The city of Carmel is being asked to add another layer of protection to separate alcohol from minors.

The city will consider joining other communities in putting a "social hosting" ordinance on its books that proscribes adults — aside from private family gatherings, religious observances and the like — from making alcohol available to minors in their homes, even if they are away.

A draft ordinance will probably be ready for City Council review in March, said Carmel Police Chief Michael Calhoun on Thursday.

Similar laws are on the books in Pacific Grove, Salinas and Gilroy. Marina is putting the finishing touches on its own social-hosting ordinance to crack down on underage drinking.

Heath Rocha, student services director for the Carmel Unified School District, said such a measure has been "on the radar" for a Carmel High parents group formed about 1½ years ago.

Surveys have shown students in the school district abuse alcohol at higher rates than peers in many other districts, with binge drinking of particular concern, Rocha said.

In a recent survey, 28 percent of the district's 11th-graders reported binge drinking in the previous month. The countywide rate was 21 percent, while 22 percent of California's 11th-graders had engaged in binge drinking within the previous month.

"Our parents and our community need a wakeup call that we have a serious issue here," Rocha said.


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He said the district has added a lot of alcohol awareness efforts in the past few years, but the push for a social-hosting ordinance really started rolling after a party 2½ months ago, which officials learned about from a school counselor.

About 30 students gathered at a Carmel home when the parents were away. Police were called and found some of the young people outside. Some were cited for curfew violations.

One girl was unconscious, apparently from alcohol consumption, and she was taken to the hospital. The next day, she went back to the hospital to try to determine if she was sexually assaulted while blacked out.

"We are following up on that," Calhoun said. "We are still investigating leads ... but we don't have any information to confirm that did occur."

Rocha said the school district is working with alcohol-safety advocates to ensure similar rules cover the 90 percent of the Carmel school district that is in unincorporated areas.

He said Marin County has had a social-hosting law for six years that sets stiff fines, starting at $750 for the first violation, $1,500 for the second and $2,500 for the third.

Calhoun said the law would give police a reason to enter a home if they believed underage drinking is occurring. That would be another investigative tool, he said.

Unless there is a disturbance or excessive noise, police can't enter a home to see if minors are drinking.

"I want to be proactive and make sure we have our tools in place," he said.

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or lparsons@montereyherald.com.