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Social host law simmers

Parents ask council to send a message to adults who serve alcohol to minors.

September 22, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

Concerns about underage drinking were thrust into the spotlight again Monday as parents urged the La Cañada Flintridge City Council to implement a social-host ordinance, while public officials said their hands are tied when it comes to enforcement.

A social-host ordinance is designed to curb underage drinking by holding homeowners and adults responsible for furnishing alcohol to minors. The terms of social-host ordinances vary from city to city, but most include stiff fees for successive law-enforcement visits after an initial call-out. The city of Fontana's ordinance also has a "Scarlet Letter" component — if a homeowner is cited for a loud party, the city posts a sign near the home for 90 days identifying it as a location of a social-host violation.

The implementation and potential effectiveness of a social-host ordinance has been debated in La Cañada for months, including at Public Safety Commission meetings on April 25 and June 28. On Monday, community members, including parents and members of the La Cañada Unified School Board, reiterated their concerns about underage drinking, as well as their disgust with adults who permit such behavior in their homes.

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"One of the things I always tell my daughter is, 'If you want to go to a party, make sure there is a parent there,'" said La Cañada High School parent Meredith Fox.

"That is one of my rules," Fox said, adding that she now wonders how safe it is for her to trust other La Cañada parents not to serve alcohol to minors.

It wasn't until after his three sons graduated from LCHS that he began to realize the scope of the problem, said Levent Akbarut.

"We have a social climate where we are not calling the parents out on serving alcohol to underage minors," Akbarut said. "And I think this is a very serious problem, and we don't have to wait for a death like in the city of South Pasadena," he said, referring to 17-year-old Aden Salek, who died in December after attending an Altadena party where alcohol was served to minors. "I really think we should put a social-host ordinance in place as soon as possible."

Phil Wyatt said his children were involved in two alcohol-related incidents while in high school.

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