Board to consider ban on smoking, spitting in Seattle parks
Smoking, spitting and using flammable liquids would be among activities banned in Seattle's parks under a proposed code of conduct presented to Park Board members Thursday night.
Seattle Times staff reporter
No spitting. No smoking. No sex.
The list of rules in Seattle parks may be about to grow.
A proposed ban on spitting in parks — one of 13 behaviors Seattle Parks and Recreation wants to regulate, including a ban on smoking on its grounds — already is generating heated public comment.
The proposal was presented Thursday night to the park commissioners.
But after reports about the proposed ban, even before the meeting, commissioners were getting e-mail.
"Spitting? Are the players not allowed to chew tobacco and spit sunflower seeds?" said one e-mail to the parks board obtained by The Times. "Why not farting? It's the big elephant in the room.
"While we're at it, we should use the opportunity to ban women's hair spray and other bodily spray that in total smells like DDT."
By the time he made his presentation Thursday night, Eric Friedli, manager of policy and business analysis for Parks and Recreation, acknowledged the public wasn't too thrilled about banning spitting.
"I'm 90 percent sure spitting won't be part of the code of conduct," he told the commissioners.
Besides spitting and smoking, the newly prohibited behaviors would include going into a restroom for the opposite sex, "sexual misconduct," possession of fireworks and other explosives, using flammable liquids and leaving packages and backpacks unattended. Some of these behaviors already are prohibited by existing law but have not been itemized in parks regulations.
But it's the spitting and smoking bans that have drawn the comments.
"Walking through a drift of tobacco smoke usually makes me cough, and often triggers a coughing attack ... I have left parks because of just one or two people smoking," said another e-mail.
But someone else wrote, "... there are no studies linking exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors to any health risks. Restricting smoking in the parks is simply a well-meaning but misguided attempt to further marginalize smokers and constrain them to their apartments or homes. In the end, this policy is likely to backfire, since the families of smokers will be exposed to more concentrated secondhand smoke. ... "
Friedli said the proposed smoking ban came at the urging of City Council members Sally Clark, Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen.
They also sit on the King County Board of Health and in a letter said that in this state, more than 1,000 nonsmoker deaths a year are attributable to secondhand smoke.
As for the ban on spitting, Friedli said that came from staff discussions at the city's 26 parks community centers.
The discussions about spitting were "informal," he said, so informal that some were no more than remarks staff made as they passed each other in the hallway.
Spitters, smokers and others caught engaging in the forbidden behaviors could be banned from city parks for 24 hours after the first offense.
After 24 hours, "if they continue to stand there and spit," Friedli said, a violator would be banned for seven days for a second offense, and 30 days for a third.
Friedli said it was hard "to quantify" the health issues involved in spitting in parks.
"It's more a public decorum question ... the visual aspects," Friedli said.
The proposal is preliminary, and any ban on spitting would need further refinement, he said.
For example, there would be the matter of joggers.
"People out jogging may need to spit because of physical activity," he said.
A public Park Board hearing on the code is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 28 in the City Council Chambers downtown.
The board is scheduled to make its recommendation on the behavior bans Feb. 11.
Public input on the plan can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Thursday evening there already was no shortage of e-mailed comment.
"It is not up to the board to impose their cultural mores on the rest of the city," said one. "This is not Singapore (which, for litter-control, bans most chewing gum).... "
"I can't imagine going that far," Friedli said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Jack Broom contributed to this report.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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