The Los Angeles mayor is cracking down on illegal house parties.
On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced he has authorized the Department of Water and Power to shut off utilities to homes that host large gatherings, which are prohibited under coronavirus restrictions.
"While we have already closed all bars and nightclubs, these large house parties have essentially become nightclubs in the hills," he said during a press conference, as reported by Deadline.
Garcetti explained that once the LAPD verifies there were repeated violations committed at a home, the residents' water and power will be cut off within 48 hours. He said county health inspectors and other city representatives will keep an eye out for large gatherings at city homes, and will report potential violations to law enforcement.
"We will not act lightly, but we will act," he said, before he was questioned about the legality of the move. "You’re breaking the law. Just as we can shut down bars breaking alcohol laws, in places that are in criminal violations, we can shut them down ... We can actually do the power or water shutoff after a first violation, but we like to educate, not enforce."
The announcement came just hours after LA City Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion that threatened harsher penalties—including utility shutoffs—against homeowners who violate the large gathering ordinance.
The motion reads in part:
Property owners in Los Angeles, particularly those adjacent to now-closed Hollywood nightlife locations, have been responsible for renting out residences as “party houses.” These locations are endangering all Angelenos by enabling large, close-contact, largely maskless gatherings, in direct violation of City Emergency Orders and County Health Orders. In addition to the current fines available for use in gaining compliance at these locations, properties which are used to flout public health guidance have violated the public trust, endangered lives, and should be shuttered by having their Certificates of Occupancy revoked and water and power shut off.
According to the Los Feliz Ledger, Ryu highlighted the dangers of these house parties while introducing the motion. He pointed to the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the city, and argued officials should up their efforts to prevent further spread of the virus; this includes cutting off water and power as well as revoking certificates of occupancy from homeowners who are putting the community at risk.
"Despite a pandemic that has killed thousands in Los Angeles, some homeowners are choosing to put everyone at risk by renting out their homes to massive house parties," Ryu said. "This is irresponsible bordering on deadly, and it must be stopped. Whether it takes shutting off utilities or revoking their permits, we must do what it takes to shut these party houses down."