Tenants of the New Faulding Residential Hotel met today with a public health official to discuss the possibility of banning smoking from the building. In an ongoing debate that calls into question our county and state-wide health policies, a number of residents are demanding a new anti-smoking policy for the building-a policy, they argue, that management is choosing to ignore.
“Management is out of touch,” said Mike Merenda, a Faulding resident. “It goes back to intimidation. People are afraid of retaliation. They’re intimidated, abused, and harassed.”
The New Faulding is a residential hotel owned by the Santa Barbara Community Housing Corporation, a nonprofit operator that provides affordable housing for low income residents in Santa Barbara. Eighty-one tenants currently reside in the building, with executive director Katherine Byrne running the management team. Residents at today’s meeting feel the next step is to approach the Santa Barbara City Council for change. “We’ve been ignored by management,” Merenda said. “If we had a constitution for nonprofits, this issue would be dealt with. We wouldn’t be here today.” Merenda, who’s been fighting this issue for three years, said he hopes to work with the city council to implement a non-smoking policy into a constitution for nonprofits. He argues that the New Faulding has violated its mandate as a nonprofit organization by ignoring residents’ needs.
Debate over the New Faulding’s legal boundaries was a pertinent issue among residents at the meeting. Although titled a hotel, the New Faulding is residential and serves as an apartment complex for private renters. While it is legal to permit smoking in a hotel, California State Law bans smoking from workplaces to provide employees with a healthy environment. Dawn Dunn, Public Health Official and Program Administrator of Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program, discussed the dangers of secondhand smoke, particularly to those experiencing it in close quarters. “It’s not what you see or smell, it’s what exists in the air after the smoking, Dunn said. Protection from second-hand-smoke should not be reserved for homeowners.”
The Santa Barbara Community Housing Corporation was unavailable for comment. The New Faulding management gave no comment on the subject.
“Why hasn’t this building moved more toward mainstream society?” asked Faulding resident Aurelio Bocanegra. Indeed, that question seemed to reflect the demeanor of many other New Faulding residents as they left the meeting.