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Deadly shootings highlight Airbnb’s house party problem

A shooting at a Sunnyvale, Calif. house listed on Airbnb left an 18-year-old dead and another person injured last weekend.
(Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 11. I’m Justin Ray.

A shooting at a Sunnyvale, Calif. house left an 18-year-old dead and another person injured last weekend. The incident raises questions about how Airbnb is monitoring listings.

Officers responded to a music disturbance from a large party on Saturday at 10:19 p.m., police said. When they arrived, they encountered an estimated 150 to 200 attendees, many who were ages 16 to 19.

While officers were trying to figure out who the homeowner was, they heard gunshots. They found two adult victims, who were taken to a hospital, where one — identified as Elias Elhania, according to NBC Bay Area — died. The other person is expected to survive.

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Police confirmed to The Times that the property was being rented out through Airbnb. But Sunnyvale requires residents to apply to become hosts on the platform. Police said they have no record of an application for the property.

Fliers posted on social media ahead of the party billed it as “Turn Up Pt. 2” and charged an entrance fee, according to the Mercury News. For girls, the party was free if they got there before 10 p.m., and $5 after that. For men, the price was $10 before 10 p.m., and $15 after. The flier said the party was to begin at 9:30 p.m., while the end time was stated as a cop and flashing light emoji, appearing to indicate the party would continue until the police shut it down.

“We saw a bunch of kids walking that looked like they were definitely minors and holding alcohol in various states of consciousness,” neighbor Henry Alexander III told ABC 7 News. “I remember one girl running up and she was sobbing saying somebody got shot, somebody got hit.”

The incident was at least the fourth shooting at an Airbnb in Northern California in two years, the Mercury News reported. In 2019, the company banned “house parties” after five people were killed at an Airbnb rental property in Orinda on Halloween.

“We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said at the time.

But Saturday’s deadly shooting raises questions about how well listings are monitored. The party was thrown without the consent of the host of the house, Airbnb said in a statement to The Times. The company also deactivated the listing following the incident.

“Airbnb bans parties, and we condemn the senseless gun violence that took place in Sunnyvale,” spokesperson Aaron Swor said in an emailed statement. “Our dedicated safety team is urgently working to support those impacted by this tragedy, and we are working with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety to offer our assistance with their investigation.”

Authorities have not identified any suspects and ask anyone with information to contact Detective Corrine Abernathy at (408) 730-7134 or by calling (408) 730-7100.

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Here is more information about the circumstances around the shooting in Orinda.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

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L.A. STORIES

One of the region’s most prolific apartment builders has sued the city of Los Angeles over its COVID-19 eviction moratorium, saying his companies have experienced astronomical financial losses and are legally entitled to compensation from the city. GHP Management, owned by real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, said in its lawsuit that 12 buildings it manages have experienced more than $20 million in lost rental income as a result of the measure. When asked about the filing, City Atty. Mike Feuer defended the moratorium, saying his office wrote a “lawful ordinance” that has kept tenants from becoming homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles Times

Bam Margera is suing Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks, Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze and others, alleging he was discriminated against and unfairly fired from “Jackass Forever” so the studios and producers could steal the movie franchise, his attorneys said Monday. Margera also wants an injunction against the film’s release. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. “Jackass Forever,” which is in postproduction, is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters Oct. 22. Reps for Tremaine, Knoxville and their company, Dickhouse Productions, did not respond immediately to a request for comment, nor did a representative for Paramount Pictures. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Larry Elder’s outspoken conservative radio rhetoric under scrutiny in recall election. Elder, a leading candidate in the race to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom in next month’s recall election, has made many controversial statements. He has on occasion fueled climate change skepticism, depicting global warming as a crock and a myth. He said the medical establishment and “professional victims” have overblown the danger from secondhand tobacco smoke. Los Angeles Times

The Senate on Tuesday approved an expansive bill to rebuild the nation’s aging roads and bridges, with $8.3 billion specifically targeted to water infrastructure projects in the West and billions more to fund national projects to mitigate the affect of wildfires. The plan, which is the first portion of President Biden’s Build Back Better program, will next go to the House, where it faces challenges from progressives. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

‘A betrayal you can’t even put into words.’ Long Beach has owned the Queen Mary as a tourist attraction since 1967, but for years it has leased the ship to various operators that have struggled to make a profit. A little-known real estate investment firm had big plans for the Queen Mary, but now they owe hundreds of millions to an array of creditors — and the fate of the city’s most famous asset is more uncertain than ever: “This was clearly an operator that did not live up to its commitments.” Long Beach Post

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A massive fire in downtown Modesto in June was the result of arson, according to the Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigation Unit. The four-alarm blaze at American Lumber Co. caused as much as $2 million in damage to the facility and inventory. No arrests have been made in the case. Modesto Bee

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Delta variant is sucking the joy out of back-to-school 2021. Back-to-school 2021, with California campuses fully open for 6 million children, was supposed to herald relief — even celebration — for a mostly normal school year ahead. But a surge in the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has reignited parents’ anxiety; for many, the safety and quality of schooling once again feel uncertain and tenuous. “I wanted to be excited about a new school year, but now I am having to think: ‘Am I putting our health at risk by going to school in person?’” says parent Irma Villalpando. Los Angeles Times

Women in masks in classroom
Dr. Smita Malhotra and Dr. Rosina Franco listen to Josefina Flores, Euclid Avenue Elementary School principal, speak.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

How Ron Popeil perfected the art of the infomercial. Ron Popeil — sometimes called “America’s Salesman” — died last month at 86. It was sudden, his family said, and peaceful. Popeil and his company were based in SoCal. TV critic Robert Lloyd explains Popeil’s magic: “Without television, Popeil would have been a name on a box; with television, he was Thomas Edison.” Los Angeles Times

Workers performing infrastructure upgrades at Santa Cruz High School discovered human remains. The school, along with much of the city, is known to sit over areas where civilizations have existed for thousands of years. The discovery in July halted the project for two weeks as archeologists and tribal members investigated it. “The district is working closely with the tribal community, specifically Indian Canyon Mutsun Band of Coastanoan and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, in all aspects of the work,” Santa Cruz City School District spokesman Sam Rolens said. Good Times

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Warm, warm, warm, 88. San Diego: I’m a big fan of smoothies. A great day for them! 78. San Francisco: Have you ever had Frosé (Frozen Rosé)? I’ve had it a few times. It is hit or miss but if you know a great Frosé place let me know. 71. San Jose: 86. Fresno: 107. Sacramento: 104.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Malcolm Edwards:

My favorite all time California Dreamin’ memory is the weekend camping trips up to Crystal Lake campground in the late 1950s into the ‘60s as a child with Dad and my two brothers. Camping was a surplus tarp with sleeping bags laid out and the tall pines reached up to heaven at night. Meals were bacon and eggs for breakfast and hotdogs for dinner, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. The trips inspired a later lifetime career as a forest ranger and I still make periodic visits to Crystal Lake. The anticipation of three days in the woods was always this kid’s dream come true.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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