Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Social host law approved by council

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

A crackdown on party hosts who provide alcohol to minors will take effect in 30 days after Santa Barbara city leaders unanimously approved a social host ordinance yesterday evening.
The legislation allows police to determine the person responsible for a party where underage drinking occurs and send a report to the city attorney to levy civil fines.

“It’s not a burden on us,” said Lt. David Whitham of the Santa Barbara Police Department. “It’s actually something that we’ve needed for a long time.”
Officers currently are prevented from entering a residence and handing out citations for underage drinking, since minor-in-possession violations can only be cited on public property.
Other than breaking up parties, police officers largely have their hands tied, Lt. Whitham said, and even have to wait until they receive complaints about a loud or unruly party before taking any action.
With the social host ordinance, he said police will have another tool to limit underage drinking.
For a first offense, a $1,000 fine will be levied. For continued offenses, that fine jumps to $2,000.
Roberta Payan, coordinator of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Teen Coalition (ADAP), said offenders will have the option of participating in an educational program to waive the first fine and reduce fines for additional offenses by $1,000.
In response to concerns from a resident, she said the ordinance is clear that the person responsible for the party — not necessarily the landlord or property owner — will be held accountable.
“It does state specifically that the person who organized the event will be held responsible and cited,” Payan said.
The push for a social host ordinance in Santa Barbara started in February 2007 when youth involved with ADAP held focus groups with local teens on the issue.
Payan said trends found during local surveys matched nationwide findings, citing statistics showing that 40 percent of underage drinkers get their alcohol for free from adults.
“Adults over 21, including a substantial number of parents or guardians, are contributing to the underage drinking phenomenon,” Payan said.
After gathering research, the group presented their idea to the City Council, which enthusiastically gave the concept the go-ahead in April 2008, sending it along to the Ordinance Committee for drafting.
City leaders praised local teens involved in formulating the social host ordinance, calling their efforts admirable.
“The youth asked for this,” Councilmember Das Williams said, adding, “This is something that not all of their peers will probably think is the best thing in the world.”
Teens will continue to be involved with the legislation, helping with a community awareness campaign and evaluating its effectiveness.

4 comments:

SB said...

Yay, one more law. I can't wait for the next one. More fines! More police powers! More government! (end sarcasm)

wake up and realize this isn't going to stop anything. How about discussing a reduction in the legal drinking age?

Anonymous said...

Has SB ever considered extending the hours on its bus service to downtown during the weekends? I would think it would be a worthwhile thing to consider as it could possibly help out with the drinking and driving problem a lot.

Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly.

Das Williams said...

Anonymous 1:58 AM has a very good point, something I brought up at yesterday's MTD meeting. We need service on the most popular lines to continue longer in the evenings and night, for a variety of reasons.