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Social Host Ordinance for Santa Barbara?

April 3, 2009 3:08 pm Published by Leave your thoughts
A sign posted on the campus of UCSB in February.

A sign posted on the campus of UCSB in February.

A hotbed of debate that is arising in Santa Barbara centers around the possible implementation of that county’s first Social Host Ordinance. Similar to the laws already in effect throughout Ventura County, the ordinance states that anyone hosting a loud and unruly party of five or more people – two of which are minors – will receive a fine. As one can imagine, this has created quite a furor with students at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and with the residents of nearby Isla Vista — a community known for its college-age residents and party culture.

As reported in the UCSB newspaper, The Daily Nexus, on February 23, many people feel this is simply an attack on Isla Vista (popularly known as “IV”) and its party scene. City officials and students alike gathered in the IV Theater on February 19 to discuss and debate the issue – an issue whose final decision was scheduled for sometime in March. Sue Paul, the Santa Barbara County Assistant CEO and Human Resources Director, explained that the purpose of the ordinance is to hold individuals responsible for underage drinking. Something there is a lot of in the Isla Vista area.

While I, personally, have not seen the actual Santa Barbara County ordinance, it seems to me from the various reports I have read that the trouble might be in the wording of the document. The Daily Nexus uses the words “vaguely worded” and “deemed unclear, unfair and even unsafe by some community members” while describing the ordinance in their report. One must also take into consideration the medium in which this was reported and the mindset of the person reporting it. A college student in a highly party-energized community. The Nexus’ article seems to focus more on the wording of the proposed ordinance and the supposed problems that this wording may cause for the community’s property owners than it does on the real issue: the fact that the social host ordinance is aimed at reducing underage drinking. In Ventura County, where the Social Host Ordinance has been in effect for years, if police are called to a residence where there is evidence of underage drinking, the person responsible for the party can be fined.

If the wording of the Santa Barbara County ordinance doesn’t accomplish this, then maybe the ordinance should be reviewed so as to more effectively accomplish its purpose – controlling the problem of underage and binge drinking.

Read The Daily Nexus story here: http://www.dailynexus.com/article.php?a=18375

If you’d like to read what the county of Santa Barbara has to say about the ordinance, you can read that here: http://www.santabarbaraca.gov/Teens/socialhost.html

Shawn McMaster is a project coordinator for Straight Up Ventura County.