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Santa Monica Moves to Muffle 'House of Rock'

The City Council takes step to outlaw certain types of parties held in homes in residential neighborhoods.

The party will go on at "The House of Rock"—for now.

The Santa Monica City Council "got very serious" about but did not go so far as to immediately outlaw big fundraisers at the $25 million designer home in a quiet residential neighborhood near the Riviera Country Club.

Though the council members said they feared a Halloween charity bash sponsored by KIIS FM to benefit the non-profit Painted Turtle will get out of hand and pose a "serious risk" to neighbors, they opted not adopt an emergency ordinance that would immediately ban commercial parties citywide. Owner Elaine Culotti contends the parties are charitable endeavours and has threatened to sue the city.

Instead, the City Council took the more routine route of voting 6-0 to approve a non-emergency ban that would not take affect until after the Halloween party and as early as Nov. 13. It will require a second vote before it's officially on the books.

"I’m a little reluctant... to pass an ordinance on an emergency basis," said councilman Bobby Shriver. "Let's wait to see how she does on the next few events."

There are five more shindigs planned between Oct. 30 and Dec. 6, including the radio station fundraiser on Oct. 30. KIIS has promoted ticket give-aways to the event on air, heightening neighbors' concerns the public will crash the party, create a ruckus and block access to their street.

There was both an outpouring of support and opposition Tuesday night to the large, swanky fundraisers, which Culotti has said benefit non-profits and her own commercial interest of being able to market and sell the property down the line.

What was at issue, councilwoman Gleam Davis said, was "whether it’s appropriate to run an event house in a residential neighborhood."

Culotti formed the House of Rock LLC and renovated the historic home on La Mesa Drive 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.

She has called piquing interest in the house by hosting fundraisers a "crafty marketing technique."

But "no cash exchanges hands," so it's not a business, many of her supporters said.

"Our model is not a business-making proposition," Culotti told the council. Might "I build my design business on this? Yes. But there’s not a model to physically build a business at the house."

The council members appeared united in wanting to keep The House of Rock concept from catching on citywide. Councilman Shriver said residents should stick to open houses and newspaper ads to market their properties.

"It may not be as clever, but we don’t feel in the [residential] neighborhoods that [The House of Rock] marketing technique ought to be allowed," he said.

Guests lists for the next five big events range between 100-350 people. Between those events will be regular recording sessions by a myriad of artists and smaller, personal get-togethers, Culotti said.

Her neighbors say that although Culotti uses a valet and shuttle system to control parking, their driveways are blocked by SUVs and the street is too dangerous for their children to play outside on event nights.

"I love charity," said La Mesa resident Carrie Odell. "But this is not the right venue to do it."

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Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Six months from now they will settle with the owner of that house for $95,000 after a court enjoins the ordinance. What a crock! They worry about litigation so don't do what they are required by law to do, like stay out of the Rent Control Board's business regarding Village Trailer Park, but when one of their rich supporters on La Mesa Drive complains about noise and parking, there they are to pass a totally unnecessary and unconstitutional ordinance. The bums should all be thrown out and we should start over with people for whom money is not the deciding factor, all ways always.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I also noticed they used the same-old same-old excuse they always use to discuss this in closed session before the ordinance was discussed in public. All one of their supporters has to do is "threaten litigation," with no basis whatever, and then they meet in closed session and tell the Council how to vote. As I said above, the sell-by date long ago passed on these lawbreakers, so they should be thrown out and we can start over with people who represent us, not money. We need a Council which will follow laws meant to protect us, like the Brown Act requiring decisions to be made in public, not behind closed doors.
Dan Charney October 24, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Let these events take place somewhere that NEEDS the money- like the Civic or the old Post Office- let the city get the money this materialist gets- enough of this from people- she is ridiculous and greedy and self- promoting and could not care less what she does to anyone
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I'm sure but for these charity parties children play outside at night all the time on La Mesa Drive. Pleeaase.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Another way they get to meet in closed session and tell the Council how to vote before something comes up in public is announce in advance they are planning to do something even worse than they actually plan to do--which is what they did here according to the article, announce consideration of an emergency ordinance. This sometimes suckers the other side into threatening litigation. The trick is to find a way to make such decisions out of the hearing and view if the public, which would be appalled to know what rich supporters of which councilmembers are behind this.
Dan Charney October 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Our city is so broke it says- even with all this development - let these charity events take place on city owned property only - and one that benefits the entire city - not just say the Annenberg Beach House- let it re-fund the dead Section 8 program- the only real program that helps people that are truly needy- Community Core sure has h--doesn't - it 'cleanes' the city of the least fortunate- very clever- this woman should live in her house and have reasonably sized parties like everyone else- the rich should stop getting away with whatever they feel like doing while we all take it up the short and are so 'grateful' for their hand-outs.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Still, she owns the house and there are already noise laws and blocking streets laws and parking restrictions and who knows what else that people can use if her parties are really offensive. It isn't right to impugn her motives and interfere in some legal thing she has figured out to do. The point is if what she is doing were not legal, her rich neighbors would not have to go to their bought-and-paid-for City Council to get another law passed. I was the Beverly Hills Deputy City Attorney assigned to stop the owners renting out Graystone Mansion for parties. I had no trouble getting an injunction because I did the research and got the evidence. On the other hand, there are cases saying it is a violation of people's right of privacy for a City to make special rules against their legal uses of their homes. This one looks like reaching out to help a City Council rich supporter. That's why it is wrong and it will end up costing the City money.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 11:50 PM
What she makes on parties--which BTW the story said is nothing, since she charges nothing for the use of the house by charities--would make no difference at all to our profligate spending Council. How much difference would a thousand dollars one way or the other make when they spend $55 million for two parks in front of City Hall? Besides, when the City does ANYTHING, it's always way too expensive and done stupidly. If she tried to throw these parties through the City, they'd make her get many millions in insurance she would not otherwise need, to cover them, and they'd have about ten employees assigned to screw up everything--you know how they are. Besides, they would have to put everything out to bid to try to keep them from being corrupt, and the event would end up never happening with all the bureaucracy. One time when I worked for the Santa Monica Rent Control Board, which has its own budget but does its purchasing through the City, I needed a three-drawer filing cabinet. The catalog I was supposed to order it from--the one for the company that got the City's bid--had one for $800. I just couldn't spend that much, even if it was the Board's money, so I bought one at Goodwill for $25 of my own money. That's how it is trying to do something through this City. The issue is not money, Dan. It's freedom. And as to what the City does with money, the answers are corruption and waste, so trying to make people give them more money won't help.

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