Hosts of parties with underaged drinking could face steep fines in Daly City

The Daly City Council approved, in a 4-1 vote, an initial amendment to its existing law Oct.13 allowing police to cite party hosts up to $2,500 where underage drinking is present, setting clear amounts for violations.

The fine for the first citation is $1,500, increasing to $2,000 for the second and $2,500 for the third violation, according to Daly City Chief of Police Manuel Martinez Jr.

However, City Council Member Gonzalo Torres proposed further raising fines to $3,000 for the first offense, increasing to $4,000 for the second, and $10,000 for the third. Torres said that this would address concern that partygoers would chip in to collectively pay the fine.

“If someone is holding a party and they’re going to offer this kind of substance to underage folks, they really need to feel the sting of it,” Torres said at the meeting. “That’s the only way you’re going to get the attention of a homeowner to prevent these things from happening, and hopefully prevent a tragic accident.”

SF State history major and Daly City resident Elmer Layden said the ordinance is aimed at the college stereotype.

“This is extortion rather than enforcement,” Layden said. “It’s going to surprise students and put them in a difficult financial situation or force them to move.”

According to Martinez, when officers come to shut down a party, the hosts tend to shut it down for them and fill out paperwork. Upon their second arrival, police officially issue a citation, which the amendment now sets a specific amount for.

“This looks like a law that is chasing a problem that we don’t have,” City Council Member Michael P. Guingona said at the meeting. “It doesn’t seem that loud parties and underage drinking is going to be solved by holding these people liable.”

The “Social Host Liability” amendment aims to prevent underage drinking according to Athila Lambino, project coordinator at the North County Prevention Partnership.

“A lot of kids are drinking under their parent’s nose and they never get caught,” Lambino said. “We don’t want to hear about a high-profile case involving underage drinking in the community.”

The NCPP advocates for the ordinance to send a clear message to parents and adults of drinking age that it is illegal to furnish minors with alcohol, according to Lambino.

“We aim to change the norms and culture around irresponsible and excessive alcohol use, and reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related problems in our community,” he said.

SF State student and Daly City resident Ricky Vue said there are still many unanswered questions with the updated law.

“I would think that the small minority is paying for the larger majority that is doing the wrong,” Vue said. “The fine is the bigger issue, it’s a ridiculous amount of money.”

The council is expected to take a final vote within the coming weeks to decide whether or not to further raise the fines.

Torres said that the council is in a position to make the right choice on behalf of the city. “What we’re trying to do is prevent an incident, not wait for an incident and react to it,” he said.