Supervisors move forward ban on second-hand smoke in apartments, hotels, motels

By Daniel Borsuk

With the health consequences of second-hand smoke to children and the elderly well-documented, Contra Costa County is on the verge of becoming the 42nd jurisdiction in the state to ban smoking in dwelling units of apartment buildings, hotels, and motels once supervisors approve the ordinance that’s slated for the board’s March 13th meeting.

In a lopsided meeting where supervisors did not hear any opposition against the proposed ordinance, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond asked Contra Costa County Public Health Director Dan Peddycord whether the proposed ordinance will also apply to short-term rentals.  Short-term rents have become a hot button issue in most part of the county and have impacted the county’s housing crisis.

Peddycord answered that the proposed ordinance will not apply to short-term rental units.

The full impact of the proposed county ordinance will require apartment owners and hotel and motel operators to post no smoking signs in dwelling units and to apply measures designed to eliminate second smoke from drifting into dwelling units where children and the elderly reside and are most susceptible to the respiratory effects of tobacco smoke.

The cities of Danville, El Cerrito, Richmond and Walnut Creek and the counties of Sonoma, San Mateo and Santa Clara are some of the jurisdictions that have already adopted second hand smoke prohibition laws.

In the county Public Health Department’s research on the proposed ordinance, officials garnered the full support from the California Apartment Association.  Health department officials drew a 50 percent endorsement from four major homeowners’ associations in the county.

In the department’s research, officials learned four major hotels in the county are already in compliance with the proposed law by posting no smoking signs in guest rooms and common areas.  Those hotels are the Burlington Hotel in Port Costa, the Crowne Plaza in Concord, Embassy Suites, and the Renaissance Hotel in Walnut Creek.

In Contra Costa County there are approximately 10,000 individual dwelling units that would be affected by the new ordinance supervisors will very likely approve at the March 13 meeting.

According to the Public Health Department, a majority of the 120 second hand smoke complaints received by the department’s Tobacco Prevention Program over the last three years continue to emanate from multi-family housing residents.  During that period, 96 complaints were filed concerning unit-to-unit and outside-to-unit drifting smoke during that period.

“We are very happy to support this ordinance,” said Randy Uang of Breathe California, a San Francisco-based non-profit health organization.  “This ordinance will help in reducing chronic breathing and lung ailments, especially among children in Contra Costa County.”

Stephanie Robbins, an apartment dweller in unincorporated Walnut Creek, told supervisors the proposed ordinance will help people like her who lives in an upstairs apartment unit and has to constantly endure second-hand smoke from a downstairs neighbor.  “I’ve already spent $2,000 in hiring an attorney,” Robbins said.  “I endorse this ordinance because it will help me and my child fight against second hand smoke.”

The ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2019 after Public Health Department officials have educated and trained apartment owners.  The program will be funded by state Propositions 99 and 56.

Round Hill Police District Tax Hike Election Approved – A 150% Increase

The 1,296 registered voters in the unincorporated Round Hill area of Alamo, will have the opportunity to vote on whether the county should hike their property taxes from $330 per parcel to $812 per parcel in order to maintain two county sheriff’s deputies and a patrol car.

With no one speaking during the public speaking portion, supervisors approved on a 4-0 vote to have Round Hill residents vote in the June 5 election on whether to boost taxes on 739 parcels in order to raise $596,820 in tax revenue to cover increased patrol expenses on a yearly basis.

The measure will require two-thirds voter approval to pass during the June election.

Supervisors also approved, on a 4-0 vote, the acquisition of up to $2 million of solar panels to be installed over the 651 Pine Street parking lot for a 10-year period, Feb. 27, 2018 through Feb. 28, 2028.  The county will buy the solar panels from ENGIE Services U.S. Inc.  ENGIE Services will also install the solar panels.

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