Council Expected to Implement New Smoking Ordinance

South Pasadena’s City Council unanimously approved the expanded no smoking ban that makes illegal to light up on any public sidewalk within city limits. Photo By Steve Whitmore

South Pasadena is about 30 days away from a citywide smoking ban that makes it illegal to light up anywhere in public, including sidewalks.

The City Council was expected to approve the second reading of the expanded smoking ban during its Wednesday meeting with the new law going into effect in 30 days. The expansion, targeting the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, includes parkways, walkways, gutters and curbs as well as public sidewalks.

“In effect, the ordinance does ban smoking in all public spaces,” Dr. Marina Khubesrian, South Pasadena’s mayor pro tem, said in an email this week. “As of now, I’m not aware of any opposition to the changes. No one has spoken in public or expressed an opposing view via calls or emails.”

Smoking is currently prohibited in public parks and public places, including restaurants, theaters, museums and restrooms, among other sites, according to South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.

The council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance at its May 2 meeting. The existing ordinance is contained in section 17.53-17.56 of the South Pasadena Municipal Code.

The driving force behind the expanded smoking ban has been South Pasadena resident Gisella Benitez, who lost her husband, Ricardo, to lung cancer last year. Benitez said that Ricardo was not a smoker and second-hand smoke was a contributing factor to his lung cancer.

In fact, Benitez has offered to pay for signage around South Pasadena schools indicating smoking is prohibited on public sidewalks, walkways, parkways, curbs and gutters.

Benitez went in front of the South Pasadena Unified School District’s Board of Education at its May 8 meeting, expressing her concern that people were smoking outside schools in front of young people. She spoke to the board during public comments and the board is generally prohibited in responding to the speaker’s comments.

Meanwhile, South Pasadena Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Khubesrian applauded Benitez’s contribution to bringing the smoking ban to fruition.

“You have made a difference,” Khubesrian told Benitez during the meeting May 2. “You have turned a tragedy into an opportunity and I applaud you for that.”

South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller said that there will be a need for some signage that alerts the public that smoking is prohibited on public sidewalks.

DeWolfe said in an email to the Review that an ordinance “is more formal and authoritative than a resolution. (It’s a) local law that usually regulates persons or property and usually relates to a matter of a general and permanent nature.”

Smoking is allowed on a “single-family property, and at a distance of 25 feet from all areas where it is prohibited.

“For example, smoking is prohibited in all ‘enclosed workplaces of commercial enterprise,’ so at a typical office building, smoking is permitted only outside the building at a distance of 25 feet from the building, but not on public sidewalks or other public property,” DeWolfe said in the email.

Miller, whose department will be responsible for enforcing the massive citywide ban, took a moment to explain why this new ordinance is important to South Pasadena.

“The smoking ban is important on several levels,” Miller said late last week. “First, our community members and people who spend time in South Pasadena will be able to enjoy our city without the lingering odor of smoke and potential negative health effects second-hand smoke may have on some people. Our officers will respond to complaints of people who smoke in the public areas. Initially violators may be cited or warned. Every situation will be different, and our officers will use discretion while enforcing the smoking ban. A violation could result in a $100 fine. Of significant importance is the fact that as a city we responded to the request of a community member who raised concerns that affected her personally. We listened and took immediate action. I am proud of our staff and how quickly we were able to affect change for the greater good in the community.”

Councilwoman Diana Mahmud echoed Miller’s comments, saying that people better understand the potential dangers of second-hand smoke now than in years past.

“I have heard only one complaint against new ordinance,” Mahmud said Monday morning after South Pasadena’s Public Safety Commission meeting. “I just think people are more aware of the dangers with second-hand smoke and believe this (ordinance) to be necessary.”

The South Pasadena City Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Amedee O. “Dick” Richards, Jr. council chambers at 1424 Mission St. Regular meetings are broadcasted live on Time-Warner Cable Channel 19 and AT&T Channel 99.