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Mountain View bans smoking in multifamily residences, including common areas and inside units

Residents living in Mountain View apartments will no longer be able to smoke at home under a new ordinance. File photo by Michelle Le.

The Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night on a far-reaching ban on smoking, prohibiting residents from smoking tobacco or marijuana in all apartments, condos and other multi-unit housing properties.

The restrictions go into effect starting next year, taking a broad approach that includes all residential properties with three or more attached units. Residents will be barred from smoking inside units, in common areas and on private balconies and patios, as well as anywhere within 25 feet of homes.

Despite reservations that the anti-smoking ordinance would curtail personal liberties and lack equity for those who can't afford to live in single-family homes -- which would be exempt from the ban -- council members largely agreed that the health benefits and reduction in secondhand smoke outweigh the costs. The ordinance also makes a blanket prohibition on both recreational and medical marijuana use, raising concerns for those who rely on cannabis for treatment.

The ordinance builds on smoking restrictions passed by the city in 2012, which prohibited smoking in outdoor dining areas and public parks and buildings. Since then, numerous jurisdictions throughout the region have gone much further in curtailing when and where people are allowed to smoke cigarettes, making Mountain View the city with some of the most lax regulations.

Cities that have banned smoking in multi-unit housing include Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Los Gatos, according to an analysis by Santa Clara County.

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Councilwoman Sally Lieber said she supported the ordinance, describing tobacco as "one of the worst scourges around," and that children currently stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionately impacted by secondhand smoke. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the restrictions in the ordinance make sense, and that he himself is subject to smoke wafting through his windows into his apartment.

"It was annoying when I moved here, but it became downright miserable when I was confined here during the pandemic and had to work remotely," Ramirez said. "I have two windows that face the same direction and many neighbors who smoke, and especially during the summer months it just became unbearable. It was sweltering in here ... but I couldn't get any relief because if you open the windows smoke comes in."

A citywide survey in the lead-up to the May 25 council meeting found that 75% of respondents supported a ban of smoking and vaping of tobacco products inside multi-unit residences, while 21% opposed it. That number sinks to 48% for marijuana, with 21% believing medical marijuana should be exempt. Just shy of one-third of respondents said smoking is already banned in their homes.

City officials say newer complexes tend to prohibit smoking in all units and common areas, while older apartments are more likely to take a hands-off approach.

Anti-smoking groups including Breathe California gave heavy support for the ordinance, arguing that the law could go even further by extending the ban to include duplexes. Vanessa Marvin, a co-founder of Tobacco Free Coalition of Santa Clara County, said the ordinance would put all property managers and landlords on the same page, and that protections against secondhand smoke won't be eroded in the event that there is a change in ownership.

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Andre Tomas, a resident and union representative for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 521, urged the council not to pass the ordinance, arguing the city has more important things to focus on. By including marijuana, residents reliant on medical marijuana would no longer be permitted to smoke in their own homes, he said.

"Passing this will alienate the members of our community that use marijuana for pain management and as treatment for a myriad of ailments in the privacy of their homes," he said.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter, the lone dissenting vote, said she acknowledges secondhand smoke as a big problem but nevertheless saw the ordinance as the city overstepping. While she said she hopes people don't smoke, it's not clear where people living in multifamily homes would be allowed to smoke under the new law.

"I feel that this is kind of an invasion of peoples' personal liberties," Showalter said. "This is not an appropriate thing for us to be doing."

Mayor Ellen Kamei acknowledged the balancing act of trying to protect people from secondhand smoke while letting residents choose what to do with their bodies, but ultimately landed on the side of the smoking restrictions.

"I believe everyone should be able to make their personal choices to smoke whatever they would like to, but I think in these cases we're thinking about the health and well-being of our community," Kamei said.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, property owners will be required to begin enforcement of the smoking ban, which requires "no smoking" signs to be posted and new leases to reflect the anti-smoking rules. The ordinance includes a broad definition for what amounts to smoking, including different types of "combustion, electronic ignition, or vaporizations of all inhalation products, including, but not limited to, tobacco and medicinal and recreational marijuana."

