ASUC Senate to discuss bill in support of multiunit housing smoking ban

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A bill supporting a city ordinance to ban smoking in multiunit housing in Berkeley was introduced before the ASUC Senate on Wednesday.

Berkeley City Council originally discussed the smoking ban at its Oct. 1 meeting but referred it back to city staff in an effort to create enforcement policies that would place responsibility on city officials rather than tenants. If the ASUC Senate bill, SB 36, passes, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai will write a letter to the council expressing the senate’s formal support of the ordinance.

The original policies, as drafted, would have required residents who wished to report a violator of the smoking ban to file a complaint in small claims court. According to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, council members agreed this “private right of action” may strain resident relationships and give landlords an excuse to evict long-term tenants as a means of economic gain.

Benjamin Feiner, the ASUC’s City Council liaison and a co-author of SB 36, said that although he is in favor of a smoking ban, it is important to the ASUC that any enforcement methods the City Council chooses do not target low-income residents. He added that the ASUC hopes to work with smokers in the community, not against them.

Arreguin said that he shared this concern and that SB 36 would help draw attention to the originally flawed enforcement policies.

“The council is going to pass an ordinance, but the question is whether or not that ordinance will have the effect of potentially incentivizing the eviction of long-term tenants,” he said.

Arreguin will present an alternative ordinance to city staff later this week that would require two neighbors to file a complaint and would subject violators to fines that would escalate for repeat offenders rather than subjecting them to eviction.

The smoking ban would apply to all indoor and outdoor spaces, including balconies, patios and storage units.

Feiner said secondhand smoke has a disproportionately significant effect on college students because most students live in apartments or other communal living arrangements.

For Golnar Teimouri, a UC Berkeley junior who often smokes on the balcony of her apartment, finding a place to smoke at home would be difficult, especially at night.

“When I’m done studying and I’m about to have my last cigarette before bed, I’d have to go out on the street at 1 a.m. to smoke,” Teimouri said. “Having to go outside at any hour would be hard, but I do understand the concerns of those in favor of this ordinance.”

According to Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, the City Council hopes to pass an ordinance by the end of 2013 so landlords can notify tenants in January about the smoking ban, which would take place in March 2014.

Contact Chloee Weiner at [email protected].

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