City Council to decide on outdoor smoking restrictions

The Downey City Council tonight will again take up the controversial issue of outdoor smoking, deciding whether it wants to restrict cigarette smoking in public parks and at city-sponsored events.Under a proposed ordinance drafted by city attorney Yvette Abich Garcia, smoking would be limited to designated areas in each of the city's 12 parks. Offenders could face fines of $35 to $100, plus court fees that would be bring the total penalty to about $300. But Garcia said police officers and park staff have the discretion to issue a warning before police write a citation. "It is expected that such an approach will in most cases result in compliance with the Ordinance," Garcia wrote in a memo to council members. The proposed ordinance would outlaw smoking at all city parks - including the skateboard park at Independence Park and dog park at Rio San Gabriel Park - and at city-sponsored events held on city-owned property. The ban would not apply to the sidewalk immediately abutting the boundary of a city park or parking lot. If the proposal passes, the city would designate a smoking section in each of the parks. Garcia expects the city to receive "some revenue" from fines if the ordinance passes. Mayor Luis Marquez and Councilman Fernando Vasquez proposed a ban on outdoor smoking two weeks ago, citing adverse health effects on children. Council members David Gafin and Mario Guerra opposed the measure, calling it "great political theater" and an infringement on civil liberties. With the deciding vote, Mayor Pro Tem Roger Brossmer called for a compromise by creating designated smoking areas in parks.