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Santa Monica 'party house' giving neighbors a hangover

October 23, 2012 |  8:33 am

Photo: The House of Rock design showcase has drawn criticism for large parties. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Never mind the simple open house with hors d'oeuvres and soothing background music to sell homes. Big, loud, raucous parties are the latest marketing scheme for prime Santa Monica real estate.

Or at least for a golf course-adjacent home on affluent La Mesa Drive. The owner of the 10,000-square-foot mansion has repurposed it for parties, set up a company named House of Rock to help market it and hosted hundreds of guests who have streamed through the home since September. Neighbors have complained about noise and lights, traffic congestion and safety -- and even naked partygoers sleeping off a long night in their cars.

The Santa Monica City Council will decide Tuesday whether to pass an emergency ordinance that could bar such festivities by prohibiting residential property owners from hosting more than 150 people at a time at a home-marketing event. Violators could be slapped with a misdemeanor -- which could carry a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both -- or an infraction, which could bring a fine of up to $250.

The issue turns on whether the parties are commercial activities that can be banned in a residential neighborhood. Christopher Harding, a Santa Monica attorney representing two neighbors, said they are and should be banned to avoid disrupting the neighbors.

But Benjamin M. Reznik, an attorney for Greg Briles and Elaine Culotti, principal owners of the property, emphasized that neither marketing a home nor running charitable events qualifies as commercial activity. City officials say no ordinances have been violated.

"This is a sledgehammer approach to a nonexistent problem," Reznik said. "You're creating a law that infringes on every citizen's 1st Amendment right to free association."

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-- Matt Stevens in Santa Monica

Photo: The House of Rock design showcase has drawn criticism for large parties. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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