Smoking law: City attorney explains delay


Smokers don't have to rush to find an ashtray when they spot a Menlo Park cop. At least, not yet.

That's because the city is starting over in revising an ordinance that would greatly restrict smoking within Menlo Park's borders, after city management realized it could have an even broader impact than intended.

After the City Council gave preliminary approval to the ordinance at its March 2 meeting, City Attorney Bill McClure said the city realized that the ordinance might have several "unintended consequences." For instance, people could interpret it as restricting smoking on sidewalks and in parking lots outside businesses, raising questions about whether smokers would have anywhere to go for a cigarette break.

And some restaurateurs, including the proprietors of the British Bankers Club and the Oasis, complained that the ordinance wouldn't allow customers to smoke on their patios -- or, for that matter, on sidewalks or parking lots outside the establishments. Businesspeople feared that might have smokers bypassing Menlo Park for Redwood City or Palo Alto, Mr. McClure said.

"Are we basically saying that smokers are not welcome to frequent dining establishments in Menlo Park?" he asked. "There was no real discussion of some of these topics by the council.

"Our sense was, we need to take a step back and look at some of these provisions, to make sure we come forward with an ordinance that is carefully worded to say what we intend it to say, and that some of these other implications are considered carefully by the council before it adopts something."

Councilman John Boyle was the lone dissenter in the original vote, saying he didn't think the city had thought the ordinance through. He said in an interview that he was glad the city has decided to take a step back.

The approval process will now start over. The council will introduce and discuss the revised ordinance at one public hearing (tentatively scheduled for May), and could adopt the law at a subsequent meeting. The council was originally scheduled to adopt the ordinance at its March 23 meeting.


A previous story about the smoking ordinance cited confusion about whether the council had voted to allow people to smoke on the patio outside Knickerbockers Cigars, an activity the ordinance would have otherwise prohibited. The council did indeed grant Knickerbockers an exemption, according to Mr. McClure.

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Like this comment
Posted by Mary Jane
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

Is there an exception for smoking medical marijuana?

Like this comment
Posted by allergic
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm

cigars expose others to the deadliest of side-stream smoke. Some of us don't go near the British Bankers club since they started their cigar den and patio. People have had strokes and died from breathing the lethal fumes. Next we have to try to dodge all the tobacco addicts outside of the businesses and restaurants in the parking lots and library entrance and roll up our car windows when others are hanging their cigarettes out of the car. It is against the law to throw the lighted objects out of a moving car but their smoke can choke. We have President Obalmy and the Governor as nicotine addicts. Does the Gov still have the tent he had to erect outside so he and his cronies could get their fix and run the state? Ban all smoke everywhere!

Like this comment
Posted by Annelise Connell
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Mar 30, 2010 at 1:53 am

Smokers, actual human beings, are always welcome. It is their nasty little friends, the little sticks of nicotine laced tobacco, that are not welcome. Let us not confuse the drug with the person.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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