City officials say none of the cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties with similar anti-smoking ordinances granted an exemption for medical marijuana, and that the Santa Clara County Public Health Department advised against such an exemption.

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Mountain View bans smoking in multifamily residences, including common areas and inside units

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, May 26, 2021, 4:00 pm

The Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night on a far-reaching ban on smoking, prohibiting residents from smoking tobacco or marijuana in all apartments, condos and other multi-unit housing properties.

The restrictions go into effect starting next year, taking a broad approach that includes all residential properties with three or more attached units. Residents will be barred from smoking inside units, in common areas and on private balconies and patios, as well as anywhere within 25 feet of homes.

Despite reservations that the anti-smoking ordinance would curtail personal liberties and lack equity for those who can't afford to live in single-family homes -- which would be exempt from the ban -- council members largely agreed that the health benefits and reduction in secondhand smoke outweigh the costs. The ordinance also makes a blanket prohibition on both recreational and medical marijuana use, raising concerns for those who rely on cannabis for treatment.

The ordinance builds on smoking restrictions passed by the city in 2012, which prohibited smoking in outdoor dining areas and public parks and buildings. Since then, numerous jurisdictions throughout the region have gone much further in curtailing when and where people are allowed to smoke cigarettes, making Mountain View the city with some of the most lax regulations.

Cities that have banned smoking in multi-unit housing include Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Los Gatos, according to an analysis by Santa Clara County.

Councilwoman Sally Lieber said she supported the ordinance, describing tobacco as "one of the worst scourges around," and that children currently stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionately impacted by secondhand smoke. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the restrictions in the ordinance make sense, and that he himself is subject to smoke wafting through his windows into his apartment.

"It was annoying when I moved here, but it became downright miserable when I was confined here during the pandemic and had to work remotely," Ramirez said. "I have two windows that face the same direction and many neighbors who smoke, and especially during the summer months it just became unbearable. It was sweltering in here ... but I couldn't get any relief because if you open the windows smoke comes in."

A citywide survey in the lead-up to the May 25 council meeting found that 75% of respondents supported a ban of smoking and vaping of tobacco products inside multi-unit residences, while 21% opposed it. That number sinks to 48% for marijuana, with 21% believing medical marijuana should be exempt. Just shy of one-third of respondents said smoking is already banned in their homes.

City officials say newer complexes tend to prohibit smoking in all units and common areas, while older apartments are more likely to take a hands-off approach.

Anti-smoking groups including Breathe California gave heavy support for the ordinance, arguing that the law could go even further by extending the ban to include duplexes. Vanessa Marvin, a co-founder of Tobacco Free Coalition of Santa Clara County, said the ordinance would put all property managers and landlords on the same page, and that protections against secondhand smoke won't be eroded in the event that there is a change in ownership.

Andre Tomas, a resident and union representative for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 521, urged the council not to pass the ordinance, arguing the city has more important things to focus on. By including marijuana, residents reliant on medical marijuana would no longer be permitted to smoke in their own homes, he said.

"Passing this will alienate the members of our community that use marijuana for pain management and as treatment for a myriad of ailments in the privacy of their homes," he said.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter, the lone dissenting vote, said she acknowledges secondhand smoke as a big problem but nevertheless saw the ordinance as the city overstepping. While she said she hopes people don't smoke, it's not clear where people living in multifamily homes would be allowed to smoke under the new law.

"I feel that this is kind of an invasion of peoples' personal liberties," Showalter said. "This is not an appropriate thing for us to be doing."

Mayor Ellen Kamei acknowledged the balancing act of trying to protect people from secondhand smoke while letting residents choose what to do with their bodies, but ultimately landed on the side of the smoking restrictions.

"I believe everyone should be able to make their personal choices to smoke whatever they would like to, but I think in these cases we're thinking about the health and well-being of our community," Kamei said.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, property owners will be required to begin enforcement of the smoking ban, which requires "no smoking" signs to be posted and new leases to reflect the anti-smoking rules. The ordinance includes a broad definition for what amounts to smoking, including different types of "combustion, electronic ignition, or vaporizations of all inhalation products, including, but not limited to, tobacco and medicinal and recreational marijuana."

