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The UCSB Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs office is providing legal assistance for Isla Vista residents cited in violation of Santa Barbara County’s Social Host Liability Ordinance.
The ordinance allows police officers to enter a residence and cite hosts who knowingly permit minors to consume alcohol during a party. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed the measure last June in a four to one vote — 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr was the sole member opposing the legislation — to prevent underage drinking and hold tenants and landlords accountable for guests’ behavior.
Several campus organizations are providing legal and educational counsel through the ordinance appeal process and are documenting the reported cases to present at the county’s annual review of the regulation. The ordinance went into effect last December and has resulted in 13 citations since Isla Vista Foot Patrol began enforcing the legislation in March.
According to former EVPLA Cori Lantz, a fourth-year political science major, the office has communicated with local police and government officials to identify faults in the legislation and advocate on students’ behalf.
“The whole perspective that we’re coming from is not that we don’t feel that underage drinking is an issue — it’s definitely an issue, especially in Isla Vista, and something that needs to be addressed — but the Social Host Ordinance does not address it in a way that is beneficial to I.V. and can in fact be detrimental,” Lantz said. “It’s extremely problematic in a lot of ways.”
The ordinance defines a party as a gathering of five or more individuals with at least one person under 21 years old. Hosts cited for a first-time offense are required to pay a $500 fine and take a mandatory educational class. Second-time offenders are fined $1,000 and subsequent offenses result in $2,000 fines. Lantz said students have had difficulty contesting the charges due to the vague parameters established for the ordinance’s application.
“When it was passed it was placed on the backs of the Alcohol and Drug Program with the county and the Foot Patrol to figure out the enforcement and implementation, which is really frustrating because they weren’t part of the drafting process,” Lantz said. “It wasn’t passed with a clear appeals process and it didn’t explain who would enforce it and who would be in charge of implementation.”
IVFP spent several months issuing warnings instead of citations in an attempt to educate the community about the ordinance. Since officers began enforcing the SHO in March, the EVPLA office has aided two students — who declined to comment for confidentiality reasons — through the appeals process.
EVPLA Tim Benson said assisting the students has allowed the office to gather information about the regulation’s inconsistencies and share the data with local officials to improve enforcement methods.
“It’s all geared towards making sure that the police aren’t abusing the law or using it in a malicious or victimizing way,” Benson said.
Lantz said compiling statistics of the citations into a comprehensive report will help the office argue against the ordinance and request its repeal.
“When it comes up to [Santa Barbara County’s] annual review, we’ll present all this,” Lantz said. “Hopefully there’ll be enough where we can actually have statistics that prove this is ineffective and has not fixed the situation at all; it’s only making things worse in I.V. I know the county’s collecting information, but we need to take it into our own hands.”
Benson said the office also seeks to expand local residents’ knowledge of the law to limit the number of citations.
“We’ve tried hard to educate people now that the ordinance is in place. It sucks, but that’s the reality,” Benson said. “We just don’t want students being victims because the county did such a shitty job of educating people about the new law, which was one of the stipulations of its passing.”
Eleen Ibrahim, third-year communication major and KCSB Media Center member, is producing a segment about the ordinance and its effects on the community for the station’s upcoming news magazine show “I.V. Life.” According to Ibrahim, the current regulation is ill-suited for the I.V. community because many residencies contain more than five tenants between the ages of 18 and 22.
“It’s basically going to change the I.V. atmosphere a lot and it’s already started,” Ibrahim said. “The legislation was really meant for high school students, basically giving them a disincentive where, whether it’s their house or not, it’s illegal. I feel it’s going to be a slap in the face for many students who go about their weekends partying as usual and they have cops come in without any warning.”
To contact the EVPLA regarding a citation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the EVPLA office, located in the MultiCultural Center.