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City Council to consider extension of probationary period for noise complaints

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Curtis Hendrickson, former President of the TKE fraternity holds up a second response notice issued to their house.


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JANUARY 30, 2012

Following a semester in which UC Berkeley fraternities reported a notable police crackdown on parties, the Berkeley City Council will consider Tuesday extending the probationary period for noise complaints.

Although the legislation is primarily related to residences known as mini-dorms — meaning any building in a specific zoning district that has five or more bedrooms taking up a minimum of 60 percent of the dwelling’s total floor space — members of UC Berkeley’s Greek community are concerned that the proposed changes would directly affect the fraternity system.

Currently, when a gathering of 10 or more people is found to be a public nuisance due to a noise disturbance, police respond and give the residents a first response, which warns them that further disruption within the next 120 days will result in financial penalties. The fine for a second response within that 120-day period is $750, followed by $1,500 for the third response and $2,500 for each response after that.

One of the amendments in the proposed legislation would extend the probationary period from 120 days to 180 days.

The campus Interfraternity Council began a petition Sunday, which had gathered nearly 150 signatures by Monday evening, encouraging City Council to reject the proposed legislation.

The petition — which has been posted on Facebook and circulated through the Greek system — asks City Council not to “impose restrictive ordinances on communal living establishments.”

Another proposed ordinance would require any building that fits the mini-dorm classification to have a resident manager “responsible for ensuring that refuse and recycling are properly managed, promptly responding to complaints and preventing loud and unruly parties,” according to the city’s report.

The IFC petition claims the proposed resident manager requirement “treats student residents as lesser residents of the City of Berkeley” and threatens “the autonomy of adulthood.

Many of the petition signers said that the 120-day probationary period for second responses is a strong enough punishment as it is and that extending that time period would only increase expenses for students.

City attorney Zach Cowan said an ordinance requiring buildings with over 16 units to have a resident manager already exists. This applies to building managers in apartment buildings. This manager doesn’t have to be someone hired by the building owner but rather could be a resident who is willing to assume the role, Cowan said.

Many sororities and at least one fraternity on campus already have live-in advisers.

Oren Friedman, executive vice president of external affairs for the campus’s interfraternity council said the IFC hopes to mobilize all of the Greek community in opposition to the proposed ordinances and amendments.

The IFC also contacted City Council members, Berkeley Police Department and ASUC senators about its issues with the legislation. Several ASUC senators are working on a bill opposed to the council item, according to Friedman.

Many members of the Greek system are also reportedly planning to attend Tuesday night’s council meeting to ask the council to reconsider aspects of the legislation that would affect student housing.

“We’re trying to get an understanding of where this comes from,” Friedman said. “If we understand their reasoning behind it, then hopefully we can try to find a better alternative.”

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he has not noticed an increase in the number of community complaints related to noise from fraternities and that the real focus of the legislation is targeted at mini-dorms in more residential areas.

“If we want to review policies in the Greek area, that’s separate,” Wozniak said.

For the legislation to pass, City Council would have to approve it by a majority vote in two consecutive meetings. If it does pass, then the new regulations would take affect 30 days after the second meeting, according to Cowan.

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.

JANUARY 31, 2012