By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – There is a consent item on the agenda tonight that would ban smoke in certain Davis Public Parking Lots—E Street Plaza, North F Street, South G Street, and the North G St lots.
At the current time, the city notes that the city-owned parking garages are currently covered by the smoking ordinance, but the lots are not.
According to the staff report, “The City has received numerous complaints regarding people smoking in the parking lots because they are not currently regulated. And, there are routinely people sitting in lawn chairs in the E Street Plaza Parking Lot smoking because smoking is banned in the Plaza and in the eating areas surrounding the Plaza.
“People also routinely smoke in the G Street parking lots because they are immediately adjacent to restaurant/bars that cater to a late-night crowd.”
Staff notes, “The detrimental effects of smoking are well-documented, as are the hazards posed by secondhand smoke. The United States Surgeon General, the California Legislature and the California Health and Safety Code find that tobacco smoke is a hazard to the health of the general public and involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers.”
While I understand that having adjacent smokers is a nuisance, even outside, I would suggest that at the very least the city does some more research here.
Most of the people that I see smoking in downtown lots are homeless people. So are we passing an ordinance that disproportionately targets people who are unhoused and have limited locations at this point to smoke?
I have no problem with the notion of prohibiting smoking inside public buildings—those ordinances are by now 30 years old in most places. Davis has some of the more restrictive laws I have seen, prohibiting smoking in a host of outdoor locations as well, including in the E Street Plaza and near entrances and exits to enclosed public areas.
But when we start prohibiting smoking in the middle of a parking lot, we are potentially impacting homeless people disproportionately.
At the very least, the city council ought to ask staff for more information and look into the impact on the unhoused community.
As one person noted to me, “We criminalize homelessness in 1000 small ways, while doing little to solve the actual problem.”
Instead of another smoking ordinance, I would prefer to see us determine who is smoking in the parking lots and then figure out ways to address our unhoused populations.