“People were a little nervous about displacing smokers,” says Baum of the working group. “The people on the other side were not going to budge. So we drafted an ordinance that would declare smoking in multiunit apartment buildings a nuisance.”
In January 2010, the group submitted the draft ordinance to Councilmember Emerald. The group did not receive a response. In December 2010, the proposed law was resubmitted, and the working group encouraged Emerald to docket the issue.
“The nuisance ordinance was supposed to go to the city attorney to help revamp it,” says Baum. “It has stalled at Marti Emerald’s office. We have emailed and prodded. The City needs to do something — people are getting evicted — but the City of San Diego is not budging.”
Alan Pentico, director of public affairs for the San Diego County Apartment Association, was a member of the working group. He opposes an all-out ban. “Some people think this would be simple and straightforward, but the fact is, it is the exact opposite. People use smoking bans in restaurants and hotels as examples of how this could work, but people don’t live in restaurants, and there is a high turnover rate in hotels.”
Pentico feels an ordinance would be difficult to implement and enforce and that it would be financially burdensome to property owners.
Councilmember Emerald has many of the same concerns.
Emerald says the ordinance stalled because of questions about the legality of a ban. “There is evidence that children who live in apartment buildings where smokers are around suffer more from asthma and other lung disorders. I think that’s real. But where do the smokers’ rights begin, and where do they end?” asked Emerald during a December 14 phone interview.
One possibility, says Emerald, might be to designate smoking areas in affordable-housing buildings. However, Emerald considers a ban an invasion of privacy.
“In the privacy of your own home, don’t you have the right to light up a cigarette if you want?”
Baum disagrees. “Everyone speaks of the smoker’s rights, but what about the rights of the nonsmoker? What about our right to breathe clean air?”