Laguna Beach's Upcoming Alcohol Crackdown

City Council puts itself on the road to establishing a social host ordinance, meant to hold parents responsible for underage drinking.

This week, the Laguna Beach City Council unanimously passed an agenda item that, if it goes on to become an ordinance—and from the looks of things, it’s heading that way—will outlaw the consumption of alcohol by people under 21.

Ummm … isn’t that already illegal?

Yes, but no, but kinda.

More to the point: the proposed ordinance would target parents who supply alcohol for their kids—and sometimes other parents’ kids—when they throw parties. The parents or adult supervisors would be held responsible for underage drinking that takes place on property that they control, punishable by a range of penalties, including fines.

Somehow there’s no state or federal law already on the books about this, which is why many cities in Orange County, such as Newport Beach and Mission Viejo, have adopted similar laws, usually referred to as “social host ordinances.”

And now the city council wants one of their own.


The crowd that showed up at Tuesday’s council meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of the ordinance, stacked heavy with the kind of folks you’d expect to be in favor of such things. There was Kathleen Fay of the Laguna Beach Parent-Teacher’s Association, and Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Sherine Smith.

“We’re not after anybody but the wild parties where kids are being served alcohol,” assured school board member Bill Landsiedel.

A few Laguna Beach High School students spoke against the ordinance. But they weren’t opposed because they wanted to preserve their right to get blotto, which is what some would probably think.

Instead, Adam Redding-Kaufman complained that the law would just drive underage drinkers away from houses and instead to beaches or parks, which, with no adults around, could be a more dangerous and deadly scenario if things get out of control.

Student Schuyler Vanderveen was a little more … dramatic.

“This ordinance allows the police to enter our homes without a warrant!” he pontificated.

Not true, Laguna Beach Police Chief Paul Workman later made clear.

“This ordinance doesn’t empower the police to hunt the parents down and cite them,” Workman said. “This is more for the individuals who make a conscious effort to provide alcohol to persons under 21 … you can’t create laws that violate Constitutional protections. We can’t just boot a door down because we think (underage drinkers) are having a party inside.”

Student Macklin Thornton had a more thought-out argument against the S.H.O.

“I’m fervently against parents giving alcohol at parties for the purpose of being the ‘cool parents’ or trying to live vicariously through their children,” Thornton said. “It’s despicable.”

We hear that. Instead, Thornton went with the European-with-a-shot-of-Libertarianism approach.

“Drinking with parents cancels out the need for teens to binge drink because they no longer feel that alcohol scarcity,” Thornton proclaimed. “Thus, I advocate an Italian or French system, where parents drink with their kids. We need to change the culture. The solution is not more government.”

Then it was the council’s turn at the mic.

All five councilmembers supported a version of the ordinance, but it was Toni Iseman who wondered what to do when there are people drinking in a house who are older than 18, but under 21?

“After school age, I think the S.H.O. ordinance shoud stop,” Iseman said. “We have young people we are sending overseas who are dying for our country, and we’re going to bring them home and … I’m not saying they should be provided alcohol, but if their parents choose to have a party and say ‘I’m sorry, you can’t drink because we’re breaking the law’ …  I wish this didn’t go to 21.”

The vote was 5-0, and now city staffers will draft a version of the ordinance, which will then go to the council for first and second readings. If those are approved, it will become law after a public education period that could be up to six months.

Kate Rogers May 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I am struck when reading the various comments from readers by the absence of a few key facts. Firstly, in response to Adam Redding-Kaufman's assertion that the European Model be adopted, wherein teens are served alcohol in the home to demystify its use, here are some facts from a study published by the European Commission: among male teens, 25% mortality is due to alcohol (10% among female teens). The average age for one's first drink is 12.5, for getting drunk, 14 years old. Among 15-16 year-olds, over 90% have drunk alcohol, 18% have "binged" (defined as having 5 or more drinks on a single occasion) 3 or more times in the past month. France's death-rate from alcohol is two and a half times that of the U.S. This is not a model I would want to emulate. Furthermore, we now understand better that the development of the teenager's brain is still in process and will continue to be until they reach 25. The age of alcohol first use is highly correlated with the development of alcohol and other drug dependencies. While I sympathize with Barbara McMurray's discomfort about what feels like an "anti-teen undercurrent," given the facts, I perceive this effort as more pro-teen effort among people who have looked deeply into the realities of teen drinking. I don't think this is a question of civil rights as much as it is a question of responsible parenting in a culture awash in sensation-enhancing substances and ambivalent parenting styles.
Maria Putt May 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Let's focus on teaching our children to be value creating leaders in society, mom and dad. Let's teach them to be law abiding citizens with a dream to pursue instead of sending them on a destructive path. Why teach them to escape their problems through the use of mind altering substances of any kind. All law enforcement aside, clearly it is the parents responsibility to be better role models, love and protect their children, and clean up their own acts and be better role models. Did you know that: "Binge Drinking Common Among Adults Binge Drinking Common Among Adults, CDC Finds Published: January 10, 2012 About one in every six U.S. adults binges on alcohol, according to the CDC. And among those who do, the binges occur roughly once a week on average and include an average of eight drinks each time.... Binge drinking -- accounts for more than 1/2 the estimated 80,000 annual deaths & 3/4's of the $223.5 billion in economic costs tied to excessive alcohol use. In addition, it is associated with a greater risk of a multitude of problems, including car crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, acute MI, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)." MORE... http://addictiondata.blogspot.com/2012/01/binge-drinking-common-among-adults.html
Bobby XD9 May 08, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Because the governmet just doesn't intrude into our lives enough yet?
Andrew Landsiedel May 10, 2012 at 04:03 PM
@Kate Our goal of citing these facts isn't to show that we need to adopt the European model. Although France and Germany have high alcohol mortality rates, other countries, such as Italy, have an incredibly low death rate, with 1/8 of the alcohol-related deaths as the United States. The objective on our part is to demonstrate that it is the culture and genetic makeup of an individual, not the laws they live under, that contribute to alcoholism. If your argument is correct, how come France and Malta have massive problems with teen drinking, whereas Italy has next to none?
Maria Putt May 13, 2012 at 06:58 AM
"May 7, 2012 parents targeted in teen drinking Experts warn adults against being party to the crime" Read this interesting article... http://www.newburyportnews.com/local/x157483941/parents-targeted-in-teen-drinking


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