The San Diego County Alcohol Policy Panel formed in the early 1990s when binge drinking among adolescents was rapidly rising and the age of first use was steadily declining. Modeled after the national Join Together project, a panel of community leaders from various sectors of the community formed.

The Policy Panel developed a policy-based agenda to guide prevention organizations, youth groups and the community-at-large in a coordinated effort to prevent binge and underage drinking by addressing the environmental factors that were promoting and maintaining these behaviors. The Policy Panel produced an introductory report with recommendations for addressing the root causes of binge and underage drinking.

Robert Ross, then the director of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and a key member of the original Policy Panel, recognized the value of the recommendations and the Policy Panel’s potential for community-level change. A formal endorsement of the recommendations by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors led to the formation of the San Diego County Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative. Soon after, the San Diego County Department of Alcohol and Drug Services formally funded the Initiative.

Today, the Policy Panel has formed a group of Sector Leaders and this group serves as the leadership arm of the San Diego County Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative. The Sector Leaders identify priorities, set goals and guide the implementation of the Initiative. In addition, the Policy Panel has a General Assembly which meets quarterly. Seventy-five to 100 community members, law enforcement officials and agency representatives attend these meetings to stay informed about Policy Panel efforts and the activities of the Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative. Both the Policy Panel Sector Leaders and members of the General Assembly are actively engaged in advocating for change through environmental prevention strategies including media advocacy, policy development, community organizing, working with enforcement officials, and applied data collection and research.

The Policy Panel Sector Leaders are kept informed by a group of locally and nationally recognized expert advisors and is facilitated by the Institute for Public Strategies, a non-profit organization that specializes in policy-based environmental prevention strategies.


Alcohol Availability

• All 90 San Diego County parks now restrict hard alcohol.

• City parks and beaches have adopted several policies regarding safe alcohol consumption.

• All San Diego County beaches are alcohol-free.

• Successfully advocated to block legislation that would have lowered alcohol taxes to a 1951 level.

• Partnered with the San Diego Unified School District and others to advocate for a California State Board of Equalization voteto reclassify alcopops as distilled spirits and change the taxation from 20 cents per gallon to $3.30 per gallon.

• Created a draft model RBSS ordinance which has been adopted in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Poway, National City,San Marcos, Solana Beach and Vista, all yielding decreases in Place of Last Drink Survey data.

• Regional provider workgroups developed and passed Social Host Ordinances in all of San Diego County’s 18 cities, as well asSocial Host Ordinance in all unincorporated areas of the county.

• Empowered local communities to utilize local zoning and land use ordinances to restrict problem alcohol outlets in their

• Regional providers have successfully protested alcohol license applications that led to denial or withdrawal of the license

• More bartenders and servers have received RBSS training in San Diego County; exceeding any other county by 50 percent.

• Created issue briefings and PowerPoint presentations to inform regional prevention providers, community members and planning boards about how the alcohol licensing process works in San Diego County and the potential harmful effects certain alcohol products could pose in our communities.


• The San Diego County Law Enforcement Task Force on Alcohol and DUI was established in 1999 to engage all San DiegoCounty law enforcement agencies in conducting high-visibility, multi-jurisdictional operations to reduce underage and binge

• The LETF has conducted hundreds of DUI patrols and checkpoints, party dispersals, and shoulder tap and minor decoy operations resulting in thousands of citations. These efforts have been highly publicized through the strategic use of news media to increase the deterrent effects of enforcement efforts.

• Created a pamphlet to assist local law enforcement agencies on how to monitor and regulate party buses to ensure they are following state guidelines.

• Advocated for the reinstatement of ABC departmental funding to ensure effective enforcement of alcohol laws and regulations.


• Led a successful effort to enact a billboard ordinance in the City of San Diego that restricts the outdoor promotion of alcohol products near youth-frequented areas.

• Several similar ordinances were adopted in cities across the County.

• Engaged youth as leaders in creating and implementing six counter-advertising campaigns, raising the awareness of millions of people about predatory alcohol marketing practices and the risks associated with underage drinking.

• Supported dozens of “hands off holidays” events and campaigns, including Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo, to stop the alcohol industry from exploiting children’s holidays and cultural groups.

• Successfully advocated for the CSUSM and USD newspapers to refuse alcohol advertising in their campus newspapers.

• Collaborated with North County prevention partner to successfully prevent alcohol advertising on digital billboards in the City of Vista.


• Created a protocol to assist regional prevention providers and community members before they conduct a risk assessment at a problematic alcohol outlet in their area.

• Created an environmental scan tool and protocol to assist regional prevention providers and community members in collecting pertinent data and information on alcohol outlets applying for a new license or upgrading their existing license.

• Created an extensive database with more than two dozen sources of local, state and national data on binge and underage drinking to assist regional prevention providers and community members with their media advocacy efforts.