Isla Vista parties may come under closer scrutiny if a proposed county ordinance passes.

Created to combat underage drinking, the countywide Social Host Ordinance would increase liability for adults who provide alcohol to minors. The law would make hosting a party where underage drinking is taking place a civil violation, with violators facing increased fines and mandatory classes addressing responsible hosting, as well as recovery costs for police response and emergency services.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program, along with the Santa Barbara Youth Council, held a forum at Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center last night to discuss the problem of underage drinking in Santa Barbara County, as well as to debate the merits of the potential ordinance. The panel answered questions from local teens, parents and politicians – including Mayor Marty Blum – about the prevalence of alcohol in the local community and possible measures for combating underage alcohol use.

Drafted by the local Public Policy Task Force, of which Blum is the chair, the ordinance would hold hosts of parties more responsible for providing places and resources for underage people to drink. The law, designed to discourage parents from allowing their teens and other minors to drink in their homes, is currently being considered by county officials.

Christina Gonzales, 18, represented the ADAP & Youth Council on the panel. She described the law as “a good way to help keep adults accountable for what goes on in their house.”

Chief Deputy Geoff Dean of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Dept. was among the panelists presiding over the meeting, and he noted that four of Ventura County’s five cities have already passed similar laws of their own. San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz have also approved such ordinances.

Although the meeting focused mainly on the habits of some Santa Barbara high school students hosting “ragers” when parents leave town for the weekend, the discussion inevitably narrowed in on the widespread alcohol use in the county’s college town, which Blum dubbed “the Isla Vista Problem.”

“A group of us went out to Isla Vista three years ago on Halloween night, and our eyes were opened wide,” Blum said.

She said that in the years since that enlightening encounter with I.V., new laws regulating keg sales, noise control and alcohol permits have helped cut back on both alcohol sales and crime.

If passed, the ordinance would be just another tug in what Al Rodriguez of the Alcohol & Drug Programs of the County of Santa Barbara described as the “[slow] tightening of the noose around the neck of Isla Vista.”