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Council votes for more information, community input on social host ordinance

All communications regarding ordinance must be delivered by Oct. 16 via email to the police chief.

June 21, 2012|By Barbara Diamond
  • Before heading inside, Laguna Beach High junior Schuyler Vanderveen looks over his notes in the hallway before speaking against the social host ordinance at City Hall on Tuesday.
Before heading inside, Laguna Beach High junior Schuyler… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Laguna Beach is trying to do what the federal and state government hasn't accomplished: prevent the use of alcohol and drugs by anyone under 21.

The City Council on Tuesday agreed to move forward on a social host ordinance that prohibits adults from providing illegal substances to kids and imposes substantial fines on the violators. However, the council asked for more information on the consequences of the ordinance and for input from the city's youth, the community and the school district before enacting such a law, which has roused strong emotions in town — for and against.

"This law fails to address the simple fact that people drink whether it is illegal or not," said Laguna Beach High School and UC Santa Barbara graduate Alex Mattingley, one of the 38 speakers from the packed council chamber that weighed in on the proposed ordinance. "The trick is to get them to drink in a smart, moderate manner."

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School district officials, the Community Coalition, medical and abuse-prevention professionals, youth groups, parents, a PTA and an out-of-town couple, whose 18-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver, supported the ordinance in the two-hour and 15 minute hearing.

"Alcohol use kills about 6,000 teens each year, causing more deaths than all other illicit drugs combined," said Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokeswoman Mary Beth Griffin. "Adults who purchase alcohol for those under age 21; who look the other way when teens talk about drinking exploits; and who host teenage drinking parties in their homes all contribute to the struggles many communities face when trying to prevent underage drinking."

Holding adults responsible is a pro-active step for concerned communities, but can be difficult."

The guilty party is often difficult to determine when police are called, but social host laws that allow police to cite the host is a way to hold adults accountable, Griffin said.

One student said off the record that the drinkers are the ones who should be held responsible.

Several high school students, recent graduates and some parents opposed the ordinance, at least as presented. Susan Vanderveen, mother of two Laguna Beach High School students, said her research indicated that problems outweighed the benefits of similar ordinances in other towns.

Macklin Thornton said a social host ordinance in Berkeley where he is now going to school has not resulted in fewer people abusing alcohol, but only in fewer people reporting the abuse.

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