CITY HALL — Residents of La Mesa Drive will have something else to be thankful for this holiday season.
The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to outlaw the use of residential properties as event facilities in reaction to complaints from dozens of La Mesa residents about a property owner hosting lavish, disruptive parties as a ploy to market her home for sale.
As of mid-December, no one will be allowed to operate a single-family home as an “event facility” used for gatherings of over 150 people or risk being charged with an infraction or misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or a six-month jail sentence.
The ordinance will not stop parties at the so-called “House of Rock,” which scheduled its last event for Dec. 8, before the ordinance will take affect. The council chose not to take action on an alternate “emergency” ordinance that would have prohibited the events immediately.
That’s OK, said Richard Corlin, a resident of La Mesa Drive who has been one of the leading proponents of the ordinance.
From an emotional point of view, it would have been nice to see the events stop altogether, he said Tuesday night, but it was sufficient that the problem would not arise again.
Elaine Culotti, the owner of the home and member of the team in charge of the events, said in an e-mail Wednesday that she doubted the prohibition would impact anyone, anywhere.
“It’s a gratuitous ordinance crafted to appease the few neighbors that hoodwinked the mayor and pro tem during the days leading up to the election into believing we were really out of control,” Culotti wrote.
A handful of those opposed to the parties at the “House of Rock” did contribute to Mayor Richard Bloom’s campaign for the 50th State Assembly seat.
The problem came to light when Culotti, a designer, and her business partners opened the doors to the “House of Rock,” a landmarked building on La Mesa Drive that belonged to the late Kathryn Grayson until her death in 2010.
Culotti turned it into a “design home,” assigning friends in the design industry to different rooms and tasking them with a musical theme. The result was an eye-catching array of styles, like rooms with chains dripping down from the ceilings or walls hung with art depicting rock ‘n’ roll icons.
Each room had its own microphone panel to literally transform the home into a musical instrument capable of recording sound. If that was not enough, a professional recording studio was installed in the attic of the home.
Professional musicians used it to record between parties.
She began to hold large, high-priced events, each benefiting a different charity in an effort to get people exposed to the house in the run-up to a supposed sale at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013.
This drew complaints from neighbors who claimed that the parties — which involved live music and valet service — were disruptive and loud. Residents claimed to find naked people in the streets the morning after an event, and said that vehicles ferrying guests to the home blocked the street and caused safety concerns.
They tried to get an emergency ordinance passed that would stop the events cold.
Culotti fired back.
Neither the City Attorney’s Office nor Code Enforcement had found any problem with her operation, she told council members at an Oct. 23 meeting, a model that she had pursued many times in Santa Monica without trouble.
And while the owner did intend to make money off of the sale of the house, which would be made easier through the hype inspired by the parties, Culotti, her business partners nor “House of Rock” LLC made money off of the events themselves.
“There’s not a model to make money physically at the house, which I think is what you’re getting at,” she told the council on Oct. 23. “I hope we can separate those two things.”
Although council members considered banning events at the home immediately through the emergency ordinance, they decided to give the home one last chance at its Oct. 30 event promoted by popular radio station KIIS FM.
Speakers painted a near-apocalyptic vision of thousands of people descending on the street after an errant tweet revealed the location of “SIIK FM Halloween Party,” drawing KIIS FM fans from all over Los Angeles.
If the home caused a disruption, council members reasoned, they would enact the emergency ordinance on Nov. 13.
According to city officials, there were no problems that night, and police reported only one noise complaint between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.