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City to draft ordinance to curb underage drinking

One student says such an ordinance will move 'parties out of homes and into dangerous locations like beaches and hillsides of Laguna Beach.'

May 03, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

Pros and cons of the social host ordinance aimed at curbing teenage drinking in private homes was debated Tuesday in a packed City Council chamber.

The council voted unanimously to direct staff to draft an ordinance after listening to remarks from 17 speakers, 13 of them in favor of the proposed ordinance requested by the Laguna Beach Community Coalition. Speakers included students, parents, school district officials and medical professionals.

"A growing number of cities and counties have adopted social host accountability ordinances," Bill Landsdal said at the meeting. "Such ordinances vary, but generally hold the host of underage drinking parties, or residential host who allowed the party, accountable for any drinking or loud and unruly behavior that takes place."

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Bruce Hopping opined that laws don't stop drinking, citing the spectacular failure of Prohibition.

"We need to teach kids to respect their bodies," said Hopping.

However, family members are the most frequent supplier of alcohol to underage drinkers, according to the California PTA.

"We need to help parents raise their children to be the best they can be," said student Haleigh Burnett.

The state PTA also stated that most private homes are the primary site for underage drinking.

Homes are a lot safer than other locations for teenagers to drink, said high school senior Schuyler Vanderveen, who opposed the ordinance. But that was not the primary reason for his opposition.

"I'm going to ignore that all this ordinance accomplishes is moving parties out of homes and into dangerous locations like beaches and the hillsides of Laguna Beach," said Vanderveen. "I am going to urge you to allow minors to take responsibility for their actions."

Vanderveen said high school students are aware of the risks related to drugs and alcohol. He said blaming parents for their children's risky behavior won't solve the problem.

The ordinance does not refer to parents, only to anyone 18 or older who controls the property where underage drinking occurs, Police Chief Paul Workman said.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman voiced concern about older siblings supplying alcohol to younger friends and siblings.

"I have a problem with kids going overseas, fighting for us, and then they come home and their parents say you can't have a drink or we will be breaking the law," said Iseman, a retired educator, whose concerns were shared by Mayor Jane Egly, an attorney.

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