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Pico Rivera City Council Approves Social Host Ordinance

January 29, 2024

By Brian Hews

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-day period prior to 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 to adults for providing party locations and alcohol to minors can put a dent in underage drinking.

The Pico Rivera City Council is trying to stem underage drinking recently passing an underage 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 the quiet enjoyment of neighboring residents.

Shockingly, state law does not prohibit underage consumption of alcohol on private property. With the passing of the ordinance, Pico Rivera established their own Social Host ordinance, filling the gap in state laws and providing the Sheriff an enforcement tool to help address the problem of underage drinking at parties.

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 Sheriff’s stated that the make-shift clubs are promoted to patrons of all ages but focus on underage youth. According to the Sheriff’s they charge admission, serve alcohol, and 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 ordinance passing, it will now be a misdemeanor for any individual to knowingly host, assist, allow, permit, condone or enable a noisy or disorderly gathering at a private residence or property.

In addition, the ordinance allows for cost recovery from the responsible party by law enforcement or emergency service providers to. And imposes hefty fines.

The ordinance will also allow the city to impose 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.