DEL MAR — Del Mar residents caught hosting a party during which underage drinking is taking place will soon face consequences. At the Sept. 20 meeting, City Council approved a draft ordinance intended to crack down on the problem.
According to the staff report, the city “has experienced increasing problems and challenges to law enforcement related to minors consuming alcohol on private property.”
When it comes to house parties, law enforcement is currently limited to citing minors only when they see them consuming alcohol. The new law gives police another tool in their tool box, City Attorney Leslie Devaney said, by targeting the party host or people who know or should know underage drinking is taking place.
Representatives from local prevention and awareness organizations spoke in support of the social host ordinance.
“It’s … shocking to learn that a lot of parents do not know that it’s against the law to allow underage drinking,” Leticia Robles, with the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, said. According to surveys conducted by her organization, most students say they began drinking at home, she said.
“We work with parents all the time and they think it’s OK to let kids drink in their home,” said Encinitas resident Nancy Logan, who was speaking on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “We need to eliminate that belief.”
Logan said statistics show youngsters are less likely to drink if their parents don’t condone the behavior.
“If they’re allowed to drink in their home, they’re going to continue doing it and then get in a car and drive to the next party or home and we all know what happens,” Logan said.
Judi Strang from the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth said social host laws reduce the availability of alcohol to minors and change the “overall community attitude of social acceptance” of how, when and where alcohol may be consumed.
“Messages do make a difference,” Strang said.
Council members said they are generally reluctant when it comes to government telling residents what they can do in their homes, but they unanimously supported the new law.
“I don’t like telling people how to run their private life, but these parties have the potential to create serious problems,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “We’ve had far too many teen fatalities associated with drinking this past year.
“My sons went to Torrey Pines High School and hardly a year went by when one of those students wasn’t killed,” he said. “So I think that fact overrides any concerns about personal property and personal privacy.”
Mayor Richard Earnest agreed. “When it comes to people losing their lives, or potentially losing their lives, especially young people … who have a whole life in front of them, I think it’s a little different,” he said.
“(This ordinance) is good for the community. It’s good for the folks who are underage,” Earnest said. “They have plenty of years left in their lives to have a beer if they want to when they’re of age.”
The new law will take effect 30 days after the final adoption, which is currently scheduled for the Oct. 4 meeting. Violators will be subject to a $1,000 fine, six months in jail or both.