City officials say none of the cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties with similar anti-smoking ordinances granted an exemption for medical marijuana, and that the Santa Clara County Public Health Department advised against such an exemption.

Comments

lan
Registered user
Monta Loma
on May 26, 2021 at 5:15 pm
lan, Monta Loma
Registered user
on May 26, 2021 at 5:15 pm

No doubt second hand smoke is unhealthy, and marijuana simple smells awful. I try to avoid cigarette or pot smoke if possible.

But how can the city enforce such a ban that discriminates against residents who live in a particular type of housing? And is the city going to go after my neighbor who lives right on the other side of my patio fence when he smokes pot and the smoke fills up my home?

This ban clearly communicates only the really wealthy, single family home owners of Mountain View can smoke in their homes. All of the 'poorer' residents cannot.


OldGuy
Registered user
Whisman Station
on May 26, 2021 at 6:27 pm
OldGuy, Whisman Station
Registered user
on May 26, 2021 at 6:27 pm

I have recently developed an aggressive cancer and am in constant pain and discomfort. I don't currently use cannabis but was hoping that might provide some relief. Now I guess not. I have never smoked tobacco.


J
Registered user
Monta Loma
on May 26, 2021 at 8:14 pm
J, Monta Loma
Registered user
on May 26, 2021 at 8:14 pm

@OldGuy edibles might be an option? But I agree that enforcing this based on the type of residence seems questionable and potentially discriminatory.


Phil
Registered user
Castro City
on May 26, 2021 at 10:39 pm
Phil , Castro City
Registered user
on May 26, 2021 at 10:39 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on May 27, 2021 at 8:33 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 8:33 am

I have mixed feelings about this measure. But the basic facts are clear: air pollution kills, and causes lifelong problems like asthma.

As the saying goes, the right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. And the right to smoke your smoke ends at the same place.

Now can we finally do something about filthy gas-powered leaf blowers?


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on May 27, 2021 at 9:50 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 9:50 am

I'm with Pat Showalter on this one, City is over-reaching and in an unfair way (by imposing the ordinance on only some types of housing).

As for the Vice Mayor's justification : "It was sweltering in here ... but I couldn't get any relief because if you open the windows smoke comes in."

I don't have AC, I don't smoke, nor do any of my neighbors. Yet I've had to close my windows and "swelter" many times last year ... due to the wildfires. Those are not going away any time soon and won't be banned by any City ordinance.

My solution has been to get a small AC unit and upgrade all the air filters in my home.

Instead of that over-reaching ordinance, City should provide incentives to upgrade Air filtering in its residents' homes. Maybe use some of the Federal Covid Rescue Funds for subsidizing such a program?



Peter
Registered user
North Bayshore
on May 27, 2021 at 10:17 am
Peter, North Bayshore
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 10:17 am

I hope next that Mountain View will pass laws to prevent overeating. Obesity is a huge concern which not only destroys the health of the individual but also causes problems in society.

Please pass laws to make it illegal to consume more than like 3000 calories in a day or otherwise engage in unhealthy eating habits!!!!


Activist Socialist
Registered user
Jackson Park
on May 27, 2021 at 12:57 pm
Activist Socialist, Jackson Park
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 12:57 pm

This is idiotic. I've never smoked, and don't condone smoking, but someone smoking in the privacy of their own home isn't hurting anyone. Automobiles do a heck of a lot more to pollute the air than smokers. Are we going to ban cars in residential areas?


Bernie Brightman
Registered user
Whisman Station
on May 27, 2021 at 1:02 pm
Bernie Brightman, Whisman Station
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 1:02 pm

It's about time and they need to go further. I feel sorry for people living in standalone houses, which are built much too close together these days, because the neighbor smoking over the fence can really be a foul source of air pollution.

Another issue that the city needs to look at in this regard is barbecuing. People generating smoke from these grills, say in a downstairs unit, create just as much of a health hazard. Inhaling smoke, of any kind, is not good for your lungs, folks. And in these days of a super dry, drought climate, they're creating significant fire hazards as well.


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on May 27, 2021 at 1:42 pm
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 1:42 pm

I am disturbed that the city is regulating what people can smoke in their homes. This seems like an invasion of privacy as well as regulatory overreach. Regulating this behavior in indoor and outdoor common areas is reasonable, but inside one's home? Crazy.

