The San Luis Obispo City Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “unruly gathering” ordinance after meeting with little opposition from those present at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The ordinance would allow police who deem parties of 20 or more people too rowdy to fine the owner $700 on their first offense and $1,000 if they are cited again. Police would also be allowed to administer additional fines to underage drinkers.
San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden said multiple complaints, interference with traffic flow and overflowing crowds are all factors police will take into account when deeming a party an “unruly gathering.” She also said attendees who are urinating in public, vandalizing property, littering, causing fights or are drunk in public are all subject to additional fines. Linden pointed out that the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP) would not be allowed to issue fines, and noise violations would not be issued on top of an unruly gathering fine. She also said if the host calls the police when a party is becoming overcrowded, they could avoid fines.
“Noise violations are contended for smaller gatherings and the larger for substantial disturbances,” said police Lieutenant Tom DePriest, who presented with Linden.
Some differences between the “noise ordinance” and the “unruly gathering” ordinance are that no warnings will be given to the rowdy crowds of more than 20 people, the fines are twice the amount of those of the “noise ordinance” and a community service option will not be offered to those who violate the “unruly gathering ordinance.”
“After seeing a decline in citations, we want to encourage that behavior,” Linden said.
Property owners who rent to students will also be given a two-week grace period to deal with tenants and will be fined $500.
“We are trying to encourage good behavior so we don’t have to go through it a second time,” Linden said in regards to holding homeowners responsible for the actions of their tenants.
She said the motion was not an attack on the student population but on “unruly gatherings,” no matter the group’s age.
Only six students spoke during public comment, four of whom were members of Associated Students Inc. ASI president Kelly Griggs who spoke last, asked all audience members who were students to stand up. Only 11 students were present; nine were members of ASI. All of the comments by students commended the council staff, with whom they worked on the ordinance and applauded them for eliminating a policy that would allow homes that received a violation to be tagged.
“I think it’s hard because they switched around the time, but I think we have had an invested group of students looking into it and who spoke tonight,” Griggs said. “We tried to get them to look at the bigger picture of noise and unruly gatherings.”
When asked about working with ASI to find a solution to the party problems, Linden described them as fabulous.
“ASI under Kelly Griggs and the focus group they created were extremely helpful and provided great feedback, and their voices made a more effective product,” Linden said.
The council is also considering creating a curfew for those under the age of 18, increasing patrolling on occasions that officials expect may get out of hand, such as Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day and punishing property owners whose properties continue to receive complaints, fines and incidents surrounding parties in the community.
The council will have a final vote on the “unruly gathering ordinance” on April 20, and if approved again, it is expected to go into effect at the end of May.