By: Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer
On Tuesday, November 5, Supervisor Todd Spitzer brought a proposed social host ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. After much discussion, the Board voted to delay the social host ordinance item to the December 10 Board meeting. Upon passage, it would be enforceable in all unincorporated areas of Orange County. As a long-time advocate for DUI prevention efforts, Supervisor Spitzer proposed the ordinance to raise awareness regarding the dramatic problem that underage drinking and underage DUI has become in Orange County. The social host ordinance offers another solution in the fight against these scourges. Spitzer’s proposal also brings attention to the dramatic youth health and welfare issues that have plagued Orange County due to underage drinking.
“Underage drinking is one of the great social ills of our time that is a threat to both public health and public safety,” Supervisor Spitzer said. “We need to do everything we can to discourage drinking by people under 21 regardless of where that alcohol consumption occurs.”
A social host ordinance holds people responsible for knowingly hosting an underage gathering where alcohol is being consumed. Currently eight O.C. cities have a social host ordinance: Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, and Orange. Other California counties that currently have a county social host ordinance are Contra Costa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Ventura Counties.
Devastating statistics have shown the need for a social host ordinance in Orange County.
“The numbers of Orange County underage youth drinking alcohol and driving has reached epidemic proportions,” Supervisor Spitzer said. “In one year in Orange County, there were almost 1,000 underage misdemeanor DUI convictions and 150 Orange County minors who caused serious bodily injury or death in a DUI incident. 52% of underage minors are consuming alcohol at a friend’s home.”
Four best practices regarding DUI prevention were recently discussed in February at the O.C. DUI Summit, which was co-hosted by Supervisor Spitzer, the O.C. Health Care Agency, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Auto Club of Southern California, and Concordia University in Irvine. These best practices include social host ordinance, responsible beverage service, checkpoints/saturation patrols, and educational campaigns.
Speaking in support of the Social Host Ordinance at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting included:
•Councilmember Trish Kelly, City of Mission Viejo
•Deputy Chief Mike Hamel, Irvine Police Department
•Chief Legal Counsel Ron Wenkart, O.C. Department of Education
•Councilmember Joe Carchio, City of Huntington Beach
•Chief Kevin Rainey, Garden Grove Police Department
•Anita Lorz, Public Affairs – Southern California Auto Club
•Tiffany Townson, Program Director of MADD
•Lynn Posey, Community Development – St. Joseph Health/Mission, Laguna Beach
•Marilyn Ellis, Mother of a DUI Victim
In addition, formal letters of support were issued by Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, Orange County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares, Ph.D., and the Hospital Association of Southern California.
“With efforts like the social host ordinance in place, local elected officials and law enforcement are working together to help stop underage drinking and the many potentially negative effects that can occur when underage drinking takes place,” Supervisor Spitzer said.
The Board voted to continue the Social Host Ordinance item to the December 10 Board meeting.
“I hope many will realize the importance of the social host ordinance and its effects in preventing underage drinking, underage DUI, and other severe health related problems for Orange County’s youth,” Supervisor Spitzer said. “I appreciate the questions that many have regarding the Social Host Ordinance, and I welcome thoughts on this issue. Answering these questions and making appropriate changes are a natural part of a good deliberative process in making public policy.”
Supervisor Spitzer plans to coordinate efforts and address any questions that arise regarding this important item. He plans to integrate ideas into the ordinance by the December 10 Board of Supervisors Meeting.
The proposed Orange County social host ordinance and all related documents for this agenda item may be accessed here.