Noise violations in San Luis Obispo will end in costly results. Back in February, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to pass the new Unruly Gathering and Social Host ordinances.
These ordinances can rack up to thousand dollar fines, with the Social Host Ordinance also placing a misdemeanor on a violator’s record.
As stated in the San Luis Obispo Municipal Code, the Unruly Gathering Ordinance prohibits 20 or more people from creating a substantial disturbance by serving alcohol, littering, fighting and urinating in public.
The Social Host Ordinance is punishable when minors under 21 have been provided with and/or possess alcohol. Besides a misdemeanor on the host’s record, time in jail and a steep fine are also consequences.
Most commonly enforced by San Luis Obispo police, however, is the Noise Ordinance. The first violation places the property on a no warning list for nine months and the landlord is notified. A citation can also be issued at the first offense. The second violation fines not only the violator but the property owner as well.
If a residence receives more than two warnings within 60 days, it is placed on a premise list. If there is another violation within the next six months, no warnings will be given and officers will issue a citation.
But many Cal Poly students are wondering about the fairness of these policies.
“I feel like (the ordinance) is not equal protection under the law,” President of Beta Theta Pi Andy Deal said.
Deal, whose house was recently given a noise violation, believes that while students are getting these violations every weekend, there are families having noisy barbecues and parties that should be subject to the same treatment.
Ardith Tregenza, the neighborhood services manager for the San Luis Obispo Police Department, said sometimes the noise can be the same, but with Cal Poly students making noise later at night, it affects the families living around them.
University Police Department (UPD) Chief of Police Bill Watton, said they do not just respond to complaints for college parties.
“We respond to whatever the calls for service are. It doesn’t matter if it’s college aged kids or not,” Watton said.
Despite that, the UPD and San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) have organized what Watton referred to as a “party car,” which includes one SLOPD officer and a UPD officer, to patrol on weekends.
“Their job is to just go to the parties — that includes pre-parties. If we see an area where we think a party is starting to gather, we will make contact with the group and let them know what the rules are,” Watton said.
Many Cal Poly students are enraged to see police simply cruising the streets looking for parties to bust.
“The way it usually works is it is supposed to be a complaint based system. Someone is supposed to call and complain,” Deal said.
However, Watton said if police do see parties getting out of hand, they can stop them.
“They don’t have to give warnings, and they will be cited if there are violations (even without a complaint being made),” Watton said.
Students are wondering, however — since it is a “complaint-based system” — if police are complying or crossing the line.
“I do totally feel like (police) specifically target students,” Deal said. Because a noise violation is supposed to be a noise violation regardless of whether you’re having a barbecue with a bunch of seven-year-olds in your pool or you’re having 21-year-olds over drinking beer.”
The main goal remains the same though. It is an ordinance against noise, not students.
“I don’t think it targets students, it targets noise,” Tregenza said. “But I do understand the feelings of the students, so I encourage (them) to think about ways to socialize without being in violation.”
Deal said there is a huge age discrepancy between who receives tickets in San Luis Obispo. He said if everyone was held to the code for acceptable noise levels, that many more people outside of college-aged students would be ticketed.
Tregenza said it is mostly student-dense areas which receive noise violations and despite students’ speculations, their services are complaint driven.
According to city law, it is a violation to make noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that can be heard across the property line. Throughout the day, any noise that can be heard 50 feet away from the property is a violation.
“It’s supposed to be any noise. If you get five, six, seven kids under the age of 14 running around the pool screaming, 50 feet across the property line is no problem … but those aren’t the people getting tickets,” Deal said.
Tickets are meant for violations that occur during the designated late-night hours.
“Those kids that are making noise by the pool would be doing it during the day when people are out and about,” Tregenza said. “Whereas college parties are mostly after 10 p.m. when families are getting ready to sleep.” Tregenza said.
Watton said the reason why ordinances are so strict is because parties were getting bigger and bigger, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
“The City Council wished to decrease noise complaints and calm down the neighborhoods,” Tregenza said.
And so far, Tregenza believes they have helped: noise complaints are down 25 to 35 percent since the new ordinances were enacted in March.
“The one thing that we found is that, to the student-aged (population), money talks,” Watton said.
Some students still see the ordinances as profiling in a sense, and Deal sent out a call-of-action to his peers.
“I believe students should go around calling the cops on people having a Sunday barbecue so that the citizens will understand that the noise ordinance is absolutely absurd,” Deal said.