Smokers and some business owners in Mountain View are fuming with the City Council's decision Tuesday night to expand its smoking ordinance.
In a 4 to 3 vote–with Councilmembers Laura Macias, Tom Means and John Inks in dissension–the city approved a ban that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of outdoor dining areas open to the public, picnic areas in city parks and within a "buffer zone," define as an area also within 25 feet of "any doorway, operable window, crack, or vent into an enclosed area." Smoking while walking within the prohibited zones would be allowed.
The vote could have gone the other way, however, had it not been for the lively discussion held between the elected officials and arguments raised by members of the public about individual and business rights versus the public health—a discussion which swayed Councilwoman Ronit Bryant vote to "no."
The city's amended ordinance will now be stricter than state law and makes it a $100 fine for the first infraction for patrons or owners of bars or restaurants who violate the code. Fines increase to $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third.
Mountain View police officers will enforce the code, according to department Spokeswoman Liz Wylie. It will be "complaint driven," "a low-level priority call," and would depend on "officer availability," she said.
City Attorney Jannie Quinn clarified that the police department will not enforce proactively. Still, "it's not permitted under city code assuming it passes [a second reading]," said Quinn, who added the ordinance gives people a tool to complain and redress the issue. But even if they don't complain, "it's still not allowed."
With grants totaling $53,788 the city received from Santa Clara County Department of Health since 2010, city staff developed the tobacco ordinance and will now conduct outreach to educate businesses on the ordinance, increase signage and purchase more garbage receptacles to place on Castro Street and around the city.
At the session, the majority of public comments on the issue rejected the ordinance.
"This is a classic example of wanting to do something in the interest of people, but losing focus," said June Threadgould. "It's unenforceable. That's going to create an issue for police and people in downtown Mountain View."
Threadgould and her husband, Shaun Deacon, admitted to being smokers and wishing to stop, but felt the ban did not address the issue of smoking prevention. They expressed that the city's efforts should be primarily on youth education and increasing anti-smoking signs.
Also, they explained that the city lost sight of the fact that patrons to bars and pubs downtown enjoyed the ability to socialize in the areas currently designated for smokers, like the one at . Most of the time employees didn't serve drinks in those areas and if they did, those employees also smoked.
"We will still go downtown, but now will walk out to the parking lot," Threadgould said.
The owner of , Jackie Graham, felt the decision to restrict smoking in these establishments should have been left to the business owners. "I think it's a shame," she said. "Every business owner knows what works for them."
Graham said her international clientele smokes and "it sends the wrong message," to have them smoke 25 feet away from the bar. "It's very unwelcoming."
There was overall consensus about the negative affects of smoking, but the affects on non-smokers was the driving factor in the decision.
"What finally convinced me to go with this is the employees that work at these locations," said Councilman Jac Siegel. "I think about protecting people."
The amended smoking ordinance will go into effect 90 days after the second reading before city council.