, and someone from the City is going to show up and catch them in the act? By the same token, I feel for people who might live right above another apartment where they cannot enjoy their balcony because of constant tobacco smoke rising from their neighbor downstairs. If I was a tobacco smoker, I’d be a courteous one, and not do it where it affects others. If I lived with a non-smoker, I wouldn’t smoke in my apartment. Even if I lived on the second floor of an apartment building, I’d… Read more »

Bax
Bax
2 months ago
Reply to  James Palmieri

Landlords/HOA would enforce it, like every other jurisdiction where it’s been enacted. If the Landlord/HOA fails their obligation, then a complaint can be filed with the appropriate city agency to levy a fine to force compliance. No need to send in the Sheriff. As for Medical Privacy and Disability Laws, you need to provide a letter from a doctor for reasonable accommodations for a service animal under FHA and ADA, why would medicinal marijuana be any different?

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
2 months ago
Reply to  Bax

and that would be a choice if you had a living creature in your apt/condo. i promise you, there would be issues with someone having to provide a medical form to take their medication. i think this would be a slippery slope. also the mngr of my building said he isn’t the police. he wouldn’t be getting involved. he has his hands full with people getting on the elevators without masks, trying to prevent people from second hand breath droplets.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
2 months ago

“… the council also banned tobacco smoking in … the common areas of apartment/condominium buildings.”

Just for clarification, smoking was banned by State law in the enclosed, indoor common areas of those buildings some 20 years ago. The new City ordinance will also prohibit it in the unenclosed spaces such as breezeways, garages, and pools.

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher
2 months ago
Reply to  WeHoMikey

People smoke poolside all the time. What are people going to do, splash water or carry a water pistol? All that is going to accomplish is fights among neighbors turning buildings into war zones. I don’t know why they couldn’t have mandated designated smoking areas, but when puritanism strikes, it’s always all or nothing.

Bax
Bax
2 months ago

Seems like the smokers will just need to change their behavior. Maybe buy some nicorette gum. Have Beverly Hills apartment pools turned in a war zone?

Harris
Harris
2 months ago
Reply to  Bax

Yeah ain’t gonna happen. I have several groups of friends who smoke and they’re doubling down. Prepare to breathe in lots and lots more smoke.

James Palmieri
James Palmieri
2 months ago

AGREED