Kim Kardashian, Kevin Hart and Sylvester Stallone accused of drought restriction violations
They’re among the biggest names in entertainment and sports: Sylvester Stallone, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Hart, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian.
And as Southern California struggles with a third year of punishing drought and unprecedented water restrictions, they may be among the biggest names in water waste in the tony San Fernando Valley enclaves of Calabasas and Hidden Hills, documents obtained by The Times show.
The celebrities were among more than 2,000 customers who recently were issued “notices of exceedance” by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, indicating that they had surpassed 150% of their monthly water budgets at least four times since the agency declared a drought emergency at the end of last year.
Their properties are now subject to the installation of flow restrictor devices, which can reduce showers to a trickle and silence lawn sprinklers.
“Customers are expected to adhere to the water use reductions and water conservation measures that are in place due to this emergency,” the notices read.
In one wealthy Los Angeles County enclave, 70% of water is used outdoors. Officials hope to curb chronic overuse with these custom flow restrictors.
Las Virgenes on June 1 imposed severe “Stage 3” restrictions in an effort to achieve an unprecedented 50% reduction in consumption due to a water shortage emergency. The rules limit outdoor watering to one day a week, with only eight minutes per station on the designated day.
Customers received the notices about their usage in May and June. The Times obtained the documents after filing a request under the California Public Records Act.
Among the addresses that received notices was an $18-million Hidden Hills property, listed under the name of former NBA star Wade, that exceeded its allocated water budget in June by more than 1,400%, or 90,000 gallons. That was an improvement over May, when the property exceeded its budget by 489,000 gallons — more than any other customer.
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Wade and his wife, actor Gabrielle Union, attributed the excess use at their property to a problem with their pool. In a statement, the couple said they have “taken drastic steps to reduce water usage in accordance with the new city guidelines and have since we moved into our home.”
“We have been doing everything we can to rectify the situation and will continue to go to extensive lengths to resolve the issue,” the statement said. “We have replaced all parts of our pool system that [have] to do with water flow and leakage in addition to converting to synthetic grass and drought tolerant plants to reduce our water usage. We will continue to work with the city and the water distribution company to make sure this isn’t an issue moving forward.”
Las Virgenes spokesman Mike McNutt said water budgets for properties are determined by a combination of factors, including the number of residents and the amount of irrigated land.
In the land of multimillion-dollar homes, the question of water conservation plays out differently than in the neighborhoods where the rest of us live.
Also notified for excessive use was an $18-million, 2.26-acre Hidden Hills property owned by Stallone and his wife, model Jennifer Flavin. The property in June used about 533% more than its allocated budget — 230,000 excess gallons. That was an increase from 195,000 excess gallons in May.
In a statement provided to The Times, Stallone’s attorney Marty Singer said the numbers could “mischaracterize and misrepresent the situation regarding the water usage at my client’s property.”
“They have more than 500 mature trees on the property, including innumerable fruit trees as well as pine trees,” the statement read. “Absent adequate watering, in all likelihood they would die. That could result in dead or damaged trees falling on my client’s property or neighboring properties.”
The statement continued: “My client has been addressing the situation responsibly and proactively. They have let grasses die, and other areas are watered by a drip irrigation system. They also notified the city regarding the mature trees, and are awaiting an inspection and further instruction from the city about how to proceed. I am confident that all of the larger properties in the area have similar issues. I therefore trust that my client will not be unfairly singled out in the story because he is a famous person.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — the wholesaler that ordered the cuts after the state slashed supplies this year — has said residents need to cut back to about 80 gallons per person per day in order to maintain critically short supplies.
Las Virgenes, which serves about 75,000 customers in its corner of L.A. County, has acknowledged that its customers are among the highest water users in the region. McNutt said the area has long drawn people looking for large homes and plots of land.
“We’re asking them to not just minimize their water usage, but we’re also asking them, in a way, to just completely rethink what is aesthetically pleasing to them and how that’ll impact their property values,” he said. “And that is not something that happens overnight.”
He added: “It’s not making an excuse up for them, but it is being honest.”
The district overall has made progress, McNutt said. In June 2021, Las Virgenes residents were using about 261 gallons per person per day — more than twice that of the area served by the nearby Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In June 2022, average daily residential use was down to 170 gallons, while overall savings were about 37% more than the same month in 2020, the year the drought began.
“What we’re seeing is our customers have already reduced significant water usages from the last drought, and now we’re asking them to do even more,” McNutt said. “You put it in context — our customers have been doing a really good job.”
But the data make it clear that some are using more than their fair share. In addition to celebrities, the list of addresses that have received notices includes the homes of attorneys, doctors and Hollywood executives.
A 26-acre Calabasas property in the name of actor Hart was on the list in June, when it exceeded its budget by 117,000 gallons, or about 519%, records show.
Additionally, two properties listed under a trust that The Times has confirmed is associated with Kim Kardashian received notices: her Hidden Hills home and its adjacent lot, which together exceeded their June budget by about 232,000 gallons.
Kourtney Kardashian’s 1.86-acre property in nearby Calabasas exceeded its June budget by about 101,000 gallons, the records show.
Representatives for Hart and the Kardashian family did not respond to requests for comment.
After a record-dry start to 2022, California water officials have slashed State Water Project allocations from 15% to 5%.
Though McNutt credited the area for its overall savings, he said conditions in Las Virgenes — as in much of California — have become dire. Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is forecast to lose 10% of its water in the next 20 years due to the effects of global warming.
Las Virgenes is supplementing its reduced supplies from the Metropolitan Water District with water from the Las Virgenes reservoir at a rate of about 17 acre-feet per day, he said. (An acre-foot is enough water to supply two to three families for a year.)
“We’re very far ahead of most, if not all, [agencies], especially when it comes to enforcement, but we have to be — we don’t have a choice,” he said.
The agency has so far installed about 20 flow restrictors and continues to seek out the worst offenders.
While some residents have property managers, landscapers or other people who oversee water use, “you can’t argue” that the responsibility ultimately falls to the homeowner, McNutt said.
He said he hopes to see celebrities use their influence to demonstrate what a more drought-tolerant California could look like.
“People listen to you, people look at you, people value what you do.... We need you to step up to the plate, to be examples and to be leaders so that other people will follow,” he said. “That is the most critical thing that anybody in that bracket, or that has those resources, can do to influence and help with other people’s behavior modifications.”
It’s not the first time Las Virgenes’ customers have come under heat for their use of water. The area was similarly criticized for maintaining its green lawns during the last drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Times researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
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