"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.
"They're good guys," said a 19-year-old lifetime resident who asked not to be named, pointing to the house next door, "but their parties are out of control. It's not even the noise; it's the people outside, peeing on the grass, screaming."
He didn't want to be identified because, he said, "I don't want to be the bad guy, or get my car keyed."
SSU student leaders said they will ask the council to delay adopting the new ordinance so they can try to tackle the problems themselves.
"We're sending an email out to every off-campus resident highlighting the points" in the proposed and current ordinances, said Libby Dippel, 22, a fifth-year senior who is the student government's senator for community affairs.
"Part of the problem is that right now a lot of the students don't even understand that they could get a 60-day penalty," she said.
The message also will suggest ways to work cooperatively with neighbors, including providing advance notice of parties and asking people to call the host first with complaints rather than police, said Dippel, adding that she is sympathetic to frustrated residents' concerns.
"I'm trying to draw a line here, trying to make both sides happy, because I'm supposed to represent both sides here," she said. "Our point is that, basically, students don't know and could you give us a chance?"