City Council to convene for special meeting, discuss policy on social gatherings

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At a special meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will discuss an ordinance that introduces additional regulations of “mini-dorms” and group living accommodations, or GLAs.

The proposed regulations — which could affect social gatherings such as parties hosted by fraternities, sororities and co-ops — call for limitations on large gatherings, increased regulations on underage alcohol consumption, the designation of a “responsible resident” at each household and mandatory notices to neighbors, according to the agenda document.

The ordinance defines mini-dorms as dwelling units with six or more people over 18 years of age and group living accommodations as buildings designed for residential use by people not living together as a household, such as Greek organizations and co-ops.

The proposed recommendations come out of voiced concerns among many Berkeley residents, who share neighborhoods with mini-dorms and GLAs and claim that many of the gatherings hosted by these groups are disruptive to the surrounding areas, according to City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

These measures aim to minimize the excess use of emergency services, lessen illegal and inappropriate alcohol use, and reduce the frequency of sexual assault in mini-dorms and GLAs, the ordinance said.

“These group living quarters need to be safe for everyone and shouldn’t be impacting neighborhoods in a negative way,” said Assistant to the City Manager Jim Hynes, who was involved in the creation of these amendments.

A portion of the ordinance would require each household to designate a responsible resident, who would ensure that the residence adheres to maintenance regulations, respond to any complaints made within 24 hours and maintain a log of all complaints.

“We actually see an association between GLAs that have responsible management in place and far fewer calls for fire and police,” Hynes said.

Another portion of the amendments stipulates that the owner or property manager of mini-dorms and GLAs notify all residents within 300 feet of their property that the household exists and provide neighbors with the contact information of their responsible residents.

Amendments also include imposing restrictions on large events and gatherings, including the prohibition of underage drinking and requirements that social gatherings of 10 or more nonresidents end by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The ordinance deems any gathering that does not comply a nuisance.

Additionally, for gatherings with more than 50 nonresident attendees, the designated responsible resident would be required to inform adjacent properties no less than 48 hours in advance of the event.

“The longer these types of events go on, the greater the likelihood that there will be problems,” Hynes said.

But student leaders on campus, including ASUC Senator Karthik Prasad, believe these amendments are unnecessary.

At an ASUC Senate meeting Wednesday, the city presented its recommendations, whose enforcement procedures drew initial backlash from multiple senators.

Prasad voiced concern over the responsible resident component of the ordinance, arguing that an already-busy student would be overburdened by the added responsibility of an entire household.

“This bill puts people in a confrontational nature with each other,” Prasad said.

The Office of the External Affairs Vice President is encouraging students to attend the special meeting Tuesday to voice any thoughts on the proposed ordinance. The office, along with the Interfraternity Council, plans on busing students to the meeting.

Later in the evening, City Council will hold its regular meeting at 7 p.m. to discuss several agenda items, including an item that would review the city’s ongoing process to select a fourth medical cannabis dispensary.

Additionally, the council will further discuss a potential ordinance that would create a buffer zone of 600 feet between tobacco vendors and schools.

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz at [email protected].