OAKLEY -- In an effort to protect the public's health, the city will be pursuing an ordinance that regulates smoking in apartment complexes.
The City Council on Tuesday directed its attorney to draft an ordinance that, if it follows staff recommendations, would apply to multiunit residences and not only to tobacco users but those who smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Landlords still would have the freedom to designate where people can and can't smoke, but the ordinance would require sites that don't have any smoking policy to adopt one, said City Attorney Derek Cole following the meeting.
The staff report providing background information on the matter pointed out that having an ordinance in place would lend more weight to existing restrictions.
The move was welcomed by those in the audience who live at The Commons at Oak Grove, a collection of low-income apartments where tenants say they're routinely exposed to secondhand smoke.
"Offenders should be dealt with," said resident Vanessa Brock, noting that air fresheners the management has installed don't completely eliminate the smell and do nothing to mitigate the physical dangers.
Before the meeting, she said a leasing agent had told her that in addition to The Commons having smoke-free areas, tenants weren't allowed to smoke in their apartments.
But about a week after moving in Brock, who's never used cigarettes, said secondhand smoke -- often laced with the pungent odor of marijuana -- was so pervasive that it already was bothering her.
She complained to management, but said nothing changed.
"It was making me nauseated, lightheaded," said Brock, who also was coughing and experiencing headaches despite running two fans and the air conditioner in her apartment to clear out the smoke.
Both she and her mother, who also lives in the complex, have been prescribed inhalers to alleviate their symptoms, Brock said.
Councilman Doug Hardcastle questioned how the city plans to enforce whatever rules it imposes on landlords, however.
Would police really be citing everyone who's caught smoking in an area that's off-limits, he wondered.
Cole readily agreed that it's not the most efficient use of Oakley's officers, but he said that individuals bothered by another tenant's smoking also can seek redress in Small Claims Court.
The process is simple and affordable -- plaintiffs can file their case either against a neighbor or a landlord without an attorney, Cole said, adding that instructions on how to complete the process are available online.
The City Council is expected to review a draft of the ordinance next month.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.