Palm Springs would join dozens of other cities in California that prohibit smoking or vaping in and around multi-unit housing properties if an ordinance currently making its way through City Hall is eventually enacted.
The ordinance, allowed to move forward during a Palm Springs Sustainability Commission meeting Tuesday evening, calls for restrictions on smoking inside any home with shared walls with neighbors, including apartments, condominiums, and townhomes, regardless of whether they are rented or owned. It also calls for a ban on smoking outside businesses, including downtown bars.
While the ordinance has received pushback from some bar owners, patrons, and residents, it is needed, proponents maintain, to prevent possible health issues related to second-hand smoke.
“Smoke travels,” said Patrick Tallarico, manager of the city’s Office of Sustainability. “You can get it through the walls and through ventilation systems. It has potential to do harm to people who are not just smokers.”
As currently drafted, the ordinance would prohibit smoking in common areas such as pools, laundry rooms, and carports, inside individual units, and within “exclusive-use areas” such as patios, balconies, porches or decks. The rules would not apply to single-family homes, mobile home parks, hotels and motels, inside free-standing tobacco shops, or for theatrical productions. Designated “smoking areas” would be permitted in some cases, but not outside bars and restaurants.
The issue first surfaced in Palm Springs in 2019, when both the Human Rights Commission and Sustainability Commission drafted similar ordinances. Tallarico explained that those ordinances were tabled until recently when the City Council asked the Sustainability Commission to take the lead with Human Rights Commission input.
The ordinance is far from becoming law. Before being enacted, it would still face a Palm Springs City Council vote, which would open the matter up to a public hearing. At least two members of the Council have expressed support, Commissioner Carl Baker reported Tuesday evening.
As of October 1, 67 municipalities in California had similar restrictions on multi-unit housing in place. Palm Springs long ago prohibited smoking on city property such as government buildings and parks and inside workplaces, businesses, and restaurants.
Some cities in California have banned smoking in all publicly shared spaces within their borders. While Palm Springs is not considering that, the ordinance moved forward Tuesday evening is nearly as restrictive. It prohibits smoking in any “recreational area” (for example, sidewalks and streets) and any “service area” (such as bus stops or ATMs).
Currently, enforcement of Home Owner Association (HOA) or complex requirements is done through property management companies and HOAs. If the ordinance is passed, it is likely that people would report violations or lodge complaints similar to how noise and cannabis odor complaints are reported now. City code enforcement officials would be called to assess the complaint and issue citations, if warranted.
As currently written, the ordinance allows for the city to issue fines and other penalties, including a citation up to $500, 25 hours of monitored community service work, or completion of a smoking cessation program.