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."