Residents Of LA's Ritzy Hillside Neighborhoods Say 'Party Houses' Proliferate During Coronavirus
District 4 Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion today that aims to "crack down" on rowdy COVID-19 parties in Los Angeles.
For years now, residents of L.A.'s ritzy hillside neighborhoods have objected to so-called "party houses." They're usually rental or Airbnb spots that become makeshift nightclubs and host hundreds of people.
"The proliferation of it has become out of control, especially now during the pandemic because of the bars being closed," said Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council.
There is a party house ordinance already on the books, passed in 2018, that imposes thousands of dollars in fines for violations. And an existing L.A. County order that prohibits gatherings during the pandemic applies to the City of L.A. as well.
But members of neighborhood councils in areas that regularly see the wild parties say many wealthy party organizers and homeowners are undeterred by fines.
Ellen Evans, vice president of operations with the Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, said it was galling to see people disregard public safety in her neighborhood.
"It's completely an outrage, because anybody who's sitting at home really trying hard not to come in contact with others feels that others should have the same obligation," she said.
A 35-year-old woman was killed at a house party in the Beverly Crest area earlier this week. Guests were seen arriving in party buses and there was a food truck on site. LAPD officers responded to noise and traffic complaints, but said they lacked the authority to shut down the party. Hours later, shots rang out, hitting several people.
Amid the increased scrutiny of party houses, Councilman Ryu wants the Department of Building and Safety, Water & Power and others to come together to figure out what "deterrence tools," can be used, including utility shut-offs.
And at his Wednesday afternoon Covid briefing, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is "authorizing the city to shut off Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service in the egregious cases in which houses businesses and other venues are hosting unpermitted large gatherings.
"Starting on Friday night, if the LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occurring at a property, and we see these properties reoffending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that DWP shut off service within the next 48 hours."
Last weekend, a gathering at Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood got the attention of City of L.A. officials. City Attorney Mike Feuer's office said it "referred the community complaints we received to [the Department of Public Health] for investigation. If they refer a case to us we will review it for possible criminal prosecution."
At her regular briefing today, County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said:
"We are ... responding to thousands of complaints each week related to non-compliance ... One thing for certain is that we will not be able to arrest our way out of the pandemic."