Party at Palm Springs' Frank Sinatra house in 2014
Party at Palm Springs' Frank Sinatra house in 2014
Colin Young-Wolff/L.A. Weekly

The City Wants to Crack Down on Party Houses

In Los Angeles, going to a house party in the hills is a rite of passage. Everybody likes a house party ... except the neighbors. Critics say the number of homes used as party venues, sometimes full-time, is growing as fast as their patience is shrinking.

"'Party houses,' residential homes used or rented out frequently for parties, are a long-running problem in Los Angeles," according to a statement from the office of Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes the Hollywood Hills. "The issue has become so acute that entire houses are being built for the purpose of hosting weekly parties. Further, the process has now become even easier, and thus more harmful, due to the rise of short-term rental platforms and the ease with which an individual can now rent a 'party house.'"

The Los Angeles City Council yesterday voted unanimously to prepare a new law, proposed by Ryu, that would make it much more difficult to be in the party-house business. The councilman says his idea is to model the rules after Newport Beach's "Loud and Unruly Gathering Ordinance." So party people can thank Dennis Rodman, in part, for this crackdown.

Ryu's motion to get the ball rolling on a new party-house law observes that city crackdown attempts have previously been made "to no avail." It's interesting to note that a new generation of party people has invaded the hills, and they're often African-American hip-hop stars and actors (see TMZ). The city sat on its hands for decades while the Playboy Mansion was openly used as a party house in an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood.

Today noise, parking and associated "crime" (urinating on the neighbors' roses, for example) are clear targets of the council, though so far Ryu's proposed crackdown contains few specifics. He's left it up to the City Attorney's Office to come up with a list of "best practices" in order to regulate these homes of chill repute.

The councilman did present some ideas that are likely to appear in the final ordinance: escalating fines for repeat offenders, including for owners and hosts; public notices that tell neighbors an alleged party house is in their midst; "criminal charges for excessive numbers of violations," according to his office; additional fines for for-profit or "commercial" events; and a ban on short-term rentals (Airbnb) for violators.

Airbnb says it treats allegations of party-house rentals seriously. The short-term rental platform announced it will now take anonymous complaints from neighbors all day, every day. "The overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts and guests are good neighbors and respectful travelers, so complaints and issues are incredibly rare, but when they happen, we work to make things right," spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

"We have no tolerance for this type of behavior and we immediately ban guests from the platform," he said. "We want to do everything we can to help our hosts be good neighbors in the places they too call home."

Ryu says he's just trying help the "99 percent" of good neighbors who are "besieged" by "inconsiderate" party hosts. "My goal is to protect the quality of life of our residential neighborhoods and to prioritize public safety," he said.

UPDATE at 2:18 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, 2016: Ryu's office took exception to our observation that while the Playboy Mansion was allowed to party on (long before the councilman's time in office), African-American celebrants were getting enough attention in the hills to motivate action at City Hall.

Ryu's spokesman says the notorious Yotta Life Mansion, a party house run by a couple from Germany, was as much an inspiration for his proposals as any other address. Another home rented at times by Justin Bieber and ex-NFL Player Johnny Manziel also received attention for its celebratory ways and thus helped inspire the motion, he said.

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