Almanac

News - September 22, 2010

Menlo Park: New smoking law one step closer

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park crept a step closer to expanding its smoking ordinance. After debating a few tweaks to the language and grilling the city attorney on how the ordinance would be enforced, the City Council voted 5-0 to introduce the new regulations at its Sept. 14 meeting.

The ordinance will return to the council for a second reading and council action. If the council approves the ordinance, it will go into effect in 60 days.

City Attorney Bill McClure walked the council through major changes to the ordinance, which will ban smoking in outdoor areas like Cafe Borrone's patio unless the business owner chooses to set aside a designated, unenclosed space for smokers.

The burden will be on the owners to put up signs allowing smoking, Mr. McClure said, otherwise the assumption should be that smoking is prohibited.

While residents can still smoke within their own apartments, or while walking in the street, common use areas of multi-unit housing will become smoke-free zones.

Mr. McClure explained that those violating the ordinance could be subject to fines and code-enforcement action.

Not all was smooth sailing during the discussion. Council members Kelly Fergusson and Andy Cohen voted to delete the word "adversely" from a new clause that allows one resident to sue another if "adversely impacted" by their secondhand smoke, on grounds that a judge should decide what sort of impact the exposure had.

Council member John Boyle resisted the proposed change. "They once got a whiff of someone's smoke, and now they want to sue them. Do we really want to encourage that behavior?" he asked.

Colleague Heyward Robinson also voted against the deletion.

"Adversely" survived the challenge, remaining after a 2-2-1 vote with Mayor Rich Cline abstaining for lack of strong feelings about the word one way or another.

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