City approves changes to noise ordinance that gives $350 fines

Student+Senator+Emily+Gribble+speaks+at+the+Santa+Barbara+City+Council+meeting+regarding+the+proposed+noise+ordinance+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+9%2C+at+City+Hall.++Student+Senate+members+Gribble+and+Lexi+Valas+personally+spoke+out+against+the+ordinance+but+wanted+to+be+clear+that+the+Senate+would+not+take+an+official+position.

Ryan Cullom

Student Senator Emily Gribble speaks at the Santa Barbara City Council meeting regarding the proposed noise ordinance on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at City Hall. Student Senate members Gribble and Lexi Valas personally spoke out against the ordinance but wanted to be clear that the Senate would not take an official position.

MEGAN FITZMORRIS, Channels Staff

 

The City Council approved changes to the noise ordinance that gives the police department the ability to issue fines of $350 for being too loud at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance, which they hope to implement in the summer or fall of 2016. The ordinance has been in the works for over two years in efforts to best accommodate both the students and the residents.

“Santa Barbara is an active, youthful community,” said Community Development Director George Buell. “This is just a matter of trying to strike a balance between the needs of multiple generations.”

The city modeled the ordinance after a successful program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A key component will include having the Santa Barbara Police Department work directly with the college. Once the ordinance is in place, the SNAP program will start, using students hired by the city to be first responders to noise complaints.

One of the first people to speak at the meeting was Laura Nissley, who works at St. George and Associates, a housing complex in Isla Vista.

“I am in support of this ordinance, because I understand the impact that a house of six to eight 18 to 21-year-olds, neighboring a family or a family with children might have,” she said.

The steep fines attached to the ordinance sparked controversy at the meeting. A warning is optional upon arrival and the first ticket is a $350 fine. This fine would be given to the tenant, as well as the landlord. That means a student could have to pay up to $700 on the first offense.

Emily Gribble, who has been on the student senate at City College for over a year and is currently the student trustee, did not speak to represent the senate, but to express her personal viewpoint.

“$700 is more than I personally make in a month,” Gribble said. “It is more than my rent. $700 is seven to eight college textbooks, and 70 hours of working at minimum wage. $700, ladies and gentlemen, is an absurd and harsh fine to ask of these community college students for playing music at 10:30 on a Saturday night.”

The ordinance would change the offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction, which was met with support. City Council member Jason Dominguez, who prompted the discussion, explained his reasoning.

“It actually makes it better to make it into an infraction so that we can proceed with strict liability, meaning that person doesn’t have to have criminal intent,” he said. That means it would not go onto a violators record. 

Gribble, along with other City College students, proposed having community service assigned to offenders instead of steep fines. Getting involved in the community could be an alternative and create less of a separation between students and other residents, they said.

“We don’t want to divide the community,” said Lexi Valas, another City College student senate member there on her own behalf. “We don’t want these students to feel unwelcome.”