Arcata council passes new smoking law it doesn’t like and will immediately revise

Smokers at Ninth and J streets. KLH  Union

Smokers at Ninth and J streets. KLH Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA CITY HALL – The City Council came to order in typically languid fashion last night. With perhaps two dozen citizens waiting for them in Council Chamber, Councilmembers Paul Pitino and Sofia Periera drifted in, then Mayor Michael Winkler and finally, Councilmember Mark Wheetley.

A few seconds before 6:08 p.m. and with the usual lack of explanation for the delay to the waiting public, Winkler called the meeting to order.

The four-person City Council, with Councilmember Susan Ornelas absent, went on to approve an ordinance it isn’t thrilled about, and whose features it will start tinkering with and changing even before it goes into effect next month. If all goes according to plan, Arcata will have been governed by three separate smoking laws this year.

On March 4, the council introduced Ordinance 1451, devised by Police Chief Tom Chapman. It extends Arcata’s current downtown smoking ban city-wide, including all unenclosed public thoroughfares. An exception would allow smoking in most places as long as one was “actively passing through” the area.

As described in the ordinance, smoking will still be totally illegal on the Plaza, at the transit center, near entrances, in service lines and other locations.

The perpetual puffing in place provoked neighbors to participate in public process. KLH | Union

The perpetual puffing in place provoked neighbors to participate in public process. KLH | Union

The council was responding urgent pleas for a change in the current smoking law by residents of the Ninth and J streets neighborhood. Smokers presently congregate there, on the boundary of the downtown anti-smoking zone, and commit various annoying behaviors.

By introducing the new ordinance two weeks ago, the council took the first step to revising the law by eliminating the downtown boundary and ending the motivation for smokers to sit on its edge in the troubled neighborhood.

The council had commanded Chapman to identify some designated smoking areas near the Plaza and transit center. He’d also tried to work out some “time-of-use” restrictions, scaling smoking back or allowing it in some places in certain times of day. Last night Chapman asked the council for another month to get all that done, his ideas to be aired at the council's April 15 meeting.

Some councilmembers had expressed doubts about the enforceability of the ordinance’s “actively passing through” provision. They also insisted on identification and designation of smoker sanctuaries that aren’t included in it. Councilmember Mark Wheetley wanted to table the whole matter until the revised anti-smoking concept was mature, and not pass a “half-baked” ordinance.

City Attorney Nancy Diamond predicted that with all the new data and comment coming in on April 15, the council is going to need more time to take it all in and draft appropriate language.

She reminded the council that any changes would be defined in a subsequent, superseding ordinance to the one they were about to approve.

Since the next ordinance might not become law until June, most of the councilmembers agreed that something had to be done immediately for the sake of the suffering J Street neighbors, many of whom were in attendance.

Wheetley said he’d go along with the will of the council majority and vote for the ordinance.

At one point, Mayor Michael Winkler asked Chapman why he had reported back to the council on revising the ordinance.

Chapman gently reminded Winkler that the council had directed him to do so two weeks previous.

With that, the council approved the new, obsolete anti-smoking ordinance. It becomes law on April 17.

To summarize: The current anti-smoking law is in effect until April 17. Then smoking becomes prohibited city wide, unless you’re in motion and not standing around. Then, another new smoking law will be devised to scale down the ban zone, include smoker sanctuaries and time-of-use restrictions.


Related posts


  1. Jason Jackson said:

    I sent a photo, let’s see if this guy can make the paper. I doubt it. It’s a businessman.

  2. Jason Jackson said:

    some local merchants don’t set much of an example, I was walking by the 9th street liquor store and two people, one an employee and the other a lady friend, were smoking directly in the doorway, I couldn’t penetrate the store doorway without a gas mask so I went and got my camera instead. When I got back, the employee was having another, with no regard to the public or his employer. Today at or about 3:00 pm. want pictures and a video clip? 07-12-2015

  3. WhoAreThesePeople? said:

    Don’t resist… take a swing! See what happens!

