Social host’ law aimed at teen drinking

“It’s happening, and happening enough that the Beach Cities Health District said we have a problem here.” – Councilman Christian Horvath

The Redondo Beach City Council approved a social host ordinance at its Aug. 14 meeting, taking action against substance use among minors by cracking down on parties at private homes.

The ordinance, given its first reading on Tuesday night, holds homeowners and renters responsible for underage drinking on their property. It closes a gap in state laws, which outlaw alcohol use by minors in public, but don’t address drinking on private property.

It also takes a more aggressive approach than similar ordinances in neighboring cities, by criminalizing the violation as a misdemeanor, rather than imposing a civil fine.

“By going misdemeanor, it’s a real deterrent,” City Attorney Michael Webb said. “If you’re allowing your child to drink at home and they have friends over, you make the booze available, that’s a problem.”

Alcohol consumption by minors is harmful to the health and welfare of the community, Redondo Beach Police Chief Keith Kauffman said, and shutting down parties can take a toll on police resources.

“The numbers would say that [the incidence of teen parties] is going down,” Webb said. “But as a parent, I would say it’s still there. From what I’ve heard, I think the numbers don’t necessarily reflect the truth.”

Kauffman agreed.

He said the “typical house keg party” probably doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to.

“But when they go out on Snapchat, they can go from zero to hundreds in a matter of an hour. Those take not only resources of our police department, but sometimes multiple police departments,” Kauffman said. “And if the resident is there, we don’t necessarily have the teeth to tell them to stop the party.”

This ordinance changes that by making these parties a criminal offense.

“Are we criminalizing having a teenager?” asked resident Eugene Solomon. “You do the best that you can, but now subjecting [parents] to criminal behavior because their 16-year-old made a mistake? I think that’s a slippery slope, and I don’t know if we want to go down that way.”

Councilman Christian Horvath responded, citing Beach Cities Health District reports that local students report rates of drug and alcohol use that are far higher than state-wide trends.

“It’s happening, and happening enough that the Health District said we have a problem here,” Horvath said. “What’s the point of passing the ordinance if we’re going to do nothing?”

Councilman Nils Nehrenheim was concerned about a potential lack of “actual enforcement,” saying that the simple act of making something illegal doesn’t mean the illegal act will stop.

But Nehrenheim ultimately “erred on the side of caution” in a unanimous 4-0 vote, absent Councilman Todd Loewenstein.


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