Lighting Up in Public is Now Illegal

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A new anti-smoking law in Laguna Beach goes into effect today that expands existing prohibitions against smoking tobacco or marijuana on public beaches to include all public places, such as sidewalks, streets and alleys as well as common areas of multi-unit residences.

Smoking in public areas in Laguna Beach is now subject to fines. Photo by Jody Tiongco.
Smoking in public areas in Laguna Beach is now subject to fines. Photo by Jody Tiongco.

Managers of several local businesses whose clientele previously lit up outside their premises seem aware of the new regulations and are trying to assess its impact, but none have taken any extraordinary measures to compensate.

The regulations apply to e-cigarettes as well. Ignoring the ordinance can result in fines of $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for a third offense. Violating the ban in a high-risk fire area carries the risk of a $1,000 fine.

Laguna is the first city in the county to impose such restrictions, though Dana Point is also considering a similar ban. Other California cities that limit smoking in public places include Manhattan Beach, Calabasas, Beverly Hills, Carpinteria, Coronado, El Cajon, and San Luis Obispo.

“The ordinance does not apply to residential property with the exception of multi- family properties,” Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson confirmed. “In multi-family properties, smoking is prohibited in all the common areas such as driveways, the mailroom, laundry room, pool, etc., but not on balconies and patios that are only accessible through the individual residential unit.” Smoking is permitted in private homes and within vehicles, she said.

To inform locals, businesses and visitors about the new regulations, Police Chief Laura Farinella plans a citywide education campaign. It will include posters, signs, drink coasters, window stickers, social media and the use of the city’s electronic message boards, she said. Officers will not be assigned to ticket smokers, the city’s website says. “The ordinance is designed to be self-enforcing to obtain voluntary compliance through visible signage and community outreach materials,” the site says.

A 2016 survey of Laguna Beach residents indicated that 75 percent favored more stringent smoking laws.

Not all local merchants agreed. Chip Harrell, owner of the Sandpiper Lounge, affectionately known around Laguna Beach as “the Dirty Bird,” was alone in representing the city’s hospitality industry in expressing his opposition to the law during a second reading of the ordinance on May 23. He pleaded unsuccessfully for a late evening exception to the rule.

Bar owners are not the only ones having to adapt to the ban.

Cubana Cigars and Lounge, 1400 S. Coast Highway, takes pride in its location as the county’s “only outdoor, rooftop, ocean-view, smoking lounge.” Russ, who declined to be further identified, said he doesn’t think the ban will hurt the business because it is located on private property. Cubana has an indoor lounge as well.

While smoking has never been allowed on the patio at Urth Caffé, 308 N. Coast Highway, neighbors have complained about their customers smoking on the sidewalk and littering the area with butts while waiting in line for a table. Restaurant manager Pauline, who also declined to give her last name, said she thinks the new law will not impact the café’s business.

At the Woman’s Club, member Dotey Marks signs off on leases of the venue at 286 St. Ann’s Dr. Among the regular users of the facility, she’s expecting that the Alcoholics Anonymous group, which leases the hall weekly, will comply with the new ordinance. They’ve been informed that smoking outside is now forbidden the group’s organizer said.

The smoking ban was on the board agenda last week at the Canyon Club, 20456 Laguna Canyon Rd., which provides a facility for Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings as well as social and other activities.

Dawn Price, executive director of Friendship Shelter on South Coast Highway, which provides support services and rehabilitation to homeless adults, said she is unclear how the law applies to the residential facility operated in Laguna Beach. “We are working with our staff and lawyers to understand what the parameters are in complying with the law,” she said.

It is unclear how operators of so-called sober living homes will adapt. Of the 19 residential treatment facilities in Laguna Beach licensed by state Department of Health Care Services, only five are multi-family homes, some of which do have common area patios. But state regulations do not address smoking in or around licensed facilities, department spokeswoman Carol Sloan said.

Licenses are required for facilities that offer services such as detoxification, group sessions, individual sessions, educational sessions, or alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment planning.

When voting to impose the new regulations, two council members suggested they would consider revising the law to make an exception for bar patrons. City Council member Steve Dicterow said, “We’ll probably look to see if we can carve out areas so patrons can smoke without affecting others.” But nothing is in the works yet, he said.







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  1. Hhhhhmmmm….”Officers will not be assigned to ticket smokers….the ordinance is designed to be self-enforcing…voluntary compliance…” ? But “$100 for first offense and up to $500 for third..”? So again a law is passed with NO BACKING or enforcement from our tax-payer funded Police Department. So who writes the tickets? Who asks then enforces the ban when smokers are all over the beaches, sidewalks and on the hills of Laguna Beach?
    Just add another useless law to the pile. Noise ordinance, historic preservation, view ordinance, pedestrian right-of-way, and no touching/killing the sea life on local rocks and beaches- many if not ANY of theses are enforced.
    So go ahead light up, smoke Laguna. And fly your drone in everybody’s faces, step on sea urchins, drink beer in glass bottles on the beach, speed through pedestrian walkways ’cause ain’t no body doin’ much about it.
    But our beloved Chief wants to make sure medical marijuana is never available( store front or delivery) for our Laguna citizens….THAT she will enforce….ppppfffffft.

  2. I used to live in Laguna, and loved it. The thing I loved most was that there was a feeling that people looked out for each other. If we had a difference of opinion, we discussed it, and found a middle ground,

    I guess those days are gone, and now the city council knows “what’s best for us”

    It’s a sad day for me, and I will never be able to contribute to the economy of a place I loved.

    This country used to be about “Live and let live….now it’s do what I say…I guess we deserve what we get.


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