Public Comment

Berkeley Rent Board is Only Opposition to State Law Protecting Tenants from Secondhand Smoke

By Carol Denney
Thursday August 01, 2013 - 09:11:00 PM

I’m sending [the editor, by U.S. Mail] the last page of the analysis of SB 332 because it illustrates that there was no opposition to protecting tenants from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke. Except from Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board.

Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board moved quickly in the weeks before the January 1, 2012 enactment of SB332 to unilaterally re-word Rent Control legislation in an effort to preclude tenant protection from secondhand smoke (see enclosed Proposed Regulation 1313).

The Rent Stabilization Board’s staff attorney should have advised the commissioners who lobbied for this change that all landlords are responsible for basic habitability, including safe, breathable air, in any rental agreement or lease, as the courts have repeatedly shown. Instead, wording was inserted quickly without commission, community, or council input, putting thousands of lives at risk.

This is why the most recent proposal for multi-unit housing smoking restrictions was, as many City Council representatives at its hearing pointed out, a convoluted, pointless mess which made it harder, instead of easier, to achieve the goal of clean, smokefree air by saddling tenants with no provable damages with an obligation to go to court perpetually for small, monetary fines which still don’t protect them or their families from secondhand smoke. The “right of private action”, as the Rent Stabilization Board puts it, is the right to pointlessly sue your neighbor, a right all tenants already have.

The City Council should rescind Regulation 1313 before considering upcoming multi-unit housing smoking restrictions legislation. Smoking regulations only ask smokers to step outside, and have never resulted in the “massive wave of evictions” the Rent Board cites absent any foundation. Please help the majority of Berkeley citizens, low-income tenants, protect their health.