The Towbes Group announced that smoking will be prohibited in its 2,000 rental units located throughout the South Coast in response to complaints by some tenants about second hand smoke. The smoking ban goes into effect June 1 for new tenants; established tenants will be given six months to comply. In some apartment complexes, there will be designated smoking areas; in others, there won’t. Although the Housing Authority banned smoking in its 1,300 units last year, Towbes is the biggest — and only non-governmental housing provider in Santa Barbara — landlord to enact such a restriction.
Towbes’s vice president Jim Carrillo estimated 15 percent of Towbes’s tenants smoke, and that thus far he’s received only two objections to the new policy. One of those tenants, he said, opted to move out. Carrillo said the company has been mulling the idea over for about two years, noting that Towbes spent nearly $4,000 in one instance plugging up all avenues by which second hand smoke travelled from one apartment to the other.
Carrillo said tenants would be notified of the policy and that smokers would be reminded of it upon complaint. “We are not going to become the smoke police,” he said. “If we don’t know about it, we’re not going to enforce.” Tony Romasanta, owner of Islay Investments — which has about 600 rental units — said he’s looking into the idea as well. “It’s definitely the right way to go,” said Romasanta, who cautioned he’d want to ease into the new policy gradually. “We have a lot of older people staying with us and their habits are pretty fixed,” he said.