SLO City Council passes ‘unruly gathering ordinance’

In an effort to curb disturbances related to parties and noise, the San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new law that would allow police officers to fine hosts of parties of 20 or more people who are deemed to be a substantial disturbance.

A first offense could net a $700 fine; subsequent citations could cost $1,000.

The “unruly gathering ordinance” is one of five methods the city plans to use to curb disturbances. The council in September expressed support for getting tougher on partying and the landlords who own homes where noisy parties are held.

Councilman Allen Settle reminded the public that the ordinance applies to all city residents, not only students.

“This applies to everyone,” he said. “If you’re having a wedding reception in your backyard, that could be an unruly gathering.”

Multiple complaints, crowds overflowing to neighboring properties or streets, traffic interference and large, unruly crowds constitute such a disturbance, according to police Chief Deborah Linden.

People attending the party would be fined only if they are found to be violating the ordinance by doing acts such as: urinating or defecating in public, vandalizing nearby property, setting off fireworks, obstructing streets or appearing to be drunk in public.

In January, the council toughened the city’s noise-restriction ordinance to fine residents up to $1,000 for repeated violations and hold property owners accountable.

Property owners would also be held responsible for gatherings deemed to be unruly. If a resident is cited for having such a gathering, the property owner would be notified by a certified letter and be given two weeks to remedy the future disruptive behavior. The property owners can be given a $500 fine for subsequent violations.

The ordinance will return to the council for a final vote April 20 and, if approved, it would take effect in late May.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.