The City of San Fernando, already has an ordinance that bans smoking and chewing tobacco within the city limits, including public parks, playgrounds, businesses and recreational areas and anywhere else that is open to the general public.
Now the City Council is adding another product to that list.
The council agreed at its Feb. 5 meeting to ban vaping after hearing a report from Angel Morales that all forms of electronic and non-electronic forms of smoking affect public health. The report states the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking and that other communities have taken action to protect their residents from their unknown dangers.
E-cigarettes produce an aerosol from a heated liquid that is inhaled by users into their lungs the same way tobacco users inhale tobacco smoke from regular cigarettes and cigars. The liquid often contains nicotine — a highly addictive ingredient in tobacco — flavorings and other chemicals.
The council voted 4-0 for the amendment (Councilmember Antonio Lopez was absent), and is now studying signage to include vaping on the no-smoking signs and enforcement.
There were other agenda items aimed at promoting a “healthy” San Fernando.
Councilmember Jaime Soto once again proposed banning ice cream trucks from the city to “clean up” the air.
Soto first proposed the ban in 2016. But the city attorney notified the council that the Federal Clean Air Act prevents municipalities from regulating emissions. This time, Soto proposed limiting the hours ice cream trucks can operate.
“Given that we are looking at San Fernando going healthy, through the healthy cities initiative, and including vaping and smoking and other things.
“One of the most progressive actions we can take in the healthy cities initiative to begin some proactive approach for the ice cream truck vendors,” Soto said.
In 2016, the city had six licensed ice cream truck vendors operating in the city. The figure has not been updated.
Soto also questioned the trucks’ economic contribution to the city, suggesting they might actually hinder businesses like “liquor stores and ice cream stores.”
“I don’t see the necessity of ice cream trucks at this point in time, and to really look at…considering the entire elimination of the ice cream trucks,” he said.
Councilmember Robert Gonzales had reservations about banning the trucks all together. Councilmember Joel Fajardo said he needed more community input.
The council instructed the city attorney to work with city staff to look into their legal limitations before taking any action on limiting hours of operation, and see how other cities are dealing with the issue. Most recently, the beach town of Avalon, New Jersey tabled a similar ban in October 2017 after public backlash.
Soto also took on the distribution of handbills and leaflets.
He initially wanted to address the litter and pollution caused by commercial leaflets that are often illegally placed on car windshields, then later tossed onto the street or sidewalk. The council discussed all handbills, including political propaganda, after emails read by the city clerk from former city council candidate Marvin Perez and Cindy Lopez (on behalf of Residents for a Better San Fernando) alleged that “aggressive and defaming leaflets” were distributed during the city’s election season.
City law already prohibits placing handbills on cars, posting them or leaving them on public or private property, and Deputy City Attorney Richard Padilla encouraged enforcing the ordinance if someone is caught in the act of violating it.
However, Padilla also clarified that the city cannot control the content of what is being distributed, as it is protected free speech under the First Amendment, and that anyone could distribute any handbill as long as they are personally handing it to someone else.
Still, Soto inquired, “Can we enforce the current ordinance to site or sanction in some way businesses that are passing on windshields their advertisements, so the outcome remedy is to curb trash?”
“The challenge is pro-action,” said City Manager Alexander Meyerhoff. “We don’t know until it’s happening until we get a report that it’s happening.
He suggested publicizing the ordinance, so that businesses and residents are aware it is against the law to leave handbills on windshields.
Padilla suggested simply reaching out to the businesses directly.
“With this type of problem, it’s sometimes better to just reach out to the businesses that are advertising, at least initially, and let them know what the situation is,” he said. “Some of them may not know that this is a problem for the city. I think once you’ve warned them, you start seeing the advertisement show up, then you progressively ratchet up your enforcement efforts here.”
The city is also considering charging the business recovery fees for cleaning up litter caused by their handbills for repeat offenders.
In other action, the council approved accepting federal grant money for street, curb, curb ramps and gutter maintenance. It also approved the Park and Recreation Master Plan, which would focus on rehabilitating park facilities and walking/ biking trails, and the creation of a mural ad-hoc committee to determine if murals will be allowed on private property in the city.