The public will be able to weigh in on the San Rafael Police Department’s proposal to expand the city’s open container laws this Monday.
The proposal amends several provisions of the current municipal code and hopes to improve conditions for downtown businesses, where people might congregate to drink in parking lots or on sidewalks. The law will also serve as a preventative measure for public intoxication.
“These amendments will enhance enforcement options so that behavior may be impacted before alcohol is unlawfully consumed,” the staff report said. “The police department and staff believe that these amendments will positively impact our community's quality of life.”
Under the current municipal code, police officers can cite anyone for possession of an open container if he is drinking in front of a liquor store or in a public park, and for consuming alcohol in private parking lots and on public property, like sidewalks (unless at a temporary event).
“As it is right now, an officer can see someone with an open container on the street, but he can’t cite him until he sees him take a drink,”
The amendments will prohibit the possession of open containers to all city-owned, leased or controlled public property, including , the Falkirk Mansion, any community center and any city street, sidewalk, pathway, lane, garage, parking structure or plaza. It will also prohibit possession of an open container in any private parking lot or landscaped areas where the property owner posts signs discouraging this behavior.
City staff modeled the amendments after open container laws in nearby cities, such as Richmond, Concord, Santa Clara and Davis. “We’re really just expanding the scope of what we already have,”
People transporting unsealed alcoholic beverages to and from their cars for parties or barbecues could also be cited under the new ordinance. Bishop told Patch that police officers will determine incidents on a case-by-case basis to prevent those who are drinking responsibly (not in public or a private parking lot) from being cited.
“Police officers get a lot of discretion,” she said. “Letter of the law, [people transporting unsealed alcoholic containers] could be cited. But spirit of the law, they would not if they are not intending of drinking on public property.”
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 16 at City Hall on 1400 Fifth Ave.
Do you think this could improve conditions for our downtown? Are you a local business owner who would volunteer to post signs that discourage open containers? Tell us your thougths in the comments below.