Laguna Beach leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved a revised ordinance meant to address the city’s longstanding problem with underage drinking.
The social host ordinance targets adults who serve alcohol to minors in their homes. It was passed Tuesday with the following revisions:
- A host is defined as anyone 21 and older;
- Anyone who calls 911 regarding a party where minors are drinking will be granted amnesty;
- Violators will not be fined but they will be required to take a class, which they will have to pay for;
- Repeat offenders will pay fines.
Residents at the meeting Tuesday night said the ordinance is expected to be brought before the City Council again for further revisions though a date had not been set. Earlier incarnations of the ordinance noted that adults found serving minors could be fined up to $1,000.
The approach to reducing underage drinking has caught on in dozens of other cities, but in Laguna Beach, it has run into a vociferous backlash.
Law enforcement thinks the ordinance could help curb potentially dangerous drinking among teens.
“We have this issue with juvenile parties that occur in town, mainly in the summertime,” said Cpt. Jason Kravetz, with the Laguna Beach Police Department. “We’re just looking at another avenue to attack the problem.”
In 2010, some 48 percent of surveyed 11th grade students said they had consumed alcohol within the past month.
"Parties always happen, kids always find a place to drink," said Cal Poly freshman Adam Redding-Kaufman, a Laguna High School graduate and one of the organizers of the opposition to the proposed ordinance.
Redding-Kaufman has gathered more than a thousand signatures opposing the social host ordinance and contends it would have unintended consequences, such as encouraging teens to do their drinking in more dangerous locations.
"I think existing laws are adequate to enforce underage drinking," Redding-Kaufman said.
Addressing a common critique of the ordinance, Kravetz said homeowners who are unaware of underage drinking on their property will not be targeted by the ordinance. Regardless, many parents converged Tuesday night on the City Council chambers to oppose it.
Nearby Irvine, Laguna Hills and Mission Viejo already have similar social host ordinances.