Silver Lake Residents Weigh In On Controversial Haunted House Shutdown
Courtesy of Haunted PlayActors in Delusion
After our Nov. 13 article pointed to potentially unfounded neighborhood complaints as the main cause behind the closure of Delusion, some Silver Lake residents reached out to tell their side of the story.
The article quoted Delusion creator and director Jon Braver saying that the Halloween attraction's early departure was largely the work of one neighbor and a hired consultant who regularly called the police over fabricated noise complaints, which led to Delusion's permit not being renewed.
Interviews with residents reveal a more complicated story, as they say they suffered a variety of parking and noise disruptions that reinforced the neighborhood's ongoing struggles. The result is a "he said, she said" dispute in which both sides -- the neighbors and the show's creators -- accuse the other of being inconsiderate, unfair and unreasonable.
The church where Delusion was held is at 1629 Griffith Park Blvd., a stone's throw from Sunset Blvd.'s burgeoning nightlife district. The site has also been targeted by Dana Hollister, owner of the nearby restaurant Cliff's Edge, for development into a hotel with a sizeable attached bar, a move that has angered several residents already worried about preserving a diverse, quiet neighborhood with a growing number of young families.
When the show applied for a liquor license prior to opening, residents alarmed at the prospect of drunken revelers and the precedent it would set for the property signed a petition. The application was denied, temporarily relieving neighbors and frustrating Delusion creator Braver, who said the unexpected change cut into his bottom line.
Prior to opening, Delusion's production manager Sarah Glendening distributed a letter throughout the neighborhood introducing the show and listing her cell phone number for any concerns. But many residents still felt blindsided by a production that didn't go through neighborhood council channels or get vetted by the community.
During the show's run, many residents grew frustrated competing for parking spaces in an area where space is already at a premium thanks to traffic from Sunset Blvd. The street has no preferential parking permit due to a citywide moratorium on the creation of new districts. Julie Adler, a freelance artist who has lived in the neighborhood 13 years, says, "The residents are really feeling tense about the influx of people from everywhere. There hasn't been infrastructure to go along with the changes."
Adler says during Delusion's run she regularly returned home late at night and had to drive around for several minutes looking for a spot. The show averaged 200 visitors per night at scheduled intervals over the course of five hours. A parking lot a block away provided stalls for about 35 cars -- enough to cover the majority of vehicles arriving each hour, Delusion's Braver points out, though there was no way to guarantee guests used the designated lot.
Though the production was self-contained, some residents were affronted by a fake body hanging in the bell tower below the church's cross. At least two residents complained to Braver requesting that it be taken down, citing the presence of children in the neighborhood and the image's ghoulishness.
Braver explained that the body held a clue built into the script of the show, and the bell tower openings were too big to mask from the street. He draped the dummy in a black cloak. But with the head and feet still visible, says neighbor Larry Lacombe, it still looked like a dead body.
The issue that continues to stir the most contention, however, is the noise the show created -- how much and how often.
Robert Cherno is a land-use consultant who has lobbied on behalf of an undisclosed number of residents to raise their concerns regarding Delusion and the hotel project to the authorities, including coordinating a letter-writing campaign. He says that during Delusion's October-to-November run, he frequently received calls as late as 1:30 a.m. from clients complaining of noise from the production or from departing patrons and actors. Cherno regularly contacted the LAPD, issuing complaints for his clients or following up on their own calls.
Jeff Wayne, a neighbor who estimates he lives about 150-200 feet from the church, says he was awoken at 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 6 by cast and crew partying on the front steps of the church. He stumbled onto his front porch, recorded the ruckus on his iPhone, and went back to sleep. He says he later called the police on two occasions.
As the show progressed, some residents in the back alley complained they could hear screaming and chains rattling. Wayne says a Spanish-speaking family reached out to him because their elementary school-aged daughters were so frightened, they had taken to sleeping in their parents' bed. The family wrote complaint letters that Wayne later passed on to Cherno.
Up next: the show's response, and what the police found
Delusion production manager Glendening responds that the theater company did everything it could to address concerns when they were raised. In early October, a woman living eight feet from Delusion's back wall, who said she also represented her Spanish-speaking neighbor, conveyed to the production she could hear shrieks and chains through her closed windows. Glendening wrote back the next morning and had soundproofing installed, then spent a half hour in the back alley with a Department of Building and Safety inspector during a performance to verify the quiet. According to Glendening, the inspector remarked that the cars driving by were noisier than the production.
Glendening didn't hear from the neighbor again until nearly Halloween, via an email that was sent to a city council representative. Delusion's initial soundproofing had not eliminated vibrations, muffled screams and post-show chatter, the email stated, and the woman couldn't peacefully enjoy her home.
Glendening got in touch again. She had additional soundproofing nailed inside and outside the windows and propped mattresses against the back doors during each performance. The script was tweaked to minimize actors' presence in that area, and Glendening personally monitored the green room to ensure they kept quiet after the show. She followed up twice more. In the email chain, the neighbor thanks Glendening and appears to indicate the problem has been resolved.
Jeff Bert, commanding officer of the Northeast division that comprises Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Echo Park and Eagle Rock, couldn't pinpoint the exact volume of complaints he received about Delusion, but confirmed hearing from at least six individuals. Despite sending officers several times between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. to investigate calls, he wasn't able to verify the complaints.
"We didn't hear the bloodcurdling screams that were articulated in some of the letters" when LAPD officers stopped by, Bert says. "There was never a time we got there that we found the noise so egregious that it caused an offer to enforce a noise ordinance." The Los Angeles Fire Department also did not issue any citations, though inspectors were present nightly.
"LAPD's visits to our location made it seem like we were doing just fine," says Braver.
But while Bert had initially approved the project, due to the "barrage of negative comments" he received he eventually recommended that the Department of Building and Safety not renew Delusion's temporary change of use permit. (The Police Commission also turned down an application for a cafe entertainment/shows permit -- which would have allowed live entertainment to continue at the venue -- based on LADBS' refusal to sign off.)
Bert acknowledges his tricky position. On the one hand, he's pleased to see the changes -- better lighting, professional security, foot traffic, higher income -- that developing communities bring. "On the other hand, I've got a neighborhood where little kids can't sleep at night," he says. "These decisions weigh heavily on me. At the end of the day, I have to go with what's right with the community."
Meanwhile, the events have left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Neighbors relieved to see the show depart still have to face the hotel development and the steady trend that has turned their home into a hotspot. Glendening was so put off by the experience she has questioned staying in L.A.
Bert may be the only one who hasn't given up. When the Weekly last spoke to him, he was hoping to hold a public meeting with the concerned parties to see if they could work out some sort of compromise.
"A lively, active something is better for crime than a vacant building," he says. "What that venue is to be is really more the question. Is it the right fit for this little pocket -- for a thriving, changing and diverse community?"
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