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Rohnert Park considers stiffer penalties for rowdy SSU parties

  • Students walk through the Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park, California, on Monday, March 19, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

"That's pretty harsh, very harsh," said Alex Davis, 21, a Sonoma State University student who lives off-campus in Rohnert Park, as he contemplated a city proposal to double the penalty for people who throw parties that get too rowdy.

Rohnert Park, citing SSU students as chief offenders, is considering stiffening the punishment for the hosts of parties that get out of control.

"We are college students," said Zanin Mahic, 21, who lives with Davis and three other SSU students in the city's M-Section neighborhood, which is boiling with complaints about SSU student parties.

The City Council on Tuesday takes up a request by Public Safety Director Brian Masterson for an urgency ordinance to address what he expects to be a spike in disruptive parties as SSU's academic year begins.

University students who live off-campus "frequently host large gatherings and parties that can constitute a threat to the peace, health, safety or general welfare of the public," Masterson said in his report to the council.

The proposed ordinance, which would take effect immediately, would double the current law's 60-day penalty for rowdy parties, a period during which people cited for hosting an unruly gathering are prohibited from throwing another party.

"It's not going to remove or eliminate the parties, Masterson said, "but it will hopefully lend itself to more peace in the neighborhoods."

He said it also would help address the problem of "61st day" parties that are often thrown to celebrate the end of the penalty period. He had considered asking the council to approve a fine even for first offenses, but Masterson said he'd decided to hold off for now.

"We have a good rapport with Sonoma State," he said. "I'd like to try and work with them as we have in the past to educate them; hopefully, that might have a good impact."

In M-Section, a short distance from campus, residents have convened meetings of as many as 80 people to demand steps be taken to crack down on the problem.

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