L.A. plans to crack down on serial party houses with fines and public notices

By Gary Walker

Soon even the neighbors who weren’t around to call the cops at 2 a.m. will know exactly where the party was — and that it probably won’t happen again.

Next month the Los Angeles City Council will consider upping the ante of a municipal ordinance prohibiting “loud or unruly gatherings,” increasing homeowner fines when police are called to break up a party and placing warning signs in front of problem properties for at least a month after they’re busted — a scarlet “P,” metaphorically speaking, that enumerates the types of conduct observed by law enforcement.

Under a current draft of the ordinance update wending its way through committee, fines would start as low as $100 for the first offense but escalate to as high as $8,000 per violation if there’s a track record.

“It’s a small handful that make this ordinance so sorely needed. We are talking about people who use their homes to throw all-night events, or rent them out to strangers who run de facto nightclubs out of otherwise quiet neighborhoods — threatening the peace and safety of everyone around them,” reads a statement by Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu.

Ryu’s council district includes parts of the San Fernando Valley, Beverly Hills, and the Hollywood Hills, where loud late-night ragers have made headlines reminiscent of a midnight Kardashian fireworks show.

Historically one of the first local neighborhoods to look for a serial party house would be the off-campus housing near Loyola Marymount University — but not so much anymore, according to local law enforcement.

LAPD Capt. James Setzer said Pacific Division has seen a drastic decrease in calls about parties raging out of control in Westchester.

“Our crime analysis personnel say there has been very, very little activity for house parties near LMU. We will keep an eye on this should the situation change in the coming months,” Setzer said.

LMU Public Safety Chief Hampton Cantrell said the reduction in calls to quell loud parties is in part due to several years of collaboration with stakeholders both on and off campus.

“Over the last five or six years, we’ve worked very closely with LAPD and our city prosecutors as well as with the administration and our students on how they can still have parties but in a responsible manner,” Cantrell said. “We’ve been able to design strategies around some of the houses where students were having a lot of parties, and I think we’ve had some success.”

Those strategies include deploying campus public safety officers and discussing off-campus conduct with students — and, in some cases, their landlords.

“When I heard about the ordinance and the increased penalties, I thought this seems like a good tool for the toughest cases,” Cantrell said.

In 2018, tourists appear more likely than students to get neighbors riled up.

Homeowners in Venice, Mar Vista and Playa del Rey have complained about noisy partying at some short-term rental properties, often the same houses over and over again.

Jan Haagen, who owns a home in the beachfront Playa del Rey neighborhood known as The Jungle, said she and other neighbors who’ve been critical of short-term vacation rentals would be in “full favor” of increased penalties for properties where partygoers disturb the peace, even if that could mean police showing up at her house one day.

“That may be the price to pay to keep the owners of short-term rentals from allowing their customers to do as such. As a homeowner, if I were going to host a party, I would either invite my neighbors or I would inform them of the event and ask them to kindly let me know if it’s too noisy or disturbing them in any way,” Haagen said. “The problem with short-term rental guests is they throw a party with no regard whatsoever for disturbing the neighbors.”

A spokesman for Airbnb said the company doesn’t want their customers’ guests behaving badly, either.

“We want to do everything we can to help our community members be good neighbors in the places they call home. We fully support the city of Los Angeles’ party house ordinance. Our hosts are a part of their communities, and the vast majority are good neighbors who share the homes they live in, earning extra income to help make ends meet,” wrote Airbnb spokesman Charlie Uranic in an email response.

Santa Monica has imposed tight restrictions on short-term rentals, but the city does not have an ordinance specifically prohibiting loud gatherings and police receive very few calls about parties raging out of control, Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez said.

“If we get multiple complaints about parties at a specific home we document those, and if they continue then the homeowner can be subjected to fines,” Rodriguez explained.