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City Considers Breaking Up Fancy House Parties

Proposed "emergency" ordinance takes aim at the "House of Rock," a luxury home near the Riviera Country Club in Santa Monica used as an event venue for big fundraisers.

Showing off the designer diggs you intend to sale by hosting big parties, even ones for good causes, could soon be illegal in Santa Monica.

The Santa Monica City Council will take up on Tuesday night an emergency ordinance that designed to pull the plug on large fundraisers planned at an historic home on La Mesa Drive, dubbed "The House of Rock." It would apply citywide and affect all gatherings of 150 people or more at single-family homes that operate as "event facilities for the commercial purpose of selling that property."

Because it's classified as an "emergency," the ordinance would take effect immediately. (Typically, ordinances are adopted only after a second vote of the council and take effect 30 days after.)

"It’s just shocking they would go down this path," said Ben Reznick, an attorney representing the La Mesa Drive home's owners, Greg Briles and Elaine Culotti.

Formerly home to Broadway star Kathryn Grayson, the 1926 English Cottage-Tudor Revival sits on a bluff overlooking Santa Monica Canyon and Riviera Country Club.

It was renovated last year by high-end designers commissioned to work independently on rooms but under the same theme of music. The owners also secured sponsorships from name-brand companies whose products were incorporated into the so-called design rooms.

The 10,000 square foot home has since been a stage to some swanky fundraisers featuring concerts and recording sessions by bands such as Shiny Toy Guns.

Three such events have drawn crowds of between 400 and 500 people, and as many as five more are planned through Dec. 6. Afterward, the house will be put up for sale, according to Steve Getzug, who was asked to speak on behalf of the owners.

"Her interest has always been to improve the home, to live in it and enjoy it, and sale it and make a profit in the turning of the home," he said of Culotti.

Reznick, her attorney, said he and his client have offered to work with disgruntled neighbors who say living next to the House of Rock is like living next door to a night club. He claims the ordinance would have a "chilling" effect on Santa Monica.

"Don’t take away the rights of homeowners to host events," he said.

But city staffers contend the parties "differ substantially" from the occasional political or charitable fundraiser "both in frequency, purpose, advertising and intensity of its impact" on the neighborhood, according to their report to the City Council.

The proposed ordinance reads:

It will not preclude marketing single-family residential real estate in Santa Monica through standard means. Nor will it preclude large social gatherings, charitable events or political fundraisers in residential neighborhoods;

It continues:

[It] is merely intended to preclude the operation of one particular and specific type of marketing scheme that creates extreme nuisance conditions and thereby degrades public welfare, safety and quality of life in residential neighborhoods, and is particularly likely to proliferate.

The Santa Monica City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall at 1685 Main St. To view the night's complete agenda, click here.


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RJ October 23, 2012 at 01:57 PM
…I sympathize with the neighbors however, when we “condone” this type of “emergency” governmental action the ole “slippery slope” caution comes up. Obviously the neighborhood is stocked with influential habitants that can pick up a phone to contact the “right” person at City Hall anytime. What would the long term consequences be for other situations if emergency action’s like this are allowed?
mimi October 23, 2012 at 05:24 PM
RJ, Thank you for eloquently expressing my sentiments. It makes more sense to limit the maximum number of attendees allowed into the event, rather than the right to hold the event.
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Absolutely. We need no new limits on freedom, especially any written by the quality of attorney in the SM City Attorneys' office, which has been harassing and evicting tenants wrongfully from Mountain View Mobilehome Inn for virtually the entire 10 years the City has owned that park. I was the deputy city attorney in Beverly Hills assigned the job of prosecuting the owners of the Graystone Mansion, who were using it to rent out for fundraisers. I had no trouble getting an injunction against that under existing law. Disgruntled neighbors on La Mesa have really got the SMCC in their pockets. While we were watching the Village Trailer Park development agreement go through the Landmarks Commission, the Planning Commission, and the City Council, we kept running into a La Mesa Drive case that would take hours in front of us. There is an attorney on that street--if not more than one--who is so selfish and can keep his neighbors from having any freedom at all. Thank the Universe I live in a 109-unit development with only two attorneys in it. And that I'm legally trained and know how to do my own work in response to ** like this.
Flora Arber October 24, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Please consider the possibility the the Council is acting quickly because of the egregious nature of the situation. This house has been turned in to a nightclub with live music outdoors blasted through professional amplifiers. Currently there are tickets being given away on a radio station for a "SIIK" Halloween party at the House of Rock. Somehow that doesn't seem like the obvious buyer pool for marketing a $20 million house or the sort of event appropriate for a family neighborhood. Nobody lives at the House of Rock. It is a mercenary business venture by a greedy and inconsiderate (not to mention tasteless) woman. There is a clear difference between throwing a party at one's home and turning a home on a quiet residential street into a "party house". Hopefully the city council will put an end to this nonsense tonight.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 01:01 AM
That there is a clear difference between throwing a party at one's home and turning a home on a quiet residential street into a "party house", and plenty laws already on the books to cover the latter situation, was my point exactly. If the situation is egregious as you say, then there are plenty of laws against it. It is only if it is NOT as you say--and instead neighbors want to interfere in someone's private life because they have the City Council in bed with them and can--that there is any "need" whatever for new laws. Especially by this corrupt and venal Council. I'd be embarrassed to be so unaware of what freedom means as to mention someone's taste, or that they were selfish, or mercenary, or whatever. It is none of your business what kind of people your neighbors are, as it is none of theirs what kind of person you are. Ever heard of live and let live?


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