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Santa Monica could remove more ashtrays

Officials propose to penalize restaurant and bar owners who let patrons defy a city ban and smoke outdoors.

September 19, 2007|James Ricci | Times Staff Writer

The city of Santa Monica is poised to further tighten the screws on outdoor smokers by going after the bar and restaurant owners who enable them.

City attorneys this week held an informational meeting for business owners in regard to proposed penalties for proprietors who allow patrons to smoke on outdoor patios in defiance of municipal law.

"The operative phrase is 'knowingly or intentionally allowing' " the practice, said Adam Radinsky, deputy city attorney and the head of Santa Monica's consumer protection unit.

The extent of the penalties, likely to be submitted to the City Council in October, are still under discussion, he said.

Current city law permits authorities to cite only smokers -- not the establishment -- who indulge their habit in the outdoor areas. State law bans smoking inside restaurants and bars.

Radinsky said the city has had two dozen complaints about smoking in patio areas. "What happened was, when our staff members contacted the businesses involved, they were often told by the business owners that the law didn't require the owners to enforce the ban," he said.

Andrew Casaña, director of local government affairs for the Los Angeles region of the California Restaurant Assn., said the proposed legislation clearly is aimed at proprietors "who basically thumb their noses at the law" and allow patrons to smoke.

"It's not going to be driven by a witch hunt," he said. "It's a law that says if someone lights up and you ask them to put it out, you're not promoting it. But you don't have to be the smoking police and if somebody lights up you have to go into Wrestlemania mode."

If a patron refuses to put out a smoke, Casaña said, "the protocol would probably be to call the police."

If the proposal is approved, Santa Monica will join Beverly Hills, Burbank and Calabasas as L.A.-area cities with the strictest anti-smoking ordinances. The city of Los Angeles has banned smoking on public beaches and, after this year's Griffith Park fire, in public parks. It does not prohibit smoking in the outdoor areas of bars and restaurants.

Recently, however, City Council members asked the city attorney to draw up a proposal that would ban smoking at all farmers markets in the city except the permanent one at 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue.

Banning smoking in public outdoor areas "is the issue now that's gaining a lot of momentum, and a lot of that is related to the fact that second-hand smoke was classified as a toxic air contaminant by the California Air Resources Board in 2006," said Nora Manzanilla, coordinator of tobacco enforcement for the L.A. city attorney's office.

In 1998, California banned smoking in indoor areas of public places, including bars and restaurants. But state law permits smoking in outdoor areas, including restaurant patios.

Many municipalities have taken the bans further, applying them to those outdoor areas. They include Santa Barbara, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Davis, San Ramon and Berkeley.

California cities that have banned smoking on public beaches include Santa Monica, Malibu, Solano Beach, San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Carmel and Carpinteria, as well as Los Angeles.

james.ricci@latimes.com

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Other cities

Here are a few other California cities that have recently cracked down on smoking:

Calabasas

The city has one of the nation's most restrictive ordinances. Smoking is prohibited in all public places where other people can be exposed to secondhand smoke. These places include indoor and outdoor businesses, hotels, parks, apartment common areas, restaurants and bars where people can be reasonably expected to congregate or meet. Under terms of the ordinance, business owners may apply to the city to install and mark a designated smoking area that is a reasonable distance from nonsmokers. There is no cost to apply for such an area.

Los Angeles

After the Griffith Park fire, the city banned smoking at all public parks. Smoking is still allowed on city-operated golf courses and in designated areas at the Autry National Center, the Greek Theatre and Los Angeles Zoo. Smoking would be allowed for filming purposes if studios apply for a permit from the Recreation and Parks Department film office.

Belmont

Earlier this month, the Bay Area city tentatively approved an ordinance that prohibits smoking in indoor and outdoor workplaces, public spaces such as parks and sports fields, and inside condominiums, town houses and apartments. Places where smoking would still be allowed include city streets and sidewalks, single-family homes and designated outdoor smoking areas.

Sources: City of Calabasas; City of L.A.; The Associated Press

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