Central Park in La Palma will be smoke and tobacco-free starting Feb. 1, despite a smoldering debate and close vote at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Three of the council’s five members voted against establishing a small designated smoking area in the park, which would have been between the recreation buildings and the basketball courts.
The failed vote allows a full ban to go into effect in two weeks.
Smoking is a health hazard, said Councilman Steve Shanahan, who supported the ban. “The majority of those who use the park are under the age of 18,” he added, those who could most be harmed by secondhand smoke.
The debate started last year, when a proposal to ban smoking in the park first came before the council. As he did Tuesday, Waldman objected, saying a total ban infringed on people’s rights.
A city poll and a new ordinance later, a complete ban was set to take place at the park on Feb. 1 — unless the council voted otherwise.
“I don’t think it’s asking a lot of ask for a designated smoking area,” Waldman said. “I don’t like smoking. I don’t like the way it smells, but I don’t want to infringe on others’ rights.”
Councilman Henry Charoen — who also said he doesn’t care for smoking — voted in favor of Waldman’s motion to have a designated smoking area.
Shanahan, Mayor Ralph Rodriguez, and Councilman Steve Hwangbo voted no, killing the motion.
A presentation by the Recreation Department noted 60 percent of residents who responded to a recent poll wanted the park to be smoke-free. Waldman cited one of the poll’s other results, which said more than 70 percent thought a designated smoking area was appropriate.
Just under 400 people responded to the survey conducted in December. More than 90 percent of respondents said they did not use tobacco.
Hwangbo said park visitors will still be able to smoke — by walking to the sidewalk along Walker Street.
“It will take them 15 seconds to get there,” he said.