Windsor is joining a growing list of cities that snuff out smoking in apartments and multifamily buildings.
Prompted by concerns over exposure to secondhand smoke, the Town Council on a 4-1 vote approved an ordinance banning tobacco and marijuana smoking in apartments, condos, duplexes and senior residential care facilities.
“It does impose on other people and cause a health hazard,” Mayor Debora Fudge said before voting last week with the majority to pass the ordinance, which will take effect in August.
Both the U.S. Surgeon General and California Air Resources Board say there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that it seeps between adjacent dwellings.
“Walls, ceilings and floors may not appear to be permeable ... however they are,” said Bob Cobb, a ventilation control specialist who addressed the Town Council and urged passage of the ban.
All cities in Sonoma County other than Cloverdale now have moved to prohibit smoking in multifamily dwellings.
The County of Sonoma also has a similar prohibition in multiunits in unincorporated areas.
The ban can vary slightly from city to city. Santa Rosa in 2015, for example, passed a ban on smoking in attached homes, carving out narrow exemptions for those who use medicinal marijuana and e-cigarettes.
In Rohnert Park, smoking is not allowed in half of the units in an existing complex and 75 percent of any new units.
Windsor Councilman Dominic Foppoli, the lone dissenting vote, said he doesn’t like to be around smokers but is bothered by governmental overreach.
The ban, he said, is a “slippery slope, going into people’s homes to tell them what they can and cannot do.”
But Councilman Bruce Okrepkie rejected the argument.
“I look at this not really as an invasion of privacy, but as more of a health concern,” he said, especially when it comes to smoke that gets into children’s lungs.
The American Cancer Society urged the council to approve the ban, saying secondhand smoke contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, and even brief exposure can cause serious health effects, especially for the very young, elderly and ill people.
The Windsor ordinance will apply to approximately 1,000 dwellings in almost a dozen different complexes and extend to patios, balconies and porches.
Most existing multifamily places in Windsor have already adopted voluntary “no smoking” rules in their units.
There are, however, almost 750 more apartment dwellings in the pipeline in the form of two large projects.
One of them, expected to break ground this summer, is Vintage Oaks on the Green. The second, Mill Creek, has gone through some preliminary reviews but has not yet been approved.
There was some hesitation about whether to include marijuana smoking in the ban, especially for medical use.
But council members said there are options for consuming marijuana in other ways, such as edibles.
Violating the ordinance can result in an infraction and a fine of up to $100 on the first offense, $500 on the second offense and $1,000 the third time.
Town officials said enforcement will largely be driven by complaints and overseen by Community Development Department staff.
“We’re not a police state, we’re not going to be going down the street to see who’s smoking on a balcony,” Okrepkie said.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.