A "social host" ordinance designed to crack down on Palo Alto adults who allow "Animal House"-like parties -- or any gathering of more than four teens involving alcohol -- was approved Monday night by the City Council.
All council members except Peter Drekemeier, who abstained, voted in support of the measure that police say will give them a missing tool to crack down on adults who permit underage drinking.
"We care about the teens in this community," said parent Deborah Kurland, one of several representatives of the Palo Alto Drug and Alcohol Collaborative who spoke in support of the ordinance.
"We are looking to make a shift in this community," she said.
An October 2006 party that spun out-of-control motivated the Police Department to press for the so-called "social host" ordinance, Assistant Police Chief Dennis Burns told the council.
Although it is already illegal to provide alcohol to anyone younger than 21, this ordinances gives officers the ability to prosecute adults even if they can't prove they provided the alcohol directly, Burns and Assistant City Attorney Don Larkin said Monday.
The ordinance includes exceptions for underage drinking under the supervision of parents and for religious occasions, Larkin said.
The new ordinance kicks in when more than four youths are present and drinking on private property. Penalties would usually be civil fines, with criminal penalties pursued only under "egregious" circumstances, Larkin said.
A property owner, tenant, host or parents can be found liable even if they did not permit or know of the drinking, Burns said.
And if a young person is over 18 but less than 21 he or she would be responsible, Larkin said.