- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- FIRED UP : Under a ban approved by the San Luis Obispo City Council, smoking is no longer permitted in outdoor parks and recreational areas, such as Mission Plaza.
The San Luis Obispo City Council on Dec. 1 unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s municipal code to ban all forms of tobacco products from city-owned outdoor recreation
areas, such as Mitchell Park, Mission Plaza, and its adjacent creekwalk.
Council members not only agreed with the recommendation but also decided to go a step further, instructing the city manager and staffers to come back with language for a more comprehensive proposal within three months. They said this upcoming proposal would ban tobacco in other areas, including “pedestrian-oriented” sidewalks, shopping centers, outside of commercial businesses, and at public events such as Farmers Market.
Commenting on the decision, each member of the council expressed a desire for the more comprehensive ban. Newly appointed Vice Mayor Andrew Carter even said he was embarrassed that the city once led the way with the original indoor ban and is just now “bringing up the rear.” Carter did, however, say he wouldn’t be against designated “public smokers’ ghettos.”
On the proposed upcoming ban, Mayor Dave Romero said that while he agrees people walking down public sidewalks shouldn’t have to make their way through a cloud of smoke, he didn’t want a ban to “go into people’s backyards.”
Roughly 80 people attended the meeting, and 16 spoke during the public forum, most not only in favor of the current recommendation, but also the citywide public ban.
One speaker, Terry Treves, owner of Fanny Wrappers in the downtown area, said she’s lost five employees and countless customers because of her shop’s proximity to a cigar shop, saying nobody wants their lingerie to smell like an ashtray.
Only one person spoke out against the recommendation. SLO resident Kevin Rice said city government doesn’t need to intervene simply “because a few people are hypersensitive and have extraordinary stories.”
Rice told New Times he isn’t a smoker’s advocate, but sees the ban as an attack on homeless locals and an unnecessary government intrusion.
“There’s definitely a rudeness that comes in when you’re outdoors and someone blows smoke in your face,” he said. “But there’s also that other rudeness, when you’re smoking a hundred feet away from someone, then they get into your face saying they can smell your smoke.”
San Luis Obispo isn’t the first Central Coast city to ban smoking in public recreational areas. Atascadero, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Morro Bay already have such bans in place. However, while smoking is prohibited on the beach and piers in Morro Bay, that city council voted in October not to tighten restrictions to include parks.