Rohnert Park leaders acted Tuesday to clamp down on out-of-control parties, doubling the penalty for hosting gatherings that police respond to and that are deemed unruly.
Under an urgency ordinance that took effect immediately, someone who hosts such an unruly gathering is prohibited from throwing another party for 120 days. Under the former ordinance, the penalty was 60 days. Violations of the ban bring a $500 fine.
The council's unanimous 3-0 vote (Jake Mackenzie and Joe Callinan were absent) came in front of a roomful of city residents and Sonoma State University students, who Public Safety Director Brian Masterson said are the chief source of the rowdy party problem.
“Overall, of the 8,700 students who attend Sonoma State University, we do not have a problem with the majority of them — but there's a small group,” said Masterson, who proposed the new ordinance.
Residents told the council they were fed up.
“Students have a short-term interest in the community; residents have a long-term interest. Students have to understand that,” said James Christmann, an SSU biology professor and city resident.
“It's just gotten out of control,” said Jane Weill, another resident who said she once counted 150 people leaving a student house party on her street.
“That is way too many; it's unreal,” she said.
Students argued that the council should first give them a chance to tackle the problem themselves.
“We do recognize the problem and we want to be part of the solution,” said Adam Rozenkranz, president of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. “We're attempting to change the culture of Sonoma State University so alcohol does not have such a prevalent role.”
SSU student body president Mac Hart said student leaders began to work over the summer to address the problem.
Those efforts will gain steam, he said, when the whole student body returns from the summer.