The West Hollywood City Council will consider an ordinance at its Monday meeting giving tenants who smoke protection from eviction. Mayor John Duran is sponsoring the bill as a preemptive measure before the state law goes into effect.
Senate Bill 332, introduced earlier this year by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley), would allow landlords to declare a rental unit or an entire apartment complex as "nonsmoking." Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in September.
While many apartment complexes already have smoke-free policies, until now there was nothing in state law that explicitly permitted a landlord to restrict smoking.
The bill requires landlords to place smoking restrictions in rental agreements. Tenants violating the terms of the rental agreement would be at risk of eviction.
“In a city like West Hollywood, some landlords are looking for any excuses to get rid of tenants, especially long-term tenants who pay a low rent,” said Duran. “I have no doubt they would declare an apartment 'nonsmoking' just to get rid of a tenant.”
The state law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. However, the bill contains a grandfather clause that allows any local ordinance regarding apartment smoking in effect prior to that date to stand. As a result, the City Council would have to pass this bill before the end of the year.
Noting that West Hollywood was founded on the concept of renters’ rights, with strong rent-control laws, Duran said he wanted to ensure that renters who smoke were still protected.
“We have a large number of residents who smoke,” said Duran, who was strongly opposed to the city’s restaurant patio smoking ban, which also goes into effect on Jan. 1. “This is necessary to make sure no one does anything underhanded.”
According to the latest census figures, 78 percent of West Hollywood residents live in rental units. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 20 percent of West Hollywood residents smoke, compared to 14 percent in Los Angeles County.
In authoring the bill, Padilla said he wanted to create more smoke-free housing options. His bill cites the health dangers of secondhand smoke, which is estimated to cause 49,000 deaths per year in the United States.
In 2006, the California state Air Resources Board classified secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant, the same category in which it places automobile exhaust and industrial air pollutants.
Numerous studies have been released in recent years showing secondhand smoke to be a health danger. However, almost all of those studies have been severely criticized as lacking scientific integrity and reaching conclusions that the data does not support.
Critics point out that the news media routinely announce the initial findings, but rarely report on the flaws, thus misleading the public about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco-control advocate who teaches at Boston University’s School of Public Heath, calls this “science by press release.” Siegel points out that academic standards require research be properly vetted by peers before being made public.
While he supports anti-smoking policies, Siegel is disturbed by what he considers unethical actions by the tobacco-control movement and creation of smoking-related public policy based on political agendas rather than scientific evidence. Siegel writes a daily watchdog blog monitoring tobacco-control activities and critiquing tobacco-related research.
The City Council is scheduled to meet in the new library's Council Chambers at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Read the full agenda here.