Los Angeles Cuts Power To A Home, Saying It Violated Public Health Orders
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The city of Los Angeles has a new policy allowing it to disconnect the utilities at homes that repeatedly host big parties which violate local coronavirus restrictions. So far, LA has only pulled the plug on one party house. Aaron Schrank reports.
AARON SCHRANK, BYLINE: There's no sign of a party outside the mega mansion in the Hollywood Hills aside from the multiple city violations taped or zip tied to the home's exterior. But neighbors say the problem on their street is getting worse with the pandemic.
DEBBIE STARKMAN: It was never like this, and this seems to be a function of the clubs being closed.
SCHRANK: Debbie Starkman (ph) lives just down the road from the house whose power was shut off. This month, it was rented by a group of TikTok influencers, including one named Bryce Hall, who has 13 million followers on the platform. Last month, it was rappers.
Has there been loud parties frequently?
STARKMAN: Oh, my God - all of July. Quavo and Saweetie - I don't know if you know them.
SCHRANK: I do.
STARKMAN: They were there with their entourages, their respective entourages. It was Saweetie's birthday. They did Ferrari and motorcycle races half the night. It was insane.
SCHRANK: Did you know who Quavo and Saweetie were before they moved in next door?
ARNIE SEMSKY: No.
SCHRANK: Starkman's husband Arnie Semsky (ph) says the house is one of several in the neighborhood doing short-term or party rentals. He hopes the city cutting power to this one will force others to comply.
SEMSKY: I think they were trying to make a statement and warn other houses about the consequences.
SCHRANK: This month, days after another LA mansion party made news, the city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced this new rule.
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ERIC GARCETTI: While we have already closed all nightclubs and bars, these large house parties have essentially become nightclubs in the hills.
SCHRANK: A few days later, the TikTok stars' rented mansion was cited for loud partying and warned that another violation could cause a utility shut off. The next weekend, one of the home's occupants, Bryce Hall, whose merch brand is appropriately called Party Animal, celebrated his 21st birthday at a different party mansion in LA.
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BRYCE HALL: This is about to get so crazy. I appreciate all of you guys for coming out tonight. I turned 21.
SCHRANK: The event was widely shared on, of course, TikTok, showing more than 100 guests, no social distancing, not many masks. That same night, the house Hall rents received another loud party warning. Then last week, after the repeated warnings, the city cut power and water. Hall didn't respond to NPR's request for comment, but over the weekend, he spoke to TMZ.
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HALL: I regretted the party as soon as I threw the party. I was not expecting that many people to come. It happened. Our power got shut off. I deserved it. Now I'm just facing the consequences.
SCHRANK: Under the new rule, police notify the mayor's office of any homes with two or more party violations. The mayor decides whether or not to shut off utilities. Steve Lurie is an LAPD captain in Hollywood.
STEVE LURIE: We don't want to be in the business of doing this, but when you got hundreds of people in close proximity not making any effort to do their part, then the city is going to take action.
SCHRANK: Over the past month, Lurie says LAPD has issued about 40 warnings and 25 repeat warnings. But the mayor only shut off utilities at the one house so far. LA's new way of shutting down party houses may have worked in this case, says UCLA legal scholar Eugene Volokh.
EUGENE VOLOKH: But at the same time, the Constitution limits that kind of thing, even though that means limiting the effectiveness of government.
SCHRANK: Volokh says the rule might violate the Constitution's due process clause, which would require a hearing before the city can disconnect utilities. And he says there are problems with cutting power to homes during a heat wave.
VOLOKH: Today, it may be to some rich person who presumably will have access to air conditioning somewhere else. Maybe they'll check into a hotel.
SCHRANK: But Volokh says if it's allowed here, it could also be allowed for someone who might experience serious health problems if their air conditioning or water is shut off. For NPR News, I'm Aaron Schrank in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.