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City Council may recommend analysis on smoking ban

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JANUARY 29, 2012

The Berkeley City Council will consider recommending an analysis on an ordinance that would give landlords in Berkeley the power to ban smoking in their residences.

The recommendation, proposed by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson and set to come up at the council’s meeting Tuesday, asks the city’s Community Health Commission and Rent Stabilization Board to analyze the possibility of crafting a smoke free housing ordinance similar to California Senate Bill 332, which went into effect Jan. 1and which gives landlords the right to make their rental properties smoke free.

According to Worthington, if enacted, the Berkeley ordinance would supplement SB 332 in a more Berkeley-specific manner, particularly in relation to older generations.

“People in Berkeley want to make sure that…. we be careful not to cause a lot of problems for elderly tenants who may have smoked all their lives,” Worthington said. “We want to implement it thoughtfully.”

Previous discussion for the smoke-free housing ordinance focused on either a complete ban on smoking for all new tenancies or a ban that would provide a small fraction of tenancies where smoking would be allowed, according to Rent Stabilization Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian.

“A quarter of the housing stock turns over ever year,” said Kelekian. “The process would go relatively quickly.”

Worthington said he hopes the momentum from SB 332’s passage will reignite the push for the city’s smoke-free ordinance.“The Rent Board and Commission have talked about (the ordinance) in previous years but it got stuck,” Worthington said. “I’m hoping to get it unstuck to renew the dialogue.”

The recommendation for the ordinance cites a report from the American Lung Association which assigned Berkeley a ‘D’ for its smoke-free housing options.  The ALA assigned the city an overall grade of ‘B’ on its tobacco control policies according to the recommendation.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin stressed the importance of reducing smoking but said the ordinance would need to be written in a way that would not result in unfair evictions.

“We can craft a law which does restrict smoking and does not create avenues for landlords to unfairly evict tenants,” Arreguin said.

Jaehak Yu covers city government.

JANUARY 30, 2012