Woodland Hills
Anti-Smoking Advocate Evicted from Apartment
By Damian Kelly
Aug 1, 2012 - 1:48:12 PM

WOODLAND HILLS—On Tuesday, July 31, a Van Nuys Superior Court jury declared that an apartment tenant who retaliated against smokers by spraying them with water in 2010 caused a nuisance and should be evicted from his apartment complex as indicated by multiple reports.

John Birke, who has lived with his wife and daughter at the Oakwood Apartments in Woodland Hills for nearly 20 years, took pictures of teenagers smoking by the pool in 2011 in an effort to force Oakwood Worldwide to establish rules for smokers in a common area of the complex.  He claims his 11-year-old daughter and wife suffer from asthma.

John Birke wet smokers with a spray bottle in the pool area. Photo courtesy of RentDigs.com
Oakwood Worldwide officials commented in a statement on the court’s decision.

"Our top priority is to provide a comfortable and safe living environment for our guests," said Oakwood spokeswoman Sharron Saunders.  "We have voluntarily taken steps in order to accommodate the vast needs of our guests, allowing everyone to enjoy the amenities offered at the property. Clearly, the jury understood."

She said Oakwood facilities would adhere to government policies on where residents can and cannot smoke.

"Oakwood will continue to abide by all state and local laws regarding smoking policy and restrictions," she said.

Current Los Angeles non-smoking laws that ban lighting up in restaurants, bars, farmer’s markets, and near food trucks stop short of banning smoking in apartment complexes.

Birke, an attorney, plans to appeal the decision but will move from the complex.  He has also filed several lawsuits against Oakwood, one on behalf of his daughter, and one for his wife, saying their rights were violated because secondhand smoke is a public nuisance that violates their rights. Both cases are pending.

Birke has been a staunch smoking ban advocate having previously collaborated in the 1990’s with Smokefree Air for Everyone, one of the groups that convinced the Los Angeles City Council to vote to ban smoking inside restaurants.

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