PITTSBURG -- The Pittsburg City Council is taking the first step toward developing a "social host" ordinance to curb underage drinking in hopes of reducing vehicle accidents, fighting and other unfortunate events that can be fueled by alcohol.
Such ordinances, which have already been approved for unincorporated Contra Costa and several East Bay cities, make it possible for parents to be fined or charged with a misdemeanor in the event underage drinking takes places in the home.
The East County Alcohol Policy Coalition is pushing for the city to develop a social host ordinance to help deter underage drinking parties that can lead to trouble.
"Many parents think that they are actually doing their kids a favor by hosting a party at their house or home. They figure the kids are going to drink anyway so why not have a party where they can control it. But what they don't realize is that the party can spiral out of control very quickly," Paullette Segovia, the coalition's community coordinator, said at a council meeting this week.
Some 40 percent of freshman and 48 percent of juniors at Pittsburg High said it was easy to obtain alcohol, according to a 2010-2011 California Healthy Kids survey.
"I can tell from past law enforcement experience, back in the day, if we had had an ordinance like this, it would have definitely been some sort of tool. So I'm hoping my colleagues will endorse moving forward with an exploration of an ordinance
Under the county ordinance, parents can face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine in cases where three or more people under the age of 21 are drinking alcohol in the home. The punishment can also apply in cases where the parents are not at home and underage drinking happens.
Social host ordinances have also been approved by Berkeley, Clayton, Concord, Pleasanton and San Ramon.
Pittsburg city staff will develop a draft social host ordinance to be presented for a first reading and public hearing at the May 20 council meeting, then a final reading at the council's first meeting in June.
"It's going to take a process," City Manager Joe Sbranti said. "It's not going to happen overnight."
If such an ordinance is passed, Pittsburg would become the second city in East County to have one. Oakley has a social host ordinance, but Antioch and Brentwood do not.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.