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SLO mayor takes aim at partygoers after roof collapse

Eight young people were treated at local hospitals for injuries sustained at a party on Hathway Avenue near the Cal Poly campus when a roof collapsed early Saturday morning. Two people were treated for intoxication. Cal Poly is investigating the incident. 

(Photo by Laura Dickinson, The Tribune)
Eight young people were treated at local hospitals for injuries sustained at a party on Hathway Avenue near the Cal Poly campus when a roof collapsed early Saturday morning. Two people were treated for intoxication. Cal Poly is investigating the incident. (Photo by Laura Dickinson, The Tribune) ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx called the raucous St. Patrick’s Day party that injured several students when a garage roof collapsed “an affront to the city.”

She said she hopes to introduce an ordinance that would ban people from being on rooftops for any activity other than maintenance or roof installation.

Police say close to 3,000 students and college-aged individuals flocked to the small neighborhood in the early hours of Saturday morning, decked out in green to celebrate “St. Fratty’s Day” — a made-up holiday similar to St. Patrick’s Day.

The party reached a peak at 6:20 a.m. when a garage rooftop at 364 Hathway Ave. holding nearly 50 students caved in, injuring at least eight people. Two people also were treated at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center after the collapse for extreme intoxication, hospital spokesman Ron Yukelson said Saturday.

As of Sunday, the one patient admitted to Sierra Vista had been released. The patient was an out-of-town college student, Yukelson said. “The behavior was inappropriate and misrepresents the city, as well as Cal Poly,” Marx said. “It’s an assault on the neighborhoods around them. It’s very disturbing.”

She said an ordinance would theoretically put an end to “brewfing” — drinking on rooftops — and be a step toward regaining control in neighborhoods characterized by high student populations.

She also said that the city will likely work closely with Cal Poly and police agencies in the coming months to help address homeowners’ concerns in those neighborhoods near the university.

The incident drew national media attention and raised concerns that students in the areas neighboring Cal Poly might need more regulation to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.

“It’s sad considering how intelligent these students have to be to get into Cal Poly, and then how after just a few months of being there, they are acting this unintelligent and irresponsible,” Marx said. “It’s an example of what I call ‘mob behavior.’ ”

Hathway Avenue was quiet Saturday night and Sunday following the block party that had thousands of people cramming into the street early Saturday.

Former San Luis Obispo High School softball coach Mike Lee and his brothers, Terry Lee and Cal Poly baseball coach Larry Lee, own the property where the garage collapsed.

“It’s most important that we think about those individuals who were injured Saturday morning,” Mike Lee said Sunday. “Our thoughts go out to those people and their families. They are really the most important thing to think about right now.”

Lee, whose family has owned the house and detached garage at 364 Hathway Ave. since the 1960s, said none of the three to four tenants living at the property were involved in planning the party, and so far he has not been approached by the families of those injured in the fall about any potential lawsuits.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” Lee said. “We always put safety first for our tenants. In this situation, it seems some people made bad decisions.”

The “St. Fratty’s Day” Party appeared to be a fraternity-based event, but Cal Poly has yet to determine if it was associated with any school groups or organizations.

“The university takes the matter very seriously and considers the behavior displayed at the party where the roof collapse occurred to be unacceptable and not indicative of the behavior we expect of our students,” Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email Sunday. “Once the facts are known, we will respond appropriately to reinforce our student conduct values and responsible student behavior.”

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