I'm conducting an apartment search in the east San Francisco Bay area in Contra Costa county. Recently I was told that smoking was banned in unincorporated areas in the county, and the apartment in question is located in one such area. Being a smoker, not only does this kill my opportunity for this apartment, but also kills it for a significant portion of the places open to me. I've been doing some research on what I believe to be the law in question, and I believe that the assertion that smoking is banned in private areas by this ordinance are largely false.

The law is the Contra Costa's Secondhand Smoke Protections Ordinance, and in the list of indoor prohibited areas (excluding the top section about outdoor areas), the following are mentioned:

  • In common indoor and outdoor areas of multi-unit housing residences of 4 or more unit; and
  • On all balconies, patios, decks and carports for existing and new multi-unit housing.
  • All areas within 20 feet of doors, windows, air ducts and ventilation systems of multi-unit housing residences, except while walking from one destination to another.
  • In 100% of all dwelling units of multi-unit housing residences that receive a building permit after January 1, 2011.

The building falls under the qualifications for multi-unit housing since it's a condominium complex, so these all apply. My main question is "does this apply to the private space in your apartment?"

Addressing each point in order, here's my interpretation:

  • The definition of "common" in the phrase "common indoor and outdoor areas" is defined as the area that everyone can access like a rec. center, park for the complex, etc. doesn't extend to inside the units leased out to tenants.
  • Balconies, patios, decks and carports are outdoor, it's not relevant here.
  • A curious bit, this part doesn't specifically specify, but I can only logically interpret to include outdoors. Otherwise, one could conclude that the law stated that one may smoke while specifically walking between different places in the complex, so long as they put it away when they got back home.
  • The building in question was built in the 80's and there are several sources confirming this fact, so the blanket indoor ban doesn't apply.

I understand that the renter has control over the ability to smoke on their property, that's a valid concern. However, I feel that he has the facts incorrect here, otherwise he'd have simply said he preferred a non-smoker rent his condo. If I had simply taken his advice, my hunt would be significantly harder, not to mention anyone else he could have told.

Two questions: - Within the context of this ordinance, could I be cited by some legal authority for smoking in the privacy of my condo? - Is there some law that he may have been referring to that I may have missed?

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    About point 3: There's certainly no point inside most apartments that isn't within 20 feet of a door, window, air duct or ventilation system. I'd say you're right. The prohibition echoes one of the "outdoor area" prohibitions: "All areas within 20 feet of the doors, operable windows, air ducts and ventilation systems of any enclosed worksite or enclosed places open to the public, except while passing on the way to another destination;" – phoog May 17 '16 at 3:56
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    If it is a condo then association documents also apply rules and regulations. – user662852 May 17 '16 at 10:40
  • @user662852 Sure, I can understand that. But the guy I was talking to very specifically stated there was an ordinance valid for unincorporated counties of Contra Costa county when he told me why I wouldn't be allowed, he made that part very clear. – SpyisSandvich May 17 '16 at 15:37

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