  4. TeufelWolf said:

    Probably because any increase in ticket revenue, will be countered by increased lawsuits for police brutality or curb side executions.
    Suck it up folks, we are third world country, get used to shanty towns, death sqauds, no go zones, etc.

  5. Tom Sokolowski said:

    It seems Arcata is trying to do two things at once with it’s smoking ordinance; alleviating toxic second hand smoke in the air, and moving the homeless types out of sight. I’m all for both, but not in the way Arcata is doing it.

    About the smoking in the plaza, if we’re just moving the homeless types to another location where they are trashing the area they gather in, why no arrests or tickets? Anyone ever hear of community service? Those
    ticketed could help clean up Arcata and make it a better place, while discouraging the trashing.

    About the homeless types in general, why not some type of a day center for them; a place to be during the day where they could gather and hang out, while helping them them with mentoring, job placement and training, cleaning them up, and helping them with their self respect and drug issues; supplementing our current homeless shelter programs already in place. I like “whoarethesepeople’s” idea of a smoke park pavilion; that sounds like a good start!

  6. fuck cigs and the bums said:

    Then smoke away in McKinleyville and stfu. I walk my kids past these dirtbags weekly I resist the temptation to punch them in the face daily.

  7. Holocene Survivor said:

    Now the council can tell Dan Hauser that they tried to do something about his complaint.

  8. WhoAreThesePeople? said:

    Okay, now it’s time to clue you in on a few things, Arcata:

    1) By passing a ‘keep on moving’ law, you are telling people that they don’t have the right to assemble. That’s what it comes down to, and it’s unconstitutional. You WILL be challenged in court, and you will lose. Did you learn nothing from Food Not Bombs vs Fort Lauderdale?

    2) People with nothing left to lose will only take so much persecution. Closing down their resources… denying them access to basic human dignities such as showers, laundry, shelter, and the ability to be left the hell alone… then passing a series of laws that progressively delegitimize their very existence… in a town where both sides of the poverty line already possess an ‘us vs them’ mentality, this can have uglier consequences for Arcata than the federal class-action suits that will arise.

    3) Local Businesses make a ton of money from (legal!) tobacco sales. A very large portion of those sales are to the people who (still!) smoke in front of the bars, or someone who sold the nug they were kicked down (still illegal, for some reason) for cigarette money. You are threatening the income of several nearby stores whose (legal!) livelihoods rely on tobacco.

    4) Do you wonder why people hang out on J st to smoke? Because YOU drove them there, Arcata… by passing your silly (and illegal!) law to begin with.

    5) Is there no real crime in Arcata? You really need to make up new ones? Do you really want to pay your police to issue tickets to people who have no way to pay them? Do you really want to pay your police to babysit the homeless? In a time of “fiscal crisis” (Janet Luzzi’s words), is this where you should direct your citizens’ resources? Arcata is still far from being a police state, but taking steps in that direction is not the height of wisdom. It’s unsustainable, and will piss off more people than it satisfies. And did I mention it’s illegal?

    6) Will any of these desparate measures that you are undertaking have any real positive impact? Are you so dull that you can’t think of something creative? Or at least do some research, find out what has fulfilled your goals in other towns? Here’s a freebie for ya: the City owns several dozen abandoned properties… knock down a decrepit house or two, build a pavilion or two, and make them smoke parks. (While you’re at it, Arcata could use a bark park or two as well.) Most of the work can even be volunteer labor!

    I have been all over this country, and a few places across the pond. I’ve seen it before… prohibition of a person’s daily life does not change that person’s self-perception. The person will not respect the law, nor hold the lawmaker in higher esteem. Respect is a two-way street. And aggressive policing leads to much bigger problems than the one you wish to solve. (“It’s too dark in the hayloft, so I’ll light this torch to see.”)

    That said, I’m sure glad I live in Mckinleyville now. Living in Arcata sucks, even with Alex Stillaman off the Council.

Comments are closed.