Throwing big parties for "commercial purposes" at homes in Santa Monica's residential neighborhoods will be illegal next month when a new city ordinance adopted unanimously on a second reading Tuesday night takes effect.
The new ordinance targets the House of Rock, a multi-million "designer" home used as a venue for large charity fundraisers unpopular with neighbors. The city contends the parties are a marketing ploy to sell the estate.
Events are planned at the House of Rock, at 2009 La Mesa Dr., through Dec. 6, so they will presumably be allowed to continue.
On Tuesday, the City Council could have adopted an emergency ordinance to take effect immediately. But recent House of Rock parties—including a Halloween bash sponsored by KIIS FM—did not result in any code enforcement violations, so city leaders decided that wasn't necessary.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis walked her dog by the radio station's party on Oct. 30 and said though the event was "relatively quiet," she believed they needed to be brought to a halt.
"This isn’t her home... where she happens to have the occasional party," Davis told Patch that night. "She’s elected to run an event house business in a residential neighborhood and is using that event house business to create cache around the house, so when she goes to sell it, she’ll make a better profit."
Here's what the ordinance adopted by the council says:
No person shall operate a single family residential property for a commercial purpose including, but not limited to, as an event facility. No business license shall be issued for such an operation.
For purposes of this section, an "event facility" is property that is utilized for gatherings of more than 150 people at any one time.
Ben Reznick, an attorney representing the La Mesa Drive home's owners, Greg Briles and Elaine Culotti, called the ordinance "broad and vague."
"If someone is selling a house and has a big party, is that a commercial purpose?" he asked. "Is the selling, developing of a house now a commercial venture?"
Culotti formed the House of Rock LLC and renovated the historic home last year, turning it into a "show house" by commissioning high-end designers to decorate rooms in tribute to rock legends, such as the Rolling Stones. The home isn't open to the public (parties are invite-only), but there's a website for visitors to purchase items featured in each of the rooms.
Interior designer Susan Cohen, who has been involved in design houses in the past and has been to several fundraisers at the House of Rock, told the council last month she was "saddened" by the home's detractors.
"Charity is what it's all about," she said. "Nothing bizarre happened. People were very excited to donate."
But according to city staffers,
The adverse impacts of this marketing scheme upon the neighborhood are significant.
They far exceed the impacts of selling a home through traditional means, such as broker caravans and Sunday afternoon open houses because of the timing, the large numbers of vehicles and party goers, the noise, and the lights, among other things.
"The issue has never been one of charity," said Steve Pokress, a Georgina Avenue resident who said he sympathizes with La Mesa residents.
"Having one event is one thing, having six in a row is quite another thing with all of the staff moving in and out, bringing in chairs and tables beforehand, the next day cleaning up... it's a very narrow street," Pokress said.