Also, I second Jeremy Hoffman's proposal to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, which emit high levels of formaldehyde, benzene, fine particulate matter and other smog-forming chemicals. The emissions from these blowers are known to cause asthma attacks as well as serious heart and lung disease.


Rossta
Registered user
Waverly Park
on May 27, 2021 at 2:43 pm
Rossta, Waverly Park
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 2:43 pm

This seems like a huge government over-reach. Thank you, Pat, for recognizing this. I don't smoke and am very sensitive to cigarette smoke. I'm glad few people smoke in this area. Car exhaust and especially diesel are really horrible when I'm exercising and riding my bike. I'm also glad most people shower and don't fart all the time. We can't solve everything with regulations and we have to accept some inconveniences as part of being in a society together. Let's all try a little more tolerance.


PeaceLove
Registered user
Shoreline West
on May 27, 2021 at 3:30 pm
PeaceLove, Shoreline West
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 3:30 pm

Tobacco smoke is pernicious and disgusting. I have a neighbor who smokes in his own backyard and it wafts directly into my apartment. But the city has no business decreeing what people can and can't do in their own homes - especially in a discriminatory manner that allows my neighbor to smoke (he's in a house) but not others.

Cannabis is widely used by people with all sorts of medical conditions and the smokeable flowers are one of the quickest-acting ways to get pain relief. For the city to ban *thousands* of suffering residents from legally smoking cannabis in their own home is truly reprehensible and cruel. But unsurprising: the MV City Council has ignored and abused sick and suffering cannabis patients for 25 years (since the passage of Prop 215 way back in 1996) and this move is just the latest show of their contempt.


ShorelineWestMan
Registered user
Shoreline West
on May 27, 2021 at 5:43 pm
ShorelineWestMan, Shoreline West
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Nanny-state over reach. I don’t smoke but I hope someone takes this to court because it will likely and hopefully be thrown out. Only the wealthy elite in their single family castles will now be able to enjoy the simple freedom of a smoke in their own homes. Not surprised totalitarian tendencied Lieber supports this. Surprised Showwalter opposed...good for her.


Activist Socialist
Registered user
Jackson Park
on May 27, 2021 at 9:43 pm
Activist Socialist, Jackson Park
Registered user
on May 27, 2021 at 9:43 pm

This is why voting is important. When only NIMBYs vote reliably, this is the sort of policy you get. City council matters!


Anonymous
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on May 28, 2021 at 6:16 am
Anonymous, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on May 28, 2021 at 6:16 am

This is BS. Point me to one study showing that secondhand marijuana smoke is a health risk. The Council needs to get off their high horse. If people can't smoke marijuana outside, and they can't smoke in their own homes, I say they should be allowed to smoke at the Mountain View City Council building.


Miriam
Registered user
North Bayshore
on May 28, 2021 at 1:04 pm
Miriam, North Bayshore
Registered user
on May 28, 2021 at 1:04 pm

This is like prohibition... it will never work & can't be monitored. And if someone is ratted on by a neighbor, will they be fined, arrested? Talk about Big Brother... I am not a smoker, but do take a toke every once in a while. So I'm not allowed to take a hit or two off my pot pipe in my own home? Outrageous!! Good for Pat Showalter for standing up to the mob.


PeaceLove
Registered user
Shoreline West
on May 29, 2021 at 3:18 pm
PeaceLove, Shoreline West
Registered user
on May 29, 2021 at 3:18 pm

I have neighbors directly below me who like to barbecue on the weekends, directly under my kitchen window. I know the moment they start because the smoke (which is carcinogenic and linked to respiratory disorders) goes directly up into my apartment such that I have to close all my windows on that side of the house. On a hot day I have the choice to have my apartment carcinogenic or unbearably hot and stuffy.

Will the City Council be banning people in apartments from barbecuing on their own balconies and patios? If not, how is this not comparable to banning people from smoking in their own homes, especially considering the volume of toxic smoke is much greater from a barbecue than from a cigarette? (Cannabis smoke, as correctly mentioned above, has no clinically established toxicity and no known fatalities.)


