The Latest Installment in Smokefree Housing

Over what seems to have been forever, our friends at Smokefree Air For Everyone (S.A.F.E.) have been leading the efforts in the City of Santa Monica to create a comprehensive smokefree multi-unit housing policy. Last month the City of Santa Monica, after several failed attempts, adopted a housing policy which includes units of apartments and condominiums. Why is the city of Santa Monica so important? Well, it’s the first rent controlled city in the state to adopt such a policy.   To learn more about this exciting and long ranging effort, we asked S.A.F.E. a few questions regarding their efforts. The first half of the interview is posted below. Part 2 will be coming next week.

Center: What are some strategies that you used in working with rent control advocates?

S.A.F.E.: We first tried to inform them. We attended meetings and provided information. Our coalition members shared their stories of dealing with secondhand smoke. Some of our coalition members even joined Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) in an attempt to influence the group from inside. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, a new council member, Terry O’Day, who was supported by SMRR and who was also an environmentalist, agreed to meet with our coalition members. They told their stories, and HE GOT IT!  He began to meet with SMRR members about the housing issue. Terry was instrumental in reaching SMRR and after much compromising, the leadership of SMRR actually showed up in support of the ordinance at the final council meeting. Amazing!

 Center: What was the biggest challenge in working in a rent controlled city on smokefree multi-unit housing policy?

S.A.F.E.: We presented information several times over the years to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board and our coalition members shared their stories. However, the Rent Control Board members, who were also supported by SMRR or were members of SMRR, were totally unresponsive. Like SMRR, the Board’s main concern was ensuring that landlords should not have any opportunity to evict long-term tenants. The irony was that several of our coalition members were being forced to move from their rent-controlled apartments due to the secondhand smoke drifting into their units. Somehow, we just could not get that across to the Board.

 Check back next week to learn some more of the lessons learned from S.A.F.E. and their great campaign!

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