What would the 'social host' ordinance mean for house parties?
Chances are you’ve heard the term “social host,” and it’s possible you aren’t fully aware what it means to students or to the community. It seems fairly straightforward — reduce the number of unruly gatherings by expanding the Eugene Code. But it’s far from simple.
This potential ordinance would affect the student population because the Eugene City Council would define an unruly gathering as “involving loud noise and unlawful consumption of alcohol by minors, foster a range of criminal conduct,” according to the ordinance draft written in April.
If passed, the casual Friday-night party may turn into a city conduct violation that could lead to hundreds of dollars in fines and possibly jail time.
An unruly gathering would be defined as a group of five or more persons where alcohol is being served or consumed and where two or more of the following violations occur: any state or city violation, assault, menacing, harassment, intimidation, disorderly conduct, noise disturbance, criminal mischief, public urination or littering.
Here are some of those definitions based on the city code:
Any sound that annoys or disturbs a person is considered a noise disturbance. These sounds would need to be audible within any dwelling unit which is not the source of the sound. Failure to eliminate the sound within 30 minutes of receiving a notice would be considered a violation.
Urinating in, or in sight of, a public place except in a lavatory is considered a violation.
Any glass, metal, broken ware, dirt, timber, brush, rubbish, garbage or filth deposited on public or private property is considered littering and is a violation.
Not home? Doesn’t matter.
Here’s the catch, regardless of whether the owner — defined as owner, lessee or tenant — is present at the party or not, they are responsible for the actions of the people in attendance. This means that “owners (would) be held responsible, not only if they organize, host, or facilitate unruly gatherings, but also if they allow or tolerate those offenses on property that they control as owner,” according to the ordinance draft.
If the violation is only the owner’s first offense they could face a $1,000 fine and possible jail time.
Costs skyrocket on the owner’s second offense, which would include the fine but also an “administrative civil penalty in the amount of response costs,” according to the ordinance draft.
These response costs could add up quickly as it could include salaries and benefits of law enforcement for the amount time spent responding to the unruly gathering, any medical costs for law enforcement pertaining to the unruly gathering and any cost of repairing city equipment or property damage.
However, if a house party is thrown and it starts to get out of control, the owner has the option to contact the police proactively. According to the ordinance draft this would be considered an “affirmative defense to a citation issued for a violation of subjection.”
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy will attend the ASUO Senate meeting this Wednesday to clarify some points of the ordinance and to answer questions generated by the Senate body. The Eugene City Council will hold a workshop on Nov. 19 to potentially change or amend some of the language in the ordinance.
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.