Apartments around Pleasanton are on track to face more stringent smoking rules after the City Council gave initial support to an ordinance establishing the new restrictions Tuesday.
Chief among the proposed new city regulations, which would take effect at apartment complexes early next year, is banning smoking inside individual units, on balconies and patios, in all indoor and outdoor common areas and within 25 feet of those locations.
"It's exciting that the concern of this community, as well as this council, is to protect people from the public health risk of smoking and secondhand smoking," Councilwoman Karla Brown said Tuesday night at the Pleasanton Civic Center.
Recommended by the Pleasanton Housing Commission and city staff and supported by many apartment complex owners in the city, the proposed restrictions come as a result of a council priority to address health concerns associated with secondhand smoke for residents and families living in close quarters at rental apartments, according to assistant city attorney Larissa Seto.
In addition to the onsite bans, "No Smoking" signs would need to be posted around the complex, and the smoke-free rules would need to be disclosed in tenant leases. The property owners would have the option to create a designated smoking area outdoors at least 25 feet from non-smoking areas.
Set for formal adoption later this summer, the new ordinance would apply to all apartment complexes under single ownership and control where at least two units are being rented -- but it wouldn't apply to adjoining homes like condos or townhouses where units are individually owned.
"It just seems to me that we're only getting halfway there by just going after the rental market," Vice Mayor Jerry Pentin said Tuesday. "When we have shared walls, we have shared secondhand smoke and I just don't think we're going as far as we need to go."
"We're really not attacking the whole problem just doing rental properties," Mayor Jerry Thorne added.
Seto said officials only met with the rental apartment community in line with the council priority and didn't check with condo or townhouse groups or homeowner associations for input, plus enforcement might be tougher in those complexes.
Council members directed city staff to solicit community feedback on smoking restrictions for condos and townhouses and then return with a recommendation some time next year after the apartment rules take effect.
Though focusing on traditional tobacco products, the proposed ordinance also places the same restrictions on e-cigarettes and recreational marijuana smoking. However, qualifying residents could smoke medical marijuana in their apartment with a doctor's note showing they need marijuana to treat their condition and cannot use marijuana edibles, THC pills or other non-smoking alternatives.
Seto likened the medical marijuana provision to an apartment that doesn't allow pets making an accommodation for a service or support animal.
Pentin wondered if the ordinance should go a step further to avoid medical marijuana smoking in apartments as best as possible.
"Can we codify that you need more than proof that you need medical marijuana, but that you need to be able to smoke it in your apartment and not join the outside smoking area?" he asked. "That would be a change I would like to see to this ordinance."
City Manager Nelson Fialho later pointed out that officials would have to research whether such a rule would be a legal restriction for a medical marijuana user, posing the question of what happens if an apartment complex opts not to have a designated smoking area.
The council asked city staff to examine the medical marijuana component and return with a recommendation.
Council members heard from a handful of speakers from the near-empty chambers Tuesday night, all offering support for the proposal in large part.
Representatives of the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Alameda County Public Health Department and Tri-Valley Smoke-Free Coalition endorsed the ordinance but urged the council to expand the restrictions to condos and townhouses.
Bill Mulgrew, representing the Rental Housing Association local branch, also voiced support but pushed for including medical marijuana in the ban, arguing it would be unfair to put the burden on property managers to judge a medical need.
As for enforcement, the ordinance puts the onus on owners and property managers to take the lead by informing residents and guests about the rules, documenting complaints, actively seeking compliance through lease terms and only after that point would city staff become involved in addressing continued violations, possibly with a citation and a fine.
An ordinance like this would typically take effect 30 days after adoption, but the proposal calls for holding off for six months to give property managers enough time to implement new procedures and update lease terms as well as allow residents to make housing choices in light of the new rules.
The restrictions are on track to start Feb. 18, 2018, with the council approving the first reading of the ordinance Tuesday night and formal adoption scheduled for July 18.
Some tenants might be able to keep smoking in their unit for almost a year beyond that. The restrictions would be required for new leases and leases renewed after Feb. 18, but landlords could choose to keep the old smoking rules in place for up to a year for tenants who renew their existing lease before Feb. 18.
There's a chance final ordinance adoption might not take place next month. If city staff returns with a new recommended provision for medical marijuana, the council would have to hold a new first reading and then schedule final approval for a following meeting.