Supervisors pass underage drinking ordinance

September 23, 2008 6:33:48 PM PDT
Santa Clara County supervisors passed an ordinance, by a close vote, that will crack down on underage drinking and punish the adults who allow such parties to happen.

If you are under 21, you cannot legally drink. There is also a law against buying, selling or providing alcohol to anyone underage. Social host ordinances go one step further and hold responsible adults accountable for underage drinking on private property.

"These kids are being allowed to do things. They're being allowed to purchase alcohol or get it from the home and nobody is acting responsibly, and as a result of that, people die," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage.

Gage wanted to follow the lead of eight cities in the county who already have social host ordinances on the books, but there was opposition to trying to enforce such a law in unincorporated areas of the county.

"The laws are already on the books and quite frankly, I don't think we need to add yeat another ordinance that we will be enforcing," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss.

The ordinance calls for one warning and then fines up to a thousand dollars against parents, party hosts or party organizers.

Initially, the proposal by Gage would have allowed landlords to be held responsible for underage drinking in homes and apartments.

It was clear the majority of supervisors felt that was overreaching and to save the ordinance from defeat, Gage struck the landlord clause at the last minute.

"We came in here hoping for an exemption and that's exactly what we got," said Kirsten Carr with the California Apartment Association.

Stanford University also got an exemption from the ordinance arguing that it already has aggressive polices in place that could be undermined by county enforcement.

"In a way, we're already doing precisely what the ordinance is trying to achieve and we have been for awhile," said Stanford University spokesperson Jean McCown.

Both the Stanford and landlord exemptions will be reviewed in one year. The ordinance passed by a 3 to 2 vote and goes into effect January 1.


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