Updated: Berkeley Boots Smoke Out of Multi-Unit Housing

By C. Denney
Wednesday October 02, 2013 - 01:29:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council mustered five votes to protect tenants in multi-unit housing from their neighbors’ secondhand smoke at the October 1, 2013 city council meeting. The ordinance would go into effect in early 2014. 

Mayor Tom Bates’ motion for a strong law was seconded by Councilmember Capitelli, and supported by Councilmember Susan Wengraf, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, and Councilmember Linda Maio. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin opposed the ordinance after it was strengthened to include a designation of secondhand smoke as a nuisance, which ensures city enforcement as opposed to the original proposal’s “right of private action” enforcement mechanism, which speakers pointed out is both burdensome and ineffective for tenants seeking secondhand smoke protection. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore abstained supported the vote after an initial pass, and Councilmember Worthington was absent for the vote and the discussion, which focused on alternative methods of enforcement. Councilmember Capitelli’s questions to staff at one point included an entertaining hypothetical situation where he decided he “didn’t like” Councilmember Wengraf and made false complaints about her smoking. 

Every councilmember who spoke favored protecting tenants from secondhand smoke. The measure had no opposition at public comment, which featured among others Serena Chen of the American Lung Association, Leslie Zeller of the Tobacco Legal Consortium and Liz Williams of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Public policy attorney Leslie Zellers testified as the co-chair of the Alameda County Tobacco Control Coalition. She was not representing the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. 

[Full disclosure: Carol Denney is a longtime anti-second-hand smoke activist]