Raucous early-morning partying at several off-campus houses just south of Cal Poly on March 7 started with noise complaints and ended with a dramatic roof collapse that made national news and sent 10 injured revelers to local hospitals.
In the wake of the roof collapse, university authorities and local leaders have promised thorough investigations and examinations of the incident and the partying culture that precipitated the injuries.
“Ultimately, it’s a question of whether Cal Poly students want to be grownups or unruly adolescents,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx. “This unfortunate incident represents what I call ‘mob behavior.’”
- PHOTOS TAKEN FROM SLOPD, SLO FIRE DEPARTMENT, AND TWITTER
- SLÁINTE SUNRISE: The lack of sunlight didn’t deter early morning partying on March 7 for “St. Fratty’s Day,” but the party stopped when a garage roof bearing about 30 people collapsed at 6:21 a.m. By the end of the day, 10 people had been treated for roof-collapse-related injuries at local hospitals.
SLOPD Capt. Chris Staley said his department started receiving noise complaints from neighbors as early as 4:30 a.m. on March 7, and officers were at the scene—the 300 block of Hathway Avenue—when the roof of a garage bearing around 30 people at 364 Hathway collapsed at 6:21 a.m.
“Looking at the videos of that roof collapse, I don’t know how someone didn’t die,” Staley told New Times. “With all the roofing material and wood in there, it was just a recipe for disaster.”
Staley said he arrived on the scene at around 8 a.m., by which time officers had dispersed parties up and down that block of Hathway as unlawful assemblies. Still, he said there were thousands of students milling around the area.
“Right now, we’re trying to figure out precisely who the party organizers and hosts were,” Staley said. “We’re hoping to file unruly gathering charges against those individuals, and we want to wrap up the investigation by [March 13].”
SLO Fire Chief Garret Olson said he was “very thankful” that the injuries from the collapse weren’t more significant. He said it would have been a “different story” if partiers had been inside the garage at the time of the collapse.
“Whether there’s 40 or four people up on a roof, it’s just not a wise decision,” Olson said. “It’s inherently unsafe.”
Most of the injured partygoers were directed to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, just a few blocks away from the roof collapse. Sierra Vista Spokesman Ron Yukelson said that nine people were treated at the hospital for injuries stemming from the incident, none of which were life threatening.
“We had one patient who was impaled by wooden debris, a neck injury, some scrapes, one patient with a concussion and a lower extremity injury, and two people who were highly intoxicated,” Yukelson said. “Regardless of the context, nine people injured is nine too many.”
Dignity Health spokesperson Megan Maloney confirmed that one person was treated at SLO’s French Hospital for a sprained ankle stemming from the incident, though she described the injury as “very minor.”
Going forward, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said that the university would be examining all aspects of the March 7 incident to suss out possible student conduct violations.
“We take [the March 7] incident very seriously and are working closely with local public safety and performing our own campus investigations to determine what led to the situation and what is the appropriate response,” Lazier wrote in a statement emailed to New Times. “Once we have all the facts, the university will respond swiftly and accordingly.”
In a university-wide March 7 letter, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong and Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey wrote that the party “raises significant concern about the judgment exercised by both the party organizers and attendees.”
Notably, all of Cal Poly Greek life is currently on social probation, which forbids them from hosting any kind of social event.
Lazier added that—if any Greek organization was found to have connections to the St. Fratty’s Day party—“the university reserves the right to exercise additional options regarding the status of social fraternities and sororities.”
On the city’s side, Marx said she’s considering proposing an ordinance that would ban or limit “brewfing,” a slang term for drinking on rooftops. She added that the ordinance idea would have to be supported by at least two fellow City Council members, placed on a future agenda, and researched by city staff before it could possibly move forward.
“I’m just concerned when I see groups of young people with red cups on roofs,” Marx said.