Menlo Park's City Council at its March 2 meeting passed an ordinance banning smoking in public places, including ATM lines and parking lots.
In addition to banning smoking in enclosed spaces such as restaurants and places of employment, the revised ordinance will also prohibit smoking in public parks, parking lots open to the public, places of congregation such as ATM machines and bus stops, and in common areas within multi-unit residences.
Perhaps most significantly, the ordinance declares second-hand smoke a nuisance -- enabling people to take legal action against others who smoke in their vicinity, in an adjoining apartment unit, for instance.
The council approved the wording of the ordinance by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman John Boyle dissenting. The ordinance will come before the council at a later date, and will go into effect 30 days after it's enacted.
In dissenting, Mr. Boyle said he thought the ordinance was too restrictive, and would have unintended consequences. As examples, he cited a ban on smoking in parking lots open to the public, such as the lot in front of Safeway, and a prohibition on ash trays in non-smoking areas.
"I think we shouldn't enact legislation unless we've thought through it," he said.
Bill Davis, the owner of Knickerbockers Cigars, pointed out that under the new ordinance, people would not be allowed to smoke in a patio outside his shop. Council members expressed sympathy, but decided against "grandfathering in" his shop.
The city drafted the ordinance in response to an extraordinary lobbying effort by Barbara Franklin, who decided to take up the issue after she was bothered by smoke wafting into her condominium unit from an apartment below hers. She began making presentations to the council about the dangers of secondhand smoke in late 2008, and has attended most council meetings since then, often sitting through the several hours of the meeting.
The council has received a trickle of correspondence about the issue from residents since then with, with several people making nuanced arguments about how far the ordinance should go. At the meeting, incorporated into the ordinance several changes suggested by the California Apartment Association.
The revised ordinance will also enable the city to enforce a San Mateo County law, requiring tobacco vendors to obtain permits from the county. Some believe that requirement would decrease the incidence of vendors selling cigarettes to minors.