Listen up, committed drunken house partiers: It’s time to start saving up to pay more fines.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted Sept. 29 to develop harsher rules to tamp down on noisy parties. The council agreed with police suggestions to tighten up its noise ordinances by coming down harder on repeat-offender houses, to create an “unruly gathering ordinance” that allows for harsh penalties for large groups making excessive noise or other unpleasant behavior, and to create a nighttime curfew for minors.
Rental houses will be more tightly regulated, and the city will create more “safety enhancement zones,” used during Mardi Gras and carrying the promise of triple fines for public drunkenness and other such behavior.
The police department will return with exact proposals for final approval early next year.
Last month’s raucous Week of Welcome, ushering in a new crop of Cal Poly students, contributed to the mood to the evening.
More than 100 people showed up, evenly divided between long-term residents—who tended to be older and preferred to sit in the front of the chamber—and Cal Poly students who sat in the back and stood along the walls. As the meeting began, electronic squeals came from hearing aids being switched on in the front rows. At the same time, a young attendee opened a can wrapped in a yellow speaker card. He sheepishly sipped on it, softly belching at the night wore on.
Among the speakers was Karen Hale, a longtime SLO resident who said she lived on the same block as three “party houses” and said the students living there think the occasional fines they have to pay for making too much noise are a joke.
“I don’t sleep between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon,” Hale said. “I’m really tired of not sleeping.”
Other residents who lived near Cal Poly said they slept with earplugs and often woke up with beer cans and trash in their front yards. One elderly woman said she has to pick cans filled with urine out of her back garden at the end of every weekend.
Sam Young, a Cal Poly senior and self-professed two-time Cal Poly WoW leader, said the divisive “us vs. them” tenor of the evening saddened him.
“Aren’t we all one community?” Young asked in a Rodney King tone of voice. “We should not be just students or residents. We should all be one.”
Young went on to say he lived in a house with six other people, and that they had formed a band with five musicians from down the street. He was against stiffer noise regulations.
The meeting started with a report presented by San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden titled, “Strategies to reduce neighborhood noise and party disturbances.” The report dug deep into the problem of loud parties and found these facts:
• Except for last year, complaints for noise and party violations have risen 3 percent a year for the last five years in San Luis Obispo.
• Police believe the upticks are due to a number of factors, the first of which is “Pervasive presence of alcohol and party behavior in the student culture.” The report also cited a “lack of sense of neighborly responsibilities.”
• It takes, on average, 21 minutes for a squad car to get to a noise violation call.
• There seems to be a lot of underage drinking happening in the vicinity of Cal Poly.