L.A. Will Now Shut Off Utilities at “COVID Party Houses”

The Slatest
A house on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, where gunfire erupted at a large party on Tuesday. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Since a pandemic isn’t enough to deter the partiers among us, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has come up with another incentive against summer blowouts. Starting Friday, the city will shut off water and power service to properties hosting large, unauthorized parties.

Garcetti announced these plans during a Wednesday briefing. “If the LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occurring at a property, and we see these properties reoffending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that [the Department of Water and Power] shut off service within the next 48 hours,” he said. Though novel, this approach seems like it could be yet another coronavirus mitigation half-measure: He did not specify a definition of “large,” only citing parties with “dozens or hundreds of people,” and although he said utilities could be shut off “after a first violation,” he did not offer additional details.

He clarified that enforcement won’t apply to hosts of small get-togethers, though Garcetti hopes L.A. residents will put gatherings of all sizes on hold for now. (In L.A. County, all gatherings, no matter the size, are prohibited.) Instead, the mandate only applies to those who are “determined to break the rules” and whose actions pose a threat to public health. This includes owners of houses, businesses, and all other venues that continue to host events.

Large parties persist throughout L.A. County, often taking place in vacant homes that are rented out for events. The L.A. Times reported that shortly after the mayor’s announcement, police responded to noise complaints in connection with a massive party at a mansion, where maskless attendees were taking photos and dancing. Earlier this week, the famed Mulholland Drive mansion made headlines when more than 200 people congregated there, many of whom were maskless. (The night ended in a deadly shooting.) And last week, organizers of a “first responders party” rented out a Los Angeles bar, the Sassafras Saloon. Though the bar’s owners claimed to think that guests would adhere to safety precautions and socially distance, one activist group reported that maskless partiers were dancing and drinking inside.

Garcetti isn’t the only one on the offensive against summer revelers. Also on Wednesday, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion to ramp up penalties against property owners of “COVID party houses.” Similar to Garcetti’s plan, the motion threatened to shut off utilities if people fail to abide by public health orders. Additionally, Ryu called on the city to revoke certificates of occupancy and prohibit permits among bad actors.

Ryu and Garcetti are justly alarmed by the L.A. party scene, as officials fear young people are driving the statewide spike in cases. About 60 percent of new coronavirus cases are among L.A. residents between the ages of 18 and 49. Cases occurring in people between the ages of 30 and 49 have nearly tripled since the beginning of June, and health officials warn that patients aged 18 to 29 account for over twice the proportion of hospitalizations than they did in April. And, according to Johns Hopkins University, Los Angeles County has more total coronavirus cases than any other county in the U.S.

This prompted a warning from Barbara Ferrer, the director of public health. “A young person going to a party can then go back home and infect their parents or older relatives, causing them great harm,” she said. “We can and will one day get to the point where hanging out with a group of friends is possible—but we aren’t there yet.”

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