HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. – Four years after Hermosa Beach banned smoking at its beach and downtown plaza, the city is finally getting serious about snuffing out cigarettes.
Until now, enforcement of the anti-smoking law was considered too expensive in the cash-strapped city with the alcohol-charged downtown core. But that will change over the Memorial Day weekend.
City officials are rolling out an education and marketing effort to make sure people understand there will be criminal consequences for lighting up as May rolls into June. The move comes just as the state upped the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
On Pier Plaza, new city signs declare: “You are now entering a Smoke-Free Zone.” They’re situated in groups of placards that tell passers-by to curb their dogs, keep dogs off the pier, not to litter and not to carry open containers of alcohol.
Soon, branded marketing signs will be all over the plaza and beach areas displaying a crab cutting a cigarette in half with its claw. Brightly colored cigarette dispensers were installed last week at the entrance to Pier Plaza. In the next few weeks, restaurants will get free no-smoking coasters, table tents, and window-clings from the city.
On Monday, city analyst Shawn Park and code enforcement officer Justin Edson met with business managers along the plaza to discuss the change. Edson made sure restaurants aren’t using any city-banned Styrofoam or plastic bags, while Park reinforced no-smoking rules.
“It’s mostly an issue when the night crowd comes out,” Park said. “We get a lot of tourists who don’t know the law. We’re going to issue warnings and citations. Sidewalks and parking lots are exempt, but you can’t smoke within 5 feet of an establishment.”
Smoking is considered a misdemeanor violation, which comes with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and $1,000 fine.
Shane McCann, regional manager of Hennessey’s Tavern, said he has known a crackdown was coming and is working to keep up with city rules while also catering to his customers.
“We’re on board with this. It’s not bad for business,” McCann said. “But we have very little issues here because we’re a little higher end. A lot of our customers do smoke, though. I’m just not sure where to send them to smoke.”
Park, who designed the anti-smoking marketing campaign, said the city is swapping out its old plaza benches and outdated signage with brightly colored, modern features to entice compliance.
“We bought new (cigarette) receptacles with locks and wall mounts because we have a serious issue with cigarette butts in the alleys,” Park said. “The employees go out there to smoke. People also smoke around the trees and toss their butts in the sandy areas around the trees. We’re going to install tree grates around the trees.”
The city also is advocating that its restaurants join The Bay Foundation’s regional Clean Bay Restaurant Certification Program, which awards eateries that actively conserve water, shun environmentally damaging plastic bags and Styrofoam, and otherwise take proactive environmental steps.
In October, the city will begin enforcing its plastic bag ban citywide. But, for now, city officials are focusing on the smoking ban, which mirrors ordinances in Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, and Manhattan Beach that ban cigarettes in certain public areas.
“Once everything is in play with the marketing signs, the Police Department and I will be issuing misdemeanor violations,” Edson said. “Right now, I’m warning people and getting them to comply. Most people completely understand and put their cigarette out right away.”