Council Unanimously OK’s First Look at Expanding Citywide Smoking Ban

South Pasadena resident Gisella Benitez has been pushing for an expanded no smoking ban since she lost her husband, Ricardo, to lung cancer last year. Ricardo was not a smoker and second-hand smoke may have been a contributing factor to his lung cancer. The South Pasadena City Council applauded Benitez’s efforts at its last meeting after unanimously moving forward to expand the ban. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an amendment that will expand the citywide smoking ban, targeting the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

South Pasadena Police Acting Capt. Robert Bartl presented the first reading of the expanded smoking ban to the council Wednesday.

“This is about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” Bartl told the council at its Wednesday night meeting on May 2.

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 existing ordinance is contained in section 17.53-17.56 of the South Pasadena Municipal Code.

The proposed change would expand the smoking ban to include public sidewalks, including walkways, parkways, curbs and gutters, Bartl told the council.

As expected, the council discussed definitions contained in the ordinance, but overall approved the first reading unanimously, voting 5-0 in its favor. Councilwoman Diana Mahmud asked Bartl if there had been any outreach to community groups regarding the ordinance. Bartl said there had not yet been any outreach.

Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider asked if a person could walk in the street and smoke. Bartl said no because that would be “a pedestrian in the roadway,” and that’s a violation. Councilmembers also addressed the issue of privately-owned streets.

The council also singled out South Pasadena resident Gisella Benitez, who has been pushing for such a ban because she lost her husband, Ricardo, to lung cancer last year. Ricardo was not a smoker and second-hand smoke may have been a contributing factor to his lung cancer, she said Wednesday night.

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

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

“You have made a difference,” Khubesrian told Benitez during the meeting. “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.

“We don’t want to clutter the sidewalks but there’s going to be some,” Miller said Wednesday night at the council meeting.

The ordinance will now be scheduled for a second reading and most assuredly approval as early as the next scheduled City Council meeting May 16. The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after final passage.

South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe explained 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.

Violation of any part of the ordinance is punishable by a fine and bail forfeiture of no less than $100.

The council reviewed and discuss the multi-year Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2019-2023 and provided feedback to city staff. The city’s draft budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 is scheduled to be presented at its May 16 regularly scheduled meeting. The city’s fiscal year goes from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

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.