Steve August 19, 2020
la.-cuts-utilities-to-‘party-house’-in-hollywood-hills

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered utilities cut off Wednesday at a home where “several” parties have been held in violation of social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic, his office said.

Garcetti had vowed on Aug. 5 to disconnect utilities at homes where local laws prohibiting large gatherings are repeatedly violated.

“With more than 2,000 Angelenos — and over 170,000 Americans — lost to COVID-19, we need every resident to undertake critical safeguards to stop the spread of this virus,” he said in a statement. “That includes not hosting or attending parties that put themselves, their neighbors, and many others at risk.”

The residence was described by city officials only as “a house in the Hollywood Hills that had hosted several large parties in violation of public health orders.” Events took place there Aug. 8 and Aug. 14, the mayor’s office said.

Both times, police posted warnings that utilities would be cut off, the mayor’s office said. Such locations have sometimes turned into surrogates for a nightlife scene that has all but disappeared amid state orders that have closed bars and clubs to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

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“Despite several warnings, this house has turned into a nightclub in the hills, hosting large gatherings in flagrant violation of our public health orders,” Garcetti said. “The City has now disconnected utilities at this home to stop these parties that endanger our community.”

The mayor’s Aug. 5 announcement that he would use utilities as a weapon against noncompliant locations came a day after a woman was fatally shot at a Los Angeles mansion party that had been visited earlier by police who did not shut down the festivities.

In March, police in riot gear broke up a birthday party for a 1-year-old in South Los Angeles after receiving reports of a disturbance in the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood. A police spokesman said the action was not related to social distancing violations.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a question about why he doesn’t order police to break up parties on the spot, but it appears the Los Angeles Police Department has done so since the fatal shooting.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the LAPD shut down a party in the Hollywood Hills over the weekend that was believed to have been hosted by social media stars.

The issue has become a sore spot at City Hall, where Garcetti has been caught between appeasing the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the rank-and-file police union that supported his mayoral ambitions, and law enforcement critics who want to defund the police in the wake of George Floyd‘s death in May.

In an Aug. 9 tweet, the police union accused Garcetti of being a “political contortionist” and told him to use “civilian staff” instead of sworn officers to handle utilities issues.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s office said police were doing the work of warning party hosts that their water and power would be shut off.

“If we wish to reopen more businesses, return our kids to school, or get back to our normal lives, we must continue to wear masks, wash our hands frequently, and as we’re emphasizing today, avoid gathering with others,” Garcetti said. “All of these actions save lives.”

Image: Dennis RomeroDennis Romero

Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.

Diana Dasrath

contributed.

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