Council Seeks to Stem Underage Drinking with Social Host Ordinance & Looks for Ideas on Downtown Garbage Can Shortage


Just in time for the holiday season, the Redding City Council on Tuesday approved a “social host” ordinance that subjects adults to civil penalties for allowing minors to drink alcohol or use drugs.

The ordinance, which takes effect later this month, is intended as a tool for police to crack down on private parties where adult homeowners condone underage drinking and drug use.

Representatives from Shasta County Chemical People, who had been seeking the ordinance for two years, applauded the unanimous vote.

“I truly hope it’s an effective means to protect the health and welfare of our children out there,” City Attorney Barry DeWalt said after outlining the ordinance’s provisions.

Those parameters, based on council member comments at the Oct. 20 meeting, include civil and administrative penalties (instead of criminal penalties); a strict liability standard; an exemption for absent landlords (unless they knew the party was occurring); a first-offense warning followed by fines of $250, $500 and $1,000 for successive violations; and a cost recovery provision.

Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti said he supports the ordinance and appreciates that it carries civil rather than criminal penalties, thus sparing Shasta County’s overburdened criminal courts.

Councilman Brent Weaver said he likes the first-warning provision since it gives the homeowner or responsible adult a chance to shut down the party and avoid a fine. He noted that police summoned to an underage drinking party will have the authority to cite adults if the warning is not heeded.

“It goes without saying that rational adults want to stop underage drinking,” Weaver said.

One Redding property owner asked the council if he would be subject to a fine if his tenants, who include 18- and 19-year-olds, put on parties where drinking occurred. Only if he had direct knowledge of the parties occurring, DeWalt replied. The ordinance targets the person who has custody or control of the property, which is typically the homeowner or tenant.

“I’m not looking to go out and prosecute innocent people,” DeWalt added.

Similar ordinances are in place in Chico, Anderson, Truckee and Fort Bragg. At the council’s Oct. 20 meeting, DeWalt said statistics provided by the Chemical People indicated one youth per week is seen for alcohol poisoning in local ERs. Some 13 percent of seventh-graders, 26 percent of ninth-graders and 36 percent of 11th-graders report drinking in the past 30 days. More than a quarter of high school juniors say they have driven after drinking.

A whopping 84 percent of Redding kids surveyed said booze is always or sometimes present at parties they attend; a quarter of the youth who drink stated they drink at home and 35 percent of those who drink say they drink at a friend’s home.

Downtown garbage cans?
A presentation by members of Girl Scout Troop 70272 about their project to line the Sacramento River Trail with green baskets for recyclable cans and bottles—and thus helping prevent deposit hunters from rifling through adjacent garbage cans and spreading trash everywhere—led to a discussion about the dearth of garbage cans in the downtown area.

After commending the scouts for their work, Community Services Director Kim Niemer was asked if the downtown area was a good candidate for recycling baskets. Niemer expressed some reservations, noting people on the river trail are usually armed with water bottles while downtown pedestrians are likely to have more garbage that would likely end up in the recycling baskets.

City Manager Kurt Starman noted the river trail baskets were next to trash cans and suggested it would be helpful if recycling baskets were stationed next to garbage cans in downtown as well.

Niemer said the recently disbanded Downtown Redding Business Association (DRBA) had some interest in downtown garbage cans and suggested that group, or Viva Downtown, could be contacted.

In the end, Council member Missy McArthur got the council to agree to have city staff work with downtown stakeholders and explore possible public-private partnerships to locate and maintain an adequate supply of garbage cans in the downtown area.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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