Having snuffed out smoking at local parks earlier this year, Palo Alto officials are now proposing to extend the cigarette ban to the city's two most prominent business districts.
In a memo that the City Council is scheduled to discuss Monday night, Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilmembers Karen Holman and Gail Price are proposing a smoking ban in downtown and the California Avenue business district. The proposal comes less than three months after the council adopted an ordinance banning smoking at parks and extending the no-smoking buffer zone near public entrances to buildings from 20 to 25 feet.
Even without the proposed ban, smokers are already severely restricted around University Avenue. The buffer-zone rule effectively makes the city's most prominent downtown thoroughfare a smoke-free zone, though there are small pockets of space at several spots that fall outside the buffer, including plazas, walkways and street corners. It is these pockets that the new ban seeks to zip up.
In the memo, the four council members tout the impact of smoking on both health and the downtown experience.
"Banning smoking in the public (right of way) prevents smoking in front of or near businesses," the memo states. "Smokers tend to congregate in front of entrances, cause ingress and egress issues. Smoke filters into buildings; and cigarette butts litter the sidewalks, planters and other visible public areas.
"Business owners with outdoor dining areas are also affected as second-hand smoke drifts to outdoor eating areas, negatively affecting their customers' dining experience and potentially creating negative health impacts."
The four council members recommend that staff study the smoking ordinances that other jurisdictions have adopted in their downtown corridors and that the city conducts outreach to residents, businesses and property owners downtown and around California Avenue. City staff is expected to bring a report on the proposed ban expansion to the council's Policy and Services Committee early next year.