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City Eyes Expensive, Unruly Parties

Eugene City Council is scheduled to vote Jan. 28 on new penalties for unruly partiers, but some Eugeneans say those fines aren’t so fine. The proposed social host ordinance would lower the number of attendees required to deem a party “unruly” and make landlords liable for police response costs after the fourth offense.

The ordinance would be enacted after two or more listed offenses (such as noise violations, public urination, menacing) occur at a party with a minimum number of people, and judges could levy fines up to $1,000. Critics, including UO’s student government, say that it could target students, who are often poor, with unfair fines and become the difference between attending school and dropping out. Supporters think it could diminish the loud party culture around the UO campus.

A November 2012 public hearing drew objecting residents and landlords, and the ordinance was revised with details to be released this week after EW’s publication.

Police Commission Analyst Carter Hawley says the ordinance would replace Eugene’s current social host ordinance, which has some flaws, including the number of partiers that would trigger the ordinance, 25. “By the time a party gets to 25 people, it’s already unruly and really hard to manage,” she says. The November version of the ordinance listed more than five people as the “unruly gathering” threshold. Hawley says that number will be increased due to concerns from council, and clarifying language about multi-family complexes and community service options in lieu of fines was also added, and they’re considering removing littering from the list of offenses that make a party eligible for the ordinance.

Adding landlords to the list of legally responsible people, Hawley says, gives efficacy to an ordinance that often applies to a mobile population of renters. She says that roommates sometimes switch who responds to the police at the door to avoid repeat penalties in one name, avoiding increasing fines. “There was no graduated penalty,” she says. “It was easy to get around the intended progressive discipline.” 

The ordinance doesn’t apply to bars and restaurants with OLCC licenses, according to Hawley, but she said that it might be applicable to other gathering places. “It doesn’t need to be all things to all people,” Hawley says. “It’s intended just to get to repeat unruly party throwers and the property owners who let them have them.”