Paul Stewart, SAMCAR Governemnt Affairs Director

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has voted 4-1 to enact a second hand smoking ordinance that, among requirements, bans smoking in ownership units. Only Supervisor Don Horsley stood up for private property rights. Irrespective of one’s stance on smoking, imagine having to tell a buyer who just paid $862,000 for a townhome—which for purposes of illustration is 20% less than the median price of a home in San Mateo County—that they are barred from smoking (or performing any other legally allowed activity) in their own home? Now you will.

What was exempted:

  • Detached, single-family residences.
  • Detached, single-family homes with a detached or attached in-law or second units (approved pursuant to code)

What was NOT exempted:

  • Townhomes – whether owned or rental.
  • Condominiums – whether owned or rental.
  • Apartments

The ordinance will be enforced by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department and the San Mateo County Health Department and is designed as a ‘complaint driven’ regulation (i.e., incidents of people smoking in their own home will be investigated only when neighbors complain; smokers will supposedly not be under surveillance by the Sheriff’s Department or the Health Department.)

How the voting emerged:

  • Supervisor Carole Groom has supported the ordinance as proposed since its introduction. She made the motion to approve.
  • Supervisor Tissier noted that when she met with SAMCAR, she noted the key was consistency in the application of the regulations… and that she prefers consistency “the other way and supports adoption of the ordinance as presented.” (She also seconded Groom’s motion.)
  • Supervisor Slocum stated the notion of private property rights is important but “I am swayed by the testimony of the health hazards (of second hand smoke) and can support the ordinance as proposed.”
  • Supervisor Pine said he favors the ordinance as proposed but was struggling with the ownership issue. He added that owners (townhomes & condos) who are troubled by smokers cannot move as easily as renters, so such activity “actually has impact outside your private property.”

Gratitude on this issue goes to President-Elect Michael Verdone, Peninsula Government Affairs Committee Chair Michelle Velez, SAMCAR stalwart Tom Thompson and TCAA GAD Rhovy Lyn Antonio, who were present at SAMCAR’s meetings with the Supervisors on the prohibition of smoking in a person’s own home.


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