Keep quiet or get CAPPed

Living on Mission Beach is a rite of passage for many University of San Diego students. Commuting also comes with the possibility of noise complaints, angry neighbors, and police citation.

Students may know vaguely of the Community Assisted Party Plan (CAPP) program utilized by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), but the specifics are more serious than most might think. This program cracks down on college party houses and can have major repercussions for off-campus students who violate noise and quality of life regulations.

The program began in 2007 and originally focused on the area surrounding San Diego State University (SDSU) in an effort to curb chronic party houses in the college area. There is some speculation that the program was a reaction to SDSU’s ranking as the number three party school by Playboy magazine in the early 2000s.

In April 2008, the program’s enforcement area expanded to include all of San Diego County, encompassing SDSU, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and USD.

CAPP can have harsh consequences for flagged residences that have been reported to SDPD for noise complaints, parties, and quality of life issues, such as trash strewn lawns, according to SDPD’s website.

“[The program is] a joint effort involving SDPD, SDSU police, the City Attorney’s Office, local property owners, and community members working together to curb nuisance behavior at chronic party houses in college area communities,” the website said.

Official SDPD information regarding the program explained the impact of housing shortages near college campuses, which have resulted in students renting single family homes in residential neighborhoods. Students then tend to fill the house with several tenants to save money. These units are officially referred to as “mini-dorms.”

“Neighbors of mini-dorms began to find it difficult to find out about loud parties, trash-strewn lawns, and just a general lack of consideration for neighbors,” the website said.

According to UCSD’s commuter student website, houses that exhibit quality of life issues, such as illegal parking, increased traffic, littering, public drunkenness, and underage drinking, as also eligible for CAPP status.

CAPP is a status designated to chronic party houses, which not only punishes tenants and landlords, but also flags the address in SDPD’s system for one year regardless of tenant change.

If a party or noise complaint is issued against a CAPPed address, SDPD reserves the right to use a heightened enforcement posture when responding to such calls. This heightened enforcement includes, but is not limited to arrest, citation, property or vehicle impoundments, and sobriety checks.

Since CAPP’s inception, many USD students have feared the consequences of the program. Due to limited housing availability, some students choose to rent houses that received the CAPP status from a previous tenant.

Alumni Lucas Morales lived in a CAPPed house on Mission Beach during the 2012-2013 academic year.

“We knew the house was CAPPed, but our landlord didn’t go into detail exactly what that CAPPed status meant,” Morales said. “As a group we talked about the CAPPed status being a deal breaker.  We decided to give the house a try since we were running out of time to find good housing.”

A few weeks before the CAPP status on their rental expired, Morales and his roommates had a small gathering that ended in disaster.

“We had a run-in with the police a couple weeks before our CAPPed status expired,” Morales said. “We were charged $1,000 after our first violation and our landlord was charged. On top of those charges I was underage and received a $500 Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) citation. It was an expensive ticket.”

Morales and his roommates experienced the heightened enforcement posture that SDPD has the right to exhibit when responding to a CAPPed house.

“The police were swift in giving us the tickets and MIPs,” Morales said. “They agreed that our party was small, but still had to enforce the tickets because we were CAPPed. I feel that we would have gotten a verbal warning otherwise because we were cooperative, and the party was very small.”

Morales advised USD students searching for housing to be wary of houses with CAPPed status.

“Depending on the living situation, I would definitely give more thought to living in a CAPPed house,” Morales said. “It sucks to live in a house that no matter how large the gathering a small incident can turn into expensive night. I would make sure to know when the CAPPed date ends.”

Senior Jake Gray lived in a CAPPed house during the 2014-2015 academic year. Grey explained that his landlord did not explicitly notify him and his roommates that the house was CAPPed.

“It may have been in the fine print of the lease agreement, but she never went out of her way to notify us,” Gray said.

Without knowledge of their address’ CAPP status, the tenants had a close call with police enforcement.

“We had our neighbor across the street ask us to quiet down once during a small gathering,” Gray said. “We then had another gathering a couple weeks later, not more than 30 people, and the same neighbor called both the police and our landlord complaining.”

Gray and his roommates could have faced fines and citations if their gathering was not well organized.

“By the time the police came to our house, we had cleared out all the people and turned off the music, so the police just drove right by without stopping,” Gray said. “We didn’t even realize we were CAPPed until our next door neighbors told us the next day.”

Gray and his roommates still live on the same property despite its CAPP status.

“We decided that the location, quality, and convenience of the house was worth the risk of living in a CAPPed house and not being able to throw parties or have people over late at night,” Gray explained.

Some students dream of living at Mission Beach, but the reality of life in a residential community is not always considered when choosing a rental property for the school year. The CAPP program is important to consider when choosing a rental property and interacting with off campus neighbors. Students should be respectful of those living around them to ensure positive relationships with the surrounding off campus neighbors and communities.

SDPD can CAPP a house:

– If the police have two or more calls within 20 days for parties or noise complaints

-If a citation or arrest is made when officers respond to a party call

– If five neighbors petition   

If a house is confirmed as CAPPed:

– Property owners and tenants are notified of CAPP status

– Address is flagged in the SDPD dispatch system

– Officers responding to further complaints will have a heightened enforcement posture

– Officers can issue both criminal and/or administrative citations to both residents and property owners that carry fines of up to $1,000


Written by: Kelly Kennedy, Feature EditorPhoto courtesy of Bill Morrow/Flickr