New City Law Would Boost Regulation Of Big Bashes

New city law would boost regulation of big bashes

LAPD officers Brian White, left, and Richard Jimenez patrol the Van Nuys area in search of unruly parties. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)

By Friday afternoons, the weekend invites begin appearing on Twitter.

“Djing a private Pool Party in Hollywood Hills tomorrow….open bar all day #Craziness.” Another tweet promises: “Hollywood Hills Mansion…..Donation $40. Ladies in Bikini 50% off.”

By late Saturday night, Twitter followers are pinging back: “Ohh, where the parties at? Because the Tarzana party got shutdown.”

As the party caravan seeks out the next bash, some homeowners are happy to oblige. Branded “party houses,” by frustrated neighbors and fed-up police, these sprawling residences – often found in affluent hillside neighborhoods above Ventura and Hollywood boulevards – can be moneymakers for owners and havens for partygoers.

Guided by social media tools, revelers gather quickly, then disperse when the police arrive, only to return a short time later.

“They’re advertising on the Internet and creating a lot of havoc,” says deputy city attorney Gita O’Neill, who works in the department’s criminal division.

“It’s advertising at chronic locations, by Facebook pages, on Twitter.”

Spurred by a rise in complaints about party houses, the City Attorney’s Office is working with the Los Angeles Police Department on a new ordinance to crack down on chronic locations. The rules would regulate everything from large-scale bashes thrown by party promoters to regular house parties that grow too rowdy.

Intended to curb noise complaints in hillside communities, where the sound of DJ music and bawdy conversations echoes and carries, the ordinance could also address safety issues, like parked cars clogging streets and blocking police and fire department access.

Under federal tax code, homeowners can rent out their homes for parties or filming for 14 days a year. For parties, homeowners are often paid by the event, or for how many guests are invited, say promoters.

Phil, a Hollywood Hills resident who asked his name not be used, was paid $2,500 last Sunday for a music promoter to throw an all-day DJ party at his six-bedroom home. While he’s rented out his house on previous occasions to entertainment companies without major problems, this last party got out of control. It attracted the LAPD after the expected crowd of 150 people turned into a mob of 450.

Blame the tweet: an invite showed four buxom women cavorting in a pool in front of a white-columned estate, and promised a list of DJ acts.

“The place was left absolutely a disaster,” he says, describing a “pot-smoking crowd,” that took over his house. As guests downed champagne, Hennessy and Red Bull, hired chefs sold barbecued crab and chicken, cleaning out his pantry and using all his spices to prepare the dishes.

The arrival of police officers, he believes, was prompted by uneasy neighbors seeing bikini-topped women walking up the street during the bash. Because the music wasn’t loud – to be considered a nuisance, a party has to be heard by LAPD at least 150 feet away from the property line – he wasn’t cited.

“Doesn’t every party get shut down?” jokes Rick Anthony, a Los Angeles-based promoter who advertises house parties on a Twitter page.

Anthony, who says that party houses are a phenomenon from “Chino to the Valley,” says homeowners can make $750 and up for an all-day affair. While he says that his own parties “keep out the riff-raff,” the city’s crackdown isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“If they are getting out of hand, they should have to keep (down the) noise level,” he said.

Over the last year, LAPD’s Van Nuys Division was called three times to shut down gatherings at a well-known party house on Sumac Drive in an affluent section of Sherman Oaks, after fliers and ads drew crowds of 200 and more to the modern, three-story residence.

Some guests reported being charged $20 to enter, according to LAPD Officer Brian White, who said backup officers were routinely needed to help shut down those parties.

“It wasn’t a (scene) where we felt comfortable just two of us going in,” White said.

Last month police made two arrests for disturbing the peace and the hosts haven’t held any parties there since.

Fines for noise nuisance calls vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, the figure rising significantly if LAPD helicopters are used to break up the party. Those fees could potentially rise under Los Angeles’ new ordinance.

The city is considering modeling parts of its new party rules after Newport Beach’s successful “Loud and Unruly Gathering Ordinance,” which applies to private parties of eight or more people.

Sharply increasing the fees for repeat offenders, Newport Beach can charge homeowners up to $3,000, while individual partygoers can also be fined. Since going into effect this month, the city’s most raucous neighborhoods have quieted down, according to Kathy Lowe, spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department.

Los Angeles’ new ordinance would be used in conjunction with the city attorney’s proposed Administrative Citation Enforcement program.

ACE, which is still in the planning stages, would expedite fine processing for minor offenses like noise. Rather than give a homeowner a citation for a noisy party, requiring them to appear in court, the offending party thrower would be handed a fine – similar to receiving a parking ticket – on the spot.

The changes can’t come soon enough for neighborhood groups. Following reports of residents waking up to find cigarette butts, beer bottles, and, in at least one case, women’s underwear, in the streets, the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association formed the “Party House Subcommittee” this month to deal with a rash of commercial and regular house parties in their neighborhood.

The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council is also meeting regularly with the LAPD about party issues.

“I don’t know if it’s gotten worse because of the economy, and people wanting to make money,” says Anthony St. John, chairman of the public safety committee at the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

St. John recalls a LAPD helicopter arriving at a business party thrown by a foreign film producer on Hollyline Avenue in Sherman Oaks, with the police demonstrating a “massive show of force,” to shut down the party.

In another instance, a Los Angeles Fire Department truck had to “push cars out of the way,” he says, as it tried to navigate by a party.

One of the reasons for the apparent increase in parties could be the weak economy, especially the state of the housing market, according to real estate experts.

“When (homeowners) are approached by these people to rent out of their houses, they are more likely to,” says Cary Hoffman, branch manager at Rodeo Realty in Encino, who has also heard of instances of party crowds moving into foreclosed properties.

O’Neill of the City Attorney’s Office blames the medium. Chronic parties, she says, have always been a problem.

“It’s just that people are using the Internet more,” she says.

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