In a decision made by the City Council during a regular Council Meeting held last November, the City Council is taking a hard stance on underage drinking and drug use amongst the City’s youth population. During the meeting, the City Council passed the Social Host Ordinance which is now a City law that holds non-commercial individuals responsible for underage drinking at parties on property they own, lease, or otherwise control.
State law currently prohibits the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol by minors in public or commercial settings, but not on private property. The new local Social Host Ordinance looks to fill that gap by providing law enforcement with a tool to help address the problem of underage drinking at parties held on private property.
According to a 2021-2022 California Healthy Kids Survey, 11th graders at El Rancho High School were surveyed about the ease of access to alcoholic beverages and 23% of them responded that they found it “very easy” to obtain alcoholic beverages. Another 19% indicated that it is “fairly easy” to obtain alcoholic beverages. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that underage drinking and drug use pose a significant public health problem in the U.S. Consequently, more than 3,900 deaths occur annually among individuals under the age of 21 due to excessive drinking.
House parties and gatherings where excessive alcohol, marijuana and/or illegal substances are consumed among underage youth and young adults can lead to loud and unruly gatherings on private property, which disrupts the quiet enjoyment of neighboring residents. The Pico Rivera Sheriff’s Station received 853 calls for service for loud parties or music disturbing the peace between October 4, 2022, and October 4, 2023. Many of these calls were the result of illegal flyer parties that are advertised on social media and function as a makeshift club that charges admission, serves alcohol, and often includes accessibility to illicit drugs. These events are marketed to patrons of all ages but focus on underage youth. In addition, these events often lack supervision or security and have recently led to violent and often deadly outcomes for participants in this community.
With the ordinance now approved, it will now be considered a misdemeanor for any individual to knowingly host, assist, allow, permit, condone or in any way enable a noisy or disorderly gathering at a private residence or property. The ordinance allows for law enforcement or emergency service providers to recover costs from the responsible party. In addition, the ordinance allows for the City to impose the following fines:
A first violation of this section shall be punishable by a $2,500 fine. A second violation within a 12-month period shall be punishable by a $3,500 fine. A third violation within a 12-month period shall be punishable by a $5,000 fine.
The Social Host Ordinance aims to prevent and reduce the prevalence of gatherings where alcoholic beverages, marijuana and illegal substances are served to or consumed by underage persons. In addition, the intent is to reduce the opportunity for violent and criminal activity that frequently results from parties and unruly gatherings. Finally, the ordinance assigns responsibility to individuals who knowingly are hosting, abetting, or allowing loud or unruly gatherings in the City.