On March 7, 2015, Cal Poly made national headlines when a St. Patrick’s Day celebration — commonly referred to as St. Fratty’s Day in San Luis Obispo — ended in a roof collapse and nine injured party goers. The event sparked conversations about change regarding parties and how to keep them safe.

Since 2015, roofs have been empty and, well, the party scene has not been the same. With increased safety management and police patrol, incidents on St. Fratty’s Day have decreased.

One of the most famous attendees of the 2015 St. Fratty’s Day, wine and viticulture alumna Leah Piddington, whose leg was impaled due to the roof collapse. Piddington said the piece of wood was about half an inch from the main artery in her leg and she could have easily bled out if it hit just a little closer. 

Four years later, Piddington said her leg still gets sore and can be painful to exercise on, but she is happy to be alive as the situation could have been much worse.

The years after, people managed to stay off roofs and out of the hospital. There were still parties, but students got smart and spread out around town,” Piddington said. “I don’t think St. Fratty’s will reach max capacity like it did in 2015 for awhile.”

Leah Piddington suffered a broken knee cap and an impaled leg due to the 2015 St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse. Leah Piddington | Courtesy
Leah Piddington suffered a broken knee cap and an impaled leg due to the 2015 St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse. Leah Piddington | Courtesy

Piddington said safety in a college town is so important and that she would never wish what happened to her on anyone else.

“If you are going to wake up for St. Fratty’s Day this spring at 3 a.m., make sure you wake up early one morning with some friends to do a sunrise hike, too,” Piddington said. “You might be surprised at which one you enjoy more.”

In an email to Mustang News, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said the day has not been like the years prior.

“Given the high-profile nature of the incident in 2015, student activity around this time has been quieter in recent years,” Humphrey wrote. “This more appropriately honors the commitment to neighborhood wellness and respect for San Luis Obispo that we try to instill in our students.”

With non-school related events like St. Fratty’s Day, Humphrey said the school works with student groups to make sure they follow proper safety protocols to keep students safe.

Humphrey said the university hopes students keep their health and safety in mind as well as city regulations when it comes time to celebrating events like St. Fratty’s Day.

How have the rules changed?

The city has enforced safety enhancement zones on St. Patrick’s Day since 2013. This means the City of San Luis Obispo is under increased patrol and fines are doubled for violations such as noise, unruly gathering, social host, public urination, and open container, according to the City of San Luis Obispo.

Nuisances and violations have decreased since the implementation of the ordinance, according to Neighborhood Outreach Manager Christine Wallace.

After the roof collapse, the city tried to pass an ordinance that would extend the safety enhancement period to 21 days in March, according to Wallace. The ordinance did not pass.

“We don’t think that expanding the safety enhancement zone is the key to handling these issues.” Wallace said.  “It really is more about communication and encouraging using solid risk management policy.”

In August 2015, about five months since the roof collapse, the city adopted two amendments to the city code. The first allows University Police (UPD) to cite certain city code violations within a one-mile radius of campus. UPD can cite violations regarding open containers, public consumption of alcohol, underage drinking, noise, unruly gatherings, public urinations, and certain vehicle uses on property.

The amendment expanded the definition of an unruly gathering, adding unpermitted live bands, amplified music or DJs; being on a roof not designed for occupancy; and throwing bottles or other objects at other people or law enforcement.

A more recent addition to the city’s effort to keep parties tame is the voluntary party registration program. Officially adopted in Octber 2018, the program allows people to register their party with the city so if the party receives a noise complaint, the host will be given a courtesy call and have 20 minutes to bring down the noise before the police show up. The program was born out of the council’s efforts to seek more collaborative approaches to achieve neighborhood peace.

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