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For-profit party at La Cañada house leads officials to a homeowner battling squatters

Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Todd Deeds and a team of detectives investigate. (Photo by
Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Todd Deeds and a team of detectives investigate a case of potential squatters at a home at 4465 Gould Ave. that played host Saturday to a for-profit party without the homeowner’s permission.
(Sara Cardine / La Canada Valley Sun)

Concerns about the legality of a for-profit party that attracted hundreds to an unoccupied Gould Avenue mansion Saturday have drawn La Cañada city officials and sheriff’s detectives into a complicated tale of ownership, vacancy and tenants’ rights.

On Tuesday, neighbors flocked to a meeting of the La Cañada Flintridge City Council to share their shock and frustration with a large soiree — advertised on social media as “L.A. Aquaholic Summer mansion pool party” by an organizer selling tickets online — which brought hundreds of scantily clad pool party attendees into La Cañada’s business and residential areas throughout the evening.

La Cañada Flintridge pool party letter
A statement from the La Cañada Flintridge City Council about the pool party on Gould Avenue.
(La Cañada Flintridge City Council)

Party-goers were picked up by a shuttle in the parking lot outside the Foothill Boulevard T.J. Maxx and taken to an undisclosed location later determined to be 4465 Gould Ave., just south of Foothill. Once inside, they swam, danced, drank and made merry, according to videos taken at the event and posted online.

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“We had a lot of cars parked on the street. Toward the evening, around 7 o’ clock, some of them came back and were sitting on the hoods of their cars smoking and drinking. We had to pick up empty bottles of cognac and beer,” Oakwood homeowner Silva Karafilis told the City Council on Tuesday. “What is the responsibility of the homeowner, and why was this even allowed in our city?”

Speakers shared their worry about another party — Soak City 2K19, which promises patrons a slip n’ slide and an inflatable bull for $10 to $40 admission — being promoted online for July 6, also in La Cañada, although no address is listed.

la-1560983337-nhdepqrjpy-snap-image
Several residents turned out to a meeting of the La Cañada Flintridge City Council Tuesday to share frustration with a disruptive for-profit pool party at a home Saturday that brought hundreds of young people into local streets.
(Sara Cardine / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Such events clearly violate the city’s municipal code, which prohibits people from charging for admission to parties held in a residence. Looking for immediate redress Saturday, neighbors called city officials and the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station to report disturbances and violations.

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Lt. Mark Slater said Monday the station received four calls of disturbing the public starting at 6 p.m., two of which expressly mentioned the Gould Avenue party. One resident reported a suspicious person throwing trash out of a vehicle on Foothill at Indianola Way at 9 p.m. and another call came in at about 9:30 about a male and female fighting in a parking lot on the 400 block of Foothill.

Deputies went to the Gould address, and a helicopter was called in, but not much legal action could be taken, Slater said.

“It was an online [promoted] event, so it’s hard to prove people paid money for the tickets because there was no cash at the door,” the lieutenant said. “Still, we’re trying to get on this quickly, before July 6, so we’re ready to go by the next one.”

When officials began to investigate whether the owner of the property — reported by the county assessor’s office as Edmond Mirzakhanian — had sanctioned Saturday’s party they discovered a battle over residency had been brewing for months.

“It’s a nightmare house. We really need to keep an eye on this.”
Donna Ford, La Cañada resident

Outside the home Tuesday afternoon, Mirzakhanian stood with Glendale real estate broker Arthur Ambarachyan and a handful of neighbors as sheriff’s officials attempted to post a five-day notice to vacate the property.

When escrow closed April 22 of this year, Mirzakhanian filed for a writ of eviction because a man had been found residing at the home. When he moved out, the owner and his broker thought the battle was over and turned on the home’s power, but soon afterward more squatters moved in.

“Now we have to deal with this,” Mirzakhanian said, showing on his phone how occupants drove up the electric bill to nearly $900 in May. “And they could sue us — these people know what they’re doing.”

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California law offers tenants basic protection from the threat of immediate eviction, which can extend to squatters who’ve lived there long enough, paid bills or can produce a lease agreement. Those who meet certain thresholds can even obtain “adverse possession” of a property. But even when there’s no proof of tenancy, owners may be required to give up to 60 days’ notice before evicting.

La Cañada resident Donna Ford, who’s lived down the street from 4465 Gould for nearly 15 years, said the property has been plagued with ownership problems.

“It’s a nightmare house,” said Ford, standing on a driveway across the street as sheriff’s officials exited the home on Tuesday. “We really need to keep an eye on this.”

Ford and fellow neighbor Natasha Gundersen said while Saturday’s party was loud, poor event planning was the most troublesome issue. When the party was over, young people were left to wait for an overburdened shuttle.

Ford said cars on Gould Avenue had been towed, and she speculated many attendants likely walked back to the T.J. Maxx parking lot where they’d initially picked up the party shuttle, forced into the streets by necessity in their inadequate swimming attire.

“I personally think it’s unfair to blame the kids,” she said. “I think it’s the organizers’ fault.”

Disruptive for-profit parties are on the rise in affluent communities, where absentee owners, short-term home rentals and bank foreclosures create conditions ripe for exploitation. Last year Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, whose District 4 includes Sherman Oaks and the Hollywood Hills, introduced an ordinance that imposes strict increasing penalties, including criminal prosecution, for organizers and homeowners connected to unlawful parties.

“When we did that, literally overnight, even before the ordinance went into effect, it cut the party house problem in half,” Ryu said. “But there are folks out there who are still willing to roll the dice — it’s still that lucrative.”

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At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Crescenta Valley Station Capt. Todd Deeds said the homeowner was not involved with Saturday’s party and that organizers had been called and put on notice that the sheriff’s department would be “closely monitoring” the situation to ensure the July 6 party does not take place.

City Manager Mark Alexander said staff members are working with the city attorney’s office to seek legal action should another for-profit party be held.

“They are authorized to have the city prosecutor pursue a continued court-ordered injunction against any party on July 6, so we are moving forward with that, just in case,” he said.

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