The Social Host Liability Ordinance came into effect on Dec. 1, granting county law enforcement the legal right to enter homes if they suspect a minor is drinking on the premises.
A county-wide measure, the ordinance allows local officers to cite hosts who knowingly permit minors to consume alcohol on their property during a party. Endorsed by the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors in a 4-1 vote, the ordinance was drafted to prevent underage drinking and hold residents and landlords accountable for their guests’ behavior. However, although officers are scheduled to begin enforcing the ordinance Dec. 1, they may postpone enforcement until administrative measures are ready.
Under the Social Host Ordinance, a “host” is defined as any person owning, renting or controlling a property and a social gathering of five or more persons, at least one of whom is a minor, is classified as a “party, gathering or event.” Hosts violating the ordinance for the first time will be fined $500 and required to complete a mandatory educational class. Second-offenders are handed a $1,000 fine and subsequent offenses result in a $2,000 fine.
According to Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Ray Vuillemainroy, officers are handing out notices instead of fines for the first few weeks in an effort to further educate the community about the ordinance.
“My enforcement stance at this point is we will be conducting enforcement but for the next few weeks we will be issuing written warnings instead of citations,” Vuillemainroy said.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr provided the single vote against the Social Host Ordinance, based on the implications the ordinance has on her district, which includes Isla Vista — where student residences may have numerous youth and adults age 17 to 24 or older living under one roof.
“Of course, it will be much more problematic in Isla Vista, where many household units do not have typical families and are groups of students, some who are underage and some who are not,” Farr said in a interview with the Daily Nexus last month. “How are you going to correctly assess if someone is actually furnishing alcohol to a minor or is simply living in a residence with alcohol in it?”
In addition to enforcement concerns, Farr said she voted against the proposal because it lacked the administrative planning necessary for effective implementation.
“The other part was it did not come to the board’s agenda through the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, it came from [5th District] Supervisor [Joseph] Centeno on the request of members of the community,” Farr said. “It did not come with a full analysis of how this would be administered.”
On Dec. 2, a www.dailynexus.com user named “Ignacio” commented on a previous Nexus article about the ordinance. According to Ignacio, similar ordinances near San Diego State University have resulted in excessive fines and abuse from law enforcement.
“We totally lost this battle in the SDSU college area,” Ignacio said. “Huge fines being doled out left and right, basically all depending on what mood the cops who show up happen to be in. Some up to $7000 (for multiple residents), and sometimes because the video games were too loud on a Sunday afternoon. This is the beginning of the end if you all don’t stand up to it.”
County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services has been charged with the ordinance’s administration. In a previous interview with the Daily Nexus, Interim Manager John Doyel said ADMHS will work alongside local officials on an education program prior to the start of enforcement. Additionally, Doyel said the county has allocated additional time and resources for these efforts to be carried out in Isla Vista.
According to Doyel, outreach efforts have included the distribution of pamphlets and other informational outlets both on campus and throughout the county.