Tag Archives: Housing

There’s no place like home

There has been lots of interesting dialogue in the world of smokefree housing this month at both the local and state level. Earlier this month County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky posted blog about the great work happening in Los Angeles County around smokefree multiunit housing and Monday the Contra Costa Times posted an article about a perspective Walnut Creek secondhand smoke ordinance that would prohibit smoking in indoor and outdoor common areas. And in state news, just last week Assembly Member Marc Levine introduced AB 746 which would prohibit smoking in all multiunit housing in California. We know that secondhand smoke is more than a nuisance, in fact there are some huge health impacts when it comes to drifting secondhand smoke; heart disease, asthma, lung cancer and stroke just to name a few. Read More »

A Legacy Worth Fighting For

Guest Blogger – Serena Chen, American Lung Association in California

Over the past 20+ years as a tobacco control advocate I have met some pretty special people – one of the most memorable has been Kenneth Leung, who, at the time I met him in 2007 was 77 years old and ready to fight for the right to be able to breath in his own home.

A former smoker, he had emphysema and had quickly realized that shortly after moving into a senior housing complex in Alameda that his health was deteriorating due to the smoke drifting into his apartment from his downstairs neighbor.  Although the property manager offered to move him to a “safer” unit, he refused because “someone else would be put into harm’s way.”

He called the American Lung Association and found me who asked him to wait until I could set aside some time to help him.  He didn’t listen.  He began to organize his fellow residents to advocate for non-smoking buildings within the 168-unit complex.  He brought the issue up with the City of Alameda Housing Commission, ultimately recruiting nine other tenants to attend a commission meeting and brought letters of support from an additional eight residents.

As a result of his efforts, the Smoking Policy Committee was established in July 2007 with Housing Authority staff, residents from the Independence Plaza complex including Mr. Leung, and me.  He had started the “revolution” without me and now I was joining in to help him bring it to a successful outcome.  Along the way, he worked with the Chinese-speaking residents who made up about a quarter of the residents to ensure that they understood the process.

He told me that when he turned 70 he sat down and reviewed his life to see what achievements he was most proud of.  “I had nothing.  What I can do here [for smokefree housing] is going to be it,” he explained to me.  How could I not help this man! Read More »

The Latest Installment in Smokefree Housing – Part 2

Last week we posted the first half of an interview with Smokefree Air For Everyone (S.A.F.E.) on their campaign for smokefree housing in Santa Monica. Today we learn more about their lessons learned from their efforts.

Center: Can you share some of the lessons learned from the campaign?

S.A.F.E.: Santa Monica has several city commissions and we presented to them more than once, so the leaders of the community were aware of our campaign. The Disability Commission wrote a letter in favor of regulating smoking in apartments. The leaders of the Democratic Club spoke vehemently against us. (That hurt.)

But we were very fortunate that most of our coalition members stuck with us over the years. We were also fortunate that our coalition continued to grow; new people joined throughout the campaign. Also, our coalition members, who at first had been very shy about speaking, became great speakers; their passion for the issue was central to the success of the campaign.

Success happened a little at a time. At first the city council members ignored us. We would speak during public comment time, which was as the end of the meeting, frequently as late as 1 am, when council members were drifting quietly away. Finally, after two years of effort, the council enacted no smoking in the common areas of apartments and condos. Two years after that, due to our tenacity, the city council enacted no smoking on balconies and patios of apartments and condos on September 9, 2010. Read More »

What’s the Truth About SB 332?

Ever since it was introduced last year, there have been a lot of questions about SB 332. And now that it will soon go into effect (on January 1, 2012) there is still much confusion and questions are still being raised. Just last week in West Hollywood there was news that the city council was worried that the state law would trump their rent control laws and permit landlords to impose new smoking restrictions on tenants, allowing them to evict long time tenants.

In fact, SB 332 does not create any new landlord rights.  The law simply codifies in state law that landlords have the legal authority to prohibit smoking in the apartments that they own and manage.  This was a right that landlords already had prior to this state law.  The state law explicitly requires landlords to abide by local laws regarding changes to the terms of tenancy.  For cities with rent control, including West Hollywood, this means that tenants who smoke cannot be forced to accept new lease terms regarding smoking.

If you have questions about the bill, the Center just released a new factsheet going through some of the details of the bill. We also released a community organizing update with some ways that you can take advantage of this new law and use it to promote your smokefree housing work.

–Vanessa Marvin

What are the costs of smoking in multiunit housing?

By Guest Blogger – Michael Ong, Assistant Professor in Residence of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Our Estimates of Smoking Related Property Costs has attracted a lot of attention from groups around the country. Our research team was approached by the California Tobacco Control Program to conduct a study to understand this issue better. Many community tobacco control advocates had identified the smoking-related costs faced by owners and managers as a key issue in their work trying to expand smoke-free environments to include multi-unit housing. 

Unfortunately, there are not many researchers who focus on the economics of tobacco control, and fewer who focus on topics related to secondhand smoke exposure.  We knew this topic had never been studied systematically before, but were excited by the prospect of helping the public understand the full implications of smoking in multi-unit housing. We would never have been able to do it without our partners, the California Apartment Association.  They also recognized this as an issue facing their membership and worked closely with us to develop our study. 

Some of the surprising findings we found were that more than one in four multi-unit housing properties experienced smoking-related costs in the past year. We were surprised it was so high, given the current smoking prevalence rate in California. Unfortunately, we found out that less than one-third of multi-unit housing properties are currently completely smoke-free, which suggests many individuals need help to protect themselves from potential secondhand smoke exposure.

For a single multi-unit housing property in the past year, the mean smoking-related cost is nearly $5,000, although the broad range of costs surprised us – the highest reported cost in our survey was $84,000! Based on our analysis, the presence of a complete smoke-free policy could reduce the likelihood of occurrence of smoking-related costs by half, which can generate substantial savings in property operating costs (and potentially reduce the need for rent increases).