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Pico Rivera Adopts Social Host Ordinance to Stem Underage Drinking

December 12, 2023

By Brian Hews • [email protected]

It has become an epidemic in the United States; according to studies, underage drinking accounts for nearly 4,000 deaths annually.

 A U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse study found the proportions of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who reported drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in just the 30 days before the study were 14%, 29%, and 41%, respectively. Binge drinking rates, defined as consuming five or more drinks, were 7.2%, 16.3%, and 23.2% for the same grades, respectively.

The harms associated with underage alcohol use are extensive and include youth-drunk driving crashes and other unintentional injuries such as drownings, falls, alcohol-related suicides, risky sexual activity, rapes, and longer-term physical and emotional impairments resulting from alcohol abuse.

Local regulations and enforcement to stem underage drinking are some of the best tools available to municipalities. Policies such as increasing fines levied on young people for obtaining, possessing, and consuming alcohol and on adults for providing party locations and alcohol to minors can put a dent in underage drinking.

One of the tools the Pico Rivera City Council recently adopted to deter underage drinking is a Social Host ordinance, a law that will hold non-commercial property owners responsible for underage drinking at parties on their properties. 

There is a need: a 2021-2022 California Healthy Kids survey of 11th graders in the El Rancho Unified School District reported that 23% of students found it “very easy” to obtain alcoholic beverages, while 19% indicated “fairly easy.” 

And underage house parties where excessive alcohol, marijuana, and other illegal substances are consumed can lead to loud and unruly behaviors on private property, which disrupts neighboring residents.

State law does not prohibit underage consumption of alcohol on private property consequently, the Pico Rivera City Council considered and recently adopted a Social Host ordinance. The law will fill the gap in state laws by providing Pico Rivera Sheriffs an enforcement tool to help address the problem of underage drinking.

The Pico Rivera Sheriff’s Station received 853 calls for service for loud parties or music disturbing the peace between October 2022 and October 2023. Many of the calls were the result of parties promoted on social media.

The Sheriffs indicated that the make-shift clubs are promoted to patrons of all ages but focus on underage youth. The promoters charge admission, serve alcohol, and sometimes offer illicit drugs. In addition, these events lack supervision or security and have recently led to violent and often deadly outcomes for participants in this community.

With the adoption by the City Council, it will now be a misdemeanor for any individual to host or allow a noisy or disorderly gathering at a private residence or property.

The law will also allow for cost recovery from the responsible party by law enforcement or emergency service providers.

The ordinance will allow the following fines: $2,500 for the first violation; $3,500 for the second violation within a 12-month period of the first;  $5,000 for the third violation within a 12-month period.

The ordinance shall become effective 30 days after the adoption.

“As Pico Rivera City Manager, I was proud to announce the adoption of our new Social Host ordinance, a crucial step in ensuring the safety and well-being of our community,” CM Steve Carmona told Los Cerritos Community News. “This ordinance reflects our commitment to preventing underage drinking and its associated risks. By holding property owners accountable, we are not only protecting our youth but also helping to reduce related criminal activities. Our City Council’s commitment to health and safety of residents is a priority, and this ordinance is a testament to that commitment.”

“In recognizing the urgent need to protect our community’s youth and maintain peace within our neighborhoods, we have taken a significant step forward by adopting the Social Host ordinance,” said Pico Rivera Mayor Andrew C. Lara told LCCN. “This innovative law reinforces our commitment to responsible property ownership and the well-being of our residents. By holding non-commercial property owners accountable for underage drinking on their premises, we aim to deter easy access to alcohol among our youth. We understand that underage house parties can disrupt the tranquility of our neighborhoods, and this ordinance will serve as an essential enforcement tool for our Pico Rivera Sheriffs. Together, we’re closing the gap in state laws to address the pressing issue of underage drinking and foster a safer, more responsible community for all.”