CA Foster City
Foster City smoking at home update…
City moves forward with smoking ban: Foster City officials to ban smoking in shared dwellings after second reading of new ordinance
A smoking ban in Foster City apartments, condominiums and townhomes that share walls, floors, ceilings and ventilation systems moved forward Monday with a unanimous City Council vote after nearly a year of sometimes heated discussion.
Although the council acted unanimously at its meeting Monday, it must approve the ordinance again during a second reading set for Nov. 17.
The council has spent more than a year working to restrict smoking in Foster City and has wavered on how to balance the rights of private property owners with ways to protect public health from unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke.
“We looked at it from a different perspective. Instead of looking at it from the ownership side, which we were all reluctant to deal with, we looked at it from the design perspective,” Councilman Steve Okamoto said. “So, if a unit is sharing a common ceiling, wall or ventilation system, than we would ban it in that unit. But if it’s free standing, than we wouldn’t ban it at all.”
If the ordinance passes, smoking would also be forbidden in all indoor and outdoor common areas of the described multi-unit dwellings. However, smoking may be permitted in specifically designated and clearly marked areas at least 30 feet away from an entrance or doorway. If the area is indoors, it must be fully enclosed and ventilated.
This wasn’t the first time the council moved to a second reading to include shared housing units in its smoking ban and former attempts failed as some were concerned about regulating what people do in their homes.
Mayor Charlie Bronitsky previously expressed concern about government infringing on private property rights, but said he’s confident this proposed ordinance will be enacted.
“I think that was a good balance and compromise. I do not expect further amendments in the short term,” Bronitsky wrote in an email.
The council also struggled with coming to a consensus on banning smoking in outdoor portions of restaurants, of which there is one establishment in the city that serves hookah in up to 50 percent of its outdoor seating area. There are no current plans to bring that facet back to council, Okamoto said.
After tabling these two controversial caveats in July, the council was able to move forward with its new ordinance that currently prohibits smoking on any city-owned property like streets and parks, during public events and within an expanded 50-foot-buffer zone around commercial spaces.
Smoking is allowed on privately owned single-family homes and the fines for violating the ordinance have been raised to $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for each offense thereafter. However, the city has stressed it will first focus on education before issuing fines.
Although the councilmembers may have had their disagreements over the year on how to go about protecting the public from unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke, Okamoto said he’s confident in the process and outcome.
“I think it’s as good as we could have done,” Okamoto said. “We took time doing it and we looked at the entire ordinance bit by bit instead of just going to do the whole thing at once. So we were very careful and very thoughtful.”
The council must approve the ordinance at a second reading set for Nov. 17, after which it would go into effect 30 days later.
Originally written By: Samantha Weigel