Organizers often charge entrance fees and run cash bars for the events organized by secret mailing lists and word-of-mouth.
One invitation sent for an “underground” Prohibition era-themed party last weekend promised a “private, multi-level, 100% outdoor venue.”
According to Hollywood United Neighborhood Council president and resident George Skarpelos, pre-pandemic there were 10 to 15 parties each weekend night but “now there’s like 50.”
“You think to yourself, ‘Look, I understand that you guys feel cooped up and you want to hang out and have a good time.’ We all do, right?” said Skarpelos.
“But I feel that there’s a lot of people who kind of throw caution to the wind.”
The lawlessness of an underground house party scene increases the danger of things going wrong.
“Noise is my last concern, believe it or not,” said Ryu. “We’ve had major fires three years in a row… you have people on the balconies smoking. Where do you think those cigarette butts go?”
With cars illegally parked several vehicles deep on winding roads, emergency officials are often unable to reach the homes.
In some cases the homeowners may not even be aware of the parties, and most include clauses in rental contracts forbidding events.
But Skarpelos believes there is often “a wink and a nod” to such rental agreements.
“They’re like, ‘Ok, maybe I’ll rent it out to this shady guy who says he’ll give me $50,000 cash,'” he said.
While the house involved in the deadly shooting is advertised as a retreat for feng shui and environmentalism, its social media accounts carry videos of Brazilian dancers and scantily clad waitresses serving champagne.
The property managers told AFP they had “absolutely no prior knowledge of this large mansion party.”
With fines up to $8,000 simply absorbed by promoters as the cost of doing business, new legislation Ryu hopes to pass within three to six months would stiffen penalties for homeowners, including occupancy bans.
Nonetheless, Hills house parties have survived crackdowns in the past — and the city’s rich and powerful appear determined to play by their own rules.
“It’s more pronounced in the Hills because you get the amazing view… whether it’s the Hollywood sign, or you can see downtown LA,” admitted Ryu.
“It’s majestic, it’s beautiful up there… I mean, it’s LA!”