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A neighbor’s house near Sandy Martin’s home on Mulholland Drive turned into a veritable gambling casino for more than three months. People arrived late, played into the early morning and there was full “military security,” she said.
“They brought hookers, who were very nice, and they would leave in the morning by limo,” Martin said. “But the noise at the house at night is too loud. They open up all the doors and everyone can hear it. I don’t care if they have a party, but if it’s after 11 p.m. or midnight, they wake me up with the noise.”
During the 4th District city council election, at every candidate forum located in or near the Hollywood Hills, residents brought up the issue of nuisance house parties.
People tell stories of wealthy Hollywood clientele renting houses in the Hollywood Hills at night and throwing parties that last until the sun comes up — replete with professional DJs and hundreds of cars blocking the street, honking and causing headaches.
“This issue tends to heat up with the weather,” said Michael Meyer, Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council board member. “There are several homes that are used for paid admittance pool parties, as well as rentals for weddings and raves, which prefer the warmer evenings.”
Officials said shared economy rental websites such as Airbnb have made the issue more prevalent than ever.
Senior Lead Officer Ralph Sanchez, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division, said nuisance house parties used to crop up every once in a while, but now the problem occurs every weekend.
“What we’re having is a lot of commercial rentals … meaning people are throwing a party in the Hills to make a profit,” he said, noting owners will sell tickets at a club for an after-hours party in the Hollywood Hills. “Once the houses get used to doing this they continue to do this because it is a profitable business.”
Sanchez estimated that the Hollywood Division writes five to 50 noise citations a month in the Hollywood Hills regarding nuisance parties. The city’s noise ordinance is the primary tool the LAPD uses to help weary neighbors, but Sanchez said they also cite people for parking violations (blocking the road and driveways), smoking cigarettes (fire hazard) and overcrowding houses (with the help of the Los Angeles Fire Department).
“Neighbors have a right to their tranquility and they’re not getting it early in the morning,” Sanchez said.
Joe Custer, vice president of the Mount Olympus Property Owners Association (MOPOA), said party houses are a top complaint among association members.
Custer said he has even seen flyers for a Mount Olympus music festival with $20 tickets.
“That is a commercial enterprise,” he said. “A lot of the properties are being sold to out-of-area owners, and they just rent the house out to whomever. It’s the absentee owners who don’t really care and who aren’t a part of the community. But many of these homes are very close together. You are in very close proximity to your neighbor.”
Numerous people who have had issues with party houses declined to go on the record for this article due to fear of retribution, but they had similar stories to Martin’s — flash mobs of hundreds of people arriving between 2:30 and 3 a.m. or theme parties, including one that brought trucks of sand up the hill for a beach-themed party.
“A lot of the time the clubs close at 2 a.m. and a lot of people come here after and continue reveling,” Custer said. “That’s probably the major issue, the noise level of the music, and the people talking, and the trash they leave behind. It’s become so prevalent now, that we have phone trees and specific people to call. We have about a half-dozen homes [in our area] marked as multiple offenders.”
A house with a view can be rented for $3,000 a night, and many owners are taking advantage, Martin said.
“They’re running a business in the neighborhood — this is a business,” she said. “My neighbor gets $15,000 or $20,000 a week. Does he pay taxes [on that]? What does he do with the money? He’s making a business.”
There has been progress, city officials said.
“My office and I have been working with the appropriate agencies — the city attorney’s office, LAPD and [the department of] building and safety — regarding these problematic, commercial party houses,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, in a statement. “My staff has had face-to-face contact with residents and they continue to work with them to restore quiet enjoyment and reasonable peace to these neighborhoods. This is an ongoing challenge, not only in the 4th District, but citywide.”
Councilman-elect David Ryu has said in forums he wants to balance the positive gains made in the shared economy (i.e. Airbnb) with appropriate actions to curb nuisance offenders abusing the city laws.
Approximately a month ago, the LAPD created a specific house party patrol car, with officers specifically educated on how to deal with nuisance offenders, for Thursday through Sunday nights.
“It has actually been working really well,” Sanchez said of the new enforcement plan. “Our parties are dropping. We’re down about 50 percent [since the party patrol car debuted].”
Sanchez said the party house issues span from Los Feliz to Doheny Heights. He added that the LAPD has a list of repeat offenders that includes approximately 30 houses. The issue, most recently, has been concentrated in smaller homes.
“I believe it is a trickle down effect,” Sanchez said. “They see these big houses doing it for a while, and they figure, if they can do it we will give it a try.”
Frank Mateljan, city attorney spokesperson, said the office works closely with the LAPD to build cases against property owners of chronic nuisance locations.
Martin said she hopes for a day when she doesn’t have to constantly call in complaints.
She and Sanchez said it helps to have neighbors communicate (she noted that Justin Timberlake sends out letters to the neighbors in advance, for example).
“The new [LAPD] captain has been very proactive in getting police to the house to keep the noise down,” Martin said. “It’s noise abatement. But no matter what he does, these are party houses. Nobody lives in them and they are just a business and just there to make money.”
“It really is a quality of life issue,” Custer added. “You can’t sleep and that leads to other health issues.”
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