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 30, 2021 at 12:44 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on May 30, 2021 at 12:44 pm

I've have had a no-smoking rule inside my small apartment complex for several years.
Two cases where people wanted to smoke outside, and one did not dispose of butts correctly.
I really question if we need to add another regulation.
Because this regulation adds no benefits to my tenants.
I am sure the people who created this ordinance will say, oh, it doesn't take much to enforce.
But it is just another regulation, a few more dollars and posting more signs.
Just one more item on another pile of things to take care of
But who cares, as long as it is others people's time, other people's money.


Jay
Registered user
another community
on Jun 3, 2021 at 5:05 pm
Jay, another community
Registered user
on Jun 3, 2021 at 5:05 pm

I used to live on the second floor in a Villa De Wright apartment in the mid-90s. The tenet below me was an apparent chain smoker who rarely seemed to leave home. Smoked most of the time in his tiny backyard and I never could open my window. It felt very unfair.

I think that cigarette is very addictive so that people are not in control of themselves. I’m incredulous that many people smoke pot with the regularity or amount of a heavy smoker—if you do that you’ve really got a problem. I think city officials just hate marijuana which is why it’s legal but you can’t buy it in MV.

More than anything this seems to be illustrative of a area that’s literally choking on its own success. Left the Bay Area and live in a large home out of state with plenty of space for smoking or toking (neither of which I do) but I can run my woodworking power tools without bothering my neighbors. Bay Area can be really nice living, but the expense and contentious of it is mind boggling.


drslb
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Jun 4, 2021 at 6:19 pm
drslb, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Jun 4, 2021 at 6:19 pm

Much as I wish everyone would quit smoking, this does seem discriminatory as single family folks could smoke cigarettes and pot in their back yards and pollute their neighbors. Would make more sense to have a law that if there were complaints the smoker would have to mitigate. I’m sure you could buy a small device to suck away your cigarette or pot smoke. My guess is there will be law suits. I wonder if they consulted the police department about how they feel about being called to enforce this law. Concerned re: harassment of POC and unequal enforcement. Doesn’t seem that City Council thought this one through.

I am on a condo board. The city of MV has other strange controlling ordinances that apply to multi family but not single family homes that demand city approval for property upgrades and even painting the complex if you change colors. Seems discriminatory as well.


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jun 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jun 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm

I'm not a tobacco smoker and I own a single family home, so this doesn't really apply to me, but it does seem over the top. Some kind of responsibility to mitigate seems more reasonable.


Hrw
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Jun 8, 2021 at 12:41 am
Hrw, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2021 at 12:41 am

I applaud the council for passing the smoking ban on multi-family residence. Santa Clara and Palo Alto also have this ban. Everyone is talking about the rights of a smoker, but what about my rights? I should have to right to breathe clean air and not have to close all my windows and doors in the warm summers! I cannot even enjoy my patio backyard without breathing in second hand smoke. Thank you Mountain View Council for placing this ban on multi-family unit


Mark
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jun 12, 2021 at 7:06 am
Mark, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jun 12, 2021 at 7:06 am

This is to inform the current incumbent city council members that in the next elections, I will not be casting a vote for any of them. An exception Might be made for Ms Showalter, despite her being a Google-stooge, but at least she understands the constitution. This nanny-state ordnance demands explanation as to how it is intended to be enforced, and who by. It IS discriminatory in that it within Mountain View restricts the enjoyment of certain legal rights granted to all Californians, only to those who own their own homes. Doesn't the police department have better things to do than chase down tobacco and pot smokers, and wasn't that the purpose of Prop 64, to free them for attending to worse crimes? Will they be tasked to respond to 'shot-spotter' calls whenever people flick cigarette lighters? Depend upon a neighborhood of snitches and Karens peering thru windows at their neighbors, willing to make other people pay for the "pollution" they are causing, (let alone all the pollution caused by the increased traffic Mountain View equates with its new-tech 'prosperity?') This law, claimed to be enacted in the interest of "public health', is one fitting example of the authoritarianism so eagerly and avidly embraced by the MVCC. And that is why I will not be re-electing any of you if I can help it.


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