EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- A new Eugene city ordinance aimed at cracking down on rowdy parties could go up for a city council vote soon as councilors are moving forward with the 'social host' ordinance.
The social host ordinance would add another fine on people who host unruly parties. While it would apply to anyone in the City of Eugene, the effort is mainly aimed at University of Oregon students at mega parties that have become an extreme nuisance for campus area neighbors. Last academic year, 530 of the 1,209 loud noise complaints in Eugene came from the four neighborhoods adjacent to the UO.
Eugene Police reports it spent $85,000 on party patrols last year as well.
Councilors reviewed the proposed ordinance at a work session on Wednesday, October 10. UO representatives, students and long-time campus-area neighbors helped put it together along with city staff from the Neighborhood Livability Working Group.
Under the social host ordinance, police could cite people who host or promote parties that meet specific conditions. Conditions include five or more people present, alcohol being served and at least two violations being observed. Violations include things like criminal mischief, any violation of liquor laws, assault, menacing, intimidation, disorderly conduct, noise disturbance, public urination or defecation and littering.
Repeat social host offenders would also face an increasing fine with each citation, not to exceed $1,000.
Long-time campus-area neighbors say the parties are hurting the neighborhood’s livability.
"It's not a matter of hearing people talking about moving out of the neighborhood. People are leaving my neighborhood, absolutely, the neighborhood is definitely being degraded and whether we can sustain ourselves as a neighborhood is really questionable,” says Carolyn Jacobs, the Chair of the South University Neighborhood Association.
Social host fines would be on top of tickets for other violations that police officers typically cite at parties, including serving alcohol to minors or loud party complaints. Because of that, the city staff that drafted the ordinance say the social host fine should be up to a municipal court judge on a case-by-case basis to avoid excessive financial punishment.
If someone is cited for a loud noise violation in Eugene, they can be fined up to $250. A minor in possession violation can bring a charge of $135. The fear is that a fixed social host fine on top of that could bury violators in debt.
"You have to have flexibility in fines. You can't just have them be uniform across the board, there are too many special and unusual circumstances that occur multiple times every day of the week,” says Judge Wayne Allen, Presiding Judge at the Eugene Municipal Court.
The ordinance isn’t a done deal yet. Some councilors have objected to language in the proposed ordinance that would hold property owner accountable on the fourth social host citation at a single address. As the ordinance is currently written, each time someone is cited for such a violation, the total number of violations would count against the property owner no matter if the violation went to different residents or different apartment units.
Councilors will hold a public hearing on the ordinance on November 19 at the Bascom Tykeson Room at the Eugene Public Library. A vote could come in December 2012.