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Newport Beach cracks down on unruly parties

The Newport Beach City Council moved this week to tone down the town's hard-partying image.

On a 5-2 vote, the council passed the "Loud and Unruly Gathering" ordinance, which will impose fines on partygoers, homeowners, renters and landlords who contribute to or allow excessively rowdy parties.

But instead of a bright red placard being posted on the door of a violating house for six months, as the ordinance would have required in its original form, the council settled on a black-and-white notice to stay up for three months.

The maximum fine was also reduced, from $8,000 to $3,000.

Under the ordinance, if police officers observe a party of eight or more, where people are urinating in public, drunk in public, excessively noisy, serving alcohol to minors or displaying other nuisance behaviors, they will be able to post a notice on the residence's door and issue violations.

"We're changing the culture here. We're not going to allow this to be a party town," said Police Chief Jay Johnson.

A number of landlords spoke at the meeting and said they were concerned that the law would affect their property values.

"It leaves way too much discretion in the individual officer's hands" as to whether a home "gets a scarlet letter or not," said Corona del Mar real estate agent Mark Simon.

Others spoke in favor of the law, saying it was needed as a deterrent for parties that get out of hand each summer.

Penalties will be up to $500 for the first violation and up to $3,000 for the fourth violation, if it takes place within six months of the first. If a violation happens on the Fourth of July within a designated part of West Newport, it will be $1,500 for the first violation and $3,000 for subsequent violations.

Before the meeting, officials revised the ordinance to make it harder on partygoers and easier on landlords. In one change, they said that if someone attended a party at a house that had been cited in the previous six months, that person would be subject to the same fines as the main tenant.

So theoretically, if someone walked into a raging party on the Fourth of July, and the house had been tagged before then, he or she could be subject to the house's steep fines.

Also, the city attorney's office inserted sections to protect landlords. Those who take certain steps to control problem tenants won't be held liable, and if a tenant moves out, the landlord can have the tag removed.

The two dissenting votes came from Councilman Ed Selich, who said the law gave too much power to the police without having "quantitative standards," and from Councilwoman Leslie Daigle.

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