The San Luis Obispo City Council lowered the age group affected by the proposed nighttime curfew to 15 years old and under.
The curfew ordinance, still yet to be officially passed, previously targeted all youth under the age of 18. Following public comment Tuesday in protest of the curfew, the council voted not only to lower the enforcement age, but also to issue warnings to first time offenders.
San Luis Obispo activist Kevin Rice, who had been campaigning against the curfew, said he was pleased with the amendment.
“It’s a really huge win tonight that they changed it to be 15 and under,” Rice said. “If you’re in a car driving around, it’s pretty obvious that you are over 15. So this really has made it clear that cops can’t stop people driving around.”
Rice also said the change should come as a relief to college students.
“Fifteen and under really takes the heat off college students from being harassed and profiled by this curfew,” Rice said.
Though no minors attended the council meeting Tuesday, Rice and three others who spoke on the issue encouraged the council to reduce the severity of the proposed ordinance.
One of the speakers during public comment, San Luis Obispo resident John Grady, said there is no need for the curfew.
“Statistics show that 20 minors were arrested in 2010 during the proposed curfew hours, and the year before there were 23 arrests,” Grady said. “This is hardly a significant crime issue.”
Michael Sheffer, who lives just outside of San Luis Obispo, said he agrees the curfew is unnecessary.
“If you take that concept of needing a tool farther, the police would probably have a lot easier job if no one were on the streets past 11 o’clock,” Sheffer said.
Each of the comments contesting the ordinance challenged vice mayor John Ashbaugh to remain true to his principles.
“I welcome (those in opposition to the curfew) to the ranks of civil libertarians,” Ashbaugh said. “I consider myself to be one.”
Ashbaugh promptly suggested the amendment to lower the enforcement age, but he did not withdraw his support for the curfew.
“As the principal of San Luis Obispo High School explained to me just yesterday, nothing good happens after midnight,” Ashbaugh said.
Mayor Jan Marx echoed Ashbaugh’s discontent with minors staying out late.
“I am concerned about (minors) possibly becoming victims, especially after the bars let out or when there’s college parties going on,” Marx said.
But, Marx also showed concern for the opponents of the curfew. She added a clause to make the first curfew violation a warning to the existing motion lowering the enforcement age.
On May 3, the motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with councilmembers Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith in opposition.
But, due to the amendments introduced, the ordinance is no closer to becoming law than it was after the initial vote. Tuesday’s vote merely reintroduced the curfew, meaning it still must withstand final passage from the council in order to become law.
When the curfew does reappear for final passage, the hours will remain the same: 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The 11 exceptions to the curfew rule likewise remain intact. Police Chief Deb Linden said these exceptions have been successfully tested in other cities with curfew ordinances.
Fines, now beginning upon the second offense, will still start at $100 and increase for repeat offenders. The council clarified that parents, too, can be fined if officers deem them responsible for allowing their children to stay out past the authorized hours. Linden said, though, that such action would only occur in rare circumstances at the discretion of the enforcing officers.
In all likelihood, the proposed curfew will again appear for final passage at the next council meeting May 31 at 7 p.m.