Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica House of Rock Offers Peace Ahead of Emergency Zoning Ordinance Vote
By Jason Islas
October 23, 2012 -- Ahead of Tuesday's Council meeting, where a vote could determine whether single-family houses can be used as events venues, attorneys representing The House of Rock in Santa Monica have offered a compromise.
In hopes of avoiding an emergency ordinance that would prevent houses from being used for events with 150 people or more, attorneys representing the owners of the House of Rock in Santa Monica's wealthy La Mesa Drive neighborhood sent a letter to the Council listing proposed solutions to concerns neighbors had about the use of the house. ("Santa Monica Council Wants Emergency Ordinance in Response to House of Rock," October 4, 2012)
“Given how well the City of Hope event went,” the letter said, referring to an October 18 charity event held at the house, “the Owners pledge to conduct their remaining few charitable events in the same conscientious, efficient manner, and propose to implement additional measures to ensure that they can raise money for worthwhile causes while not disturbing their neighbors.”
The letter goes on to list several conditions that the owners pledge to meet, including ending future events by 10:30 p.m. and assuring that the street not be clogged with guests cars by renting shuttles to ferry guests to and from the venue.
“I'd like to see this settled easy and put this all behind us, rather than go with an emergency ordinance we'll probably never need again,” said Council member Bob Holbrook Monday.
The controversy started in early September when neighbors complained about an event the owner -- designer Elaine Culotti -- hosted an event for Music Unites, a non-profit dedicated to bringing music education to underprivileged children.
Neighbors turned out in droves to an October 3 Council meeting to complain about events hosted at the house, saying that there had been street blockages and chaos on the block.
But, after the October 18 event, some are more optimistic that this can be resolved without passing an emergency ordinance.
“It looks like they've got their act together,” said Holbrook. “I'll feel good if this thing has calmed down.”
But Ben Reznick, the attorney representing the owners of the House of Rock, called the ordinance “an extreme measure.”
“The problem is here that they're trying to keep large events from happening. They're writing an ordinance that's trying to target people's ability to sell their homes,” said Reznick.
“If someone's house is for sale and your daughter is having a wedding and there are more than 150 people, is that a commercial purpose?” he asked, rhetorically.
Mayor Richard Bloom, one of the two Council members who brought the issue up at the October 3 meeting, disagreed.
“It's not an extreme measure and the circumstances that prompted this measure are unlike anything we've seen in Santa Monica.”
Nonetheless, the House of Rock matter has found its way onto the Council's list of closed-session items, suggesting that litigation may be in the offing.
A letter dated October 22 from Reznick's office lays the groundwork for a possible lawsuit, claiming that the ordinance “fails the basic requirements of an emergency ordinance, both under state law and the City charter.”
“It is replete with Constitutional violations, including Equal Protection and Due Process violations and substantial and impermissible restrictions on freedom of association,” the letter reads.
“It's not that unusual for cities to have ordinances that address party houses,” Bloom said. “I think we're going to need an ordinance no matter what.”
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