Millbrae officials seeking to ban smoking in apartment buildings will further refine the policy proposed to bring the city up to speed with many other local municipalities where similar restrictions are already approved.

The Millbrae City Council is slated Tuesday, July 9, to hammer out terms of the policy to disallow smoking in apartment buildings, which was initially introduced and blessed at a meeting last month.

Officials approving the policy would bring Millbrae among the ranks of many other San Mateo County cities which previously placed smoking restrictions on the books as part of an effort to limit secondhand smoke exposure.

For his part, Mayor Wayne Lee expressed his commitment to assuring the policy details are hammered out and the ban is established as quickly as possible.

“I think this is an important issue for the city and I’m willing to put up my political capital to get this done,” he said.

Councilmembers previously endorsed the ban Tuesday, June 25, when they unanimously approved disallowing those renting apartments from smoking or vaping any substance in their units. Violators would likely face fines between $100 and $250, but exemptions will be offered to those living in privately operated duplex or triplex developments, as officials were sensitive to not infringe on the property rights of landlords. The ban is slated to take place in January, which would grant smokers a chance to find a new place to live if necessary.

Yet policy specifics from the previous meeting such as liability and enforcement details still linger, and officials are hopeful to finalize those terms at the upcoming discussion.

Officials must determine how broad they would prefer enforcement authority to span. Options include deferring to landlords, who could draft lease terms punishing violators who would most likely be identified by complaints from fellow tenants. The scope of the policy could also be broadened to authorize residents or the general public to report violators, who would be subjected to the fine.

Councilmembers must also determine who should be held accountable in the case of violation, and whether landlords or tenants will be liable for smoking in apartments.

Lee said he had no opinion over the preferred enforcement strategy, so long as the policy achieves its intent to tamp down misbehavior.

“I think the bottom line is that we want it to be effective,” he said.

Should officials agree on the specifics on the policy, Millbrae would become the next in a growing county group where such bans have been approved. Many other neighboring communities have already passed smoking restrictions, and a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recently called on those cities without similar policies to take action.

During the meeting last month, Councilwoman Ann Schneider expressed her frustration that it required prodding from the grand jury report for Millbrae officials to consider the ban.

Lee though defended the city’s timing, suggesting officials were preoccupied with other pressing matters such as approving two sweeping mixed-use developments proposed at the city’s train station and planning a new community center.

But with the project approvals in the rear view, Lee said officials are now better positioned to consider the smoking ban.

“I just think it’s a matter of how busy we were … we wanted to do it, but had other pressing issues,” he said.

As it relates to the community center, officials are also set to host a study session regarding designs of the facility proposed to replace its predecessor which was lost to an arson fire.

Regarding the most recent proposed project plans, Lee said he believes the center rebuild is headed in the right direction.

“The idea is to get an iconic facility,” he said.

The Millbrae City Council will host the community center study session 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, in council chambers, 621 Magnolia Ave. The regular session will begin one hour later.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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