Los Angeles police can shut off water and power to homes hosting parties, mayor says

The Los Angeles mayor has announced a crackdown on house parties, authorizing the city to shut off water and power to homes that host events following reports of hundreds of people gathering in violation of Covid regulations.

“These large house parties have essentially become nightclubs in the hills,” Eric Garcetti said on Wednesday, arguing the events can become “superspreaders” of coronavirus as bars and nightlife in the city remain shut.

Starting on Friday night, the mayor announced, police are authorized to request that the city’s department of water and power disconnect service to houses and businesses within 48 hours, he said.

The unusual threat comes as southern California continues to battle an alarming resurgence in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. Last month, Garcetti conceded that Los Angeles appeared to have reopened too soon, and the mayor has warned that he may have to order a return to stricter lockdown rules if the region is unable to control the outbreaks.

Garcetti specifically pointed to a gathering Monday night at a mansion in the posh Beverly Crest neighborhood where hundreds of people appeared to have partied without masks or social distancing. Helicopter news footage showed a DJ on a balcony, people crowded around a pool and a food truck and dozens of cars on the long driveway.

That party ended in a shooting that killed a woman and wounded two other people.

Officers had been called to the mansion on Mulholland Drive hours before the shooting because of neighbors’ complaints. Police asked some people to move double-parked cars but did not break up the gathering, a police official said.

Few people at the party appeared to be wearing masks or following guidelines for social distancing amid the pandemic, despite the city’s department of public health having banned parties of all sizes.

Garcetti’s crackdown comes weeks after the controversial YouTube star Jake Paul threw a large house party in the nearby city of Calabasas, home to a number of celebrity mansions. Paul has faced widespread backlash for saying he was “not the type of person who’s gonna sit around and not live my life” in an Insider interview.

On Wednesday, FBI agents, including a Swat team, served a search warrant at Paul’s mansion. The Calabasas mayor, Alicia Weintraub, has criticized Paul and said the city would be shutting down gatherings and issuing $100 fines to people not wearing masks.

The pandemic has caused disproportionate suffering in high-poverty areas of southern California, and in LA county, Latino residents are twice as likely to have been infected than white people. Some of the most worrying outbreaks have taken place at workplaces, including garment factories and warehouse facilities where low-wage lack basic protections.

As of Thursday, more than 9,800 people have died of the coronavirus in California.

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