Friday means the work week is over and the weekend is about to begin, bringing with it rest and relaxation. But for some residents in Triunfo Canyon, Friday is a time of stress.
Residents are upset that two properties in the area, Brookview Ranch and Triunfo Creek Vineyards, host weddings and other commercial events nearly every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening between spring and fall.
The problem is mainly with noise. It started two years ago, and residents say it’s only gotten worse. As bright lights spoil the night sky and loud music and drunken shouting echoes through the canyon, neighbors say they are forced to remain indoors with their windows closed.
Resident Steve Gilbard said this summer has been particularly unpleasant.
“We usually eat outdoors all summer long. We wait until around 8 o’clock when the sun gets low, then we go outside and eat. There’s a beautiful breeze and the temperature is perfect,” Gilbard said.
“That’s been impossible, especially this year. They’ve been so active that we’ve gone outside two or three times and given up. Twice when we had guests and we just had to go inside because there’s people yelling and there’s music playing it’s like being in a bad disco.”
Gilbard and his neighbors say they call the sheriff every weekend, but nothing gets done. The facilities have county permits to host events, so deputies don’t shut them down. But local law says that even with a permit, a business can’t become a nuisance and disturb the peace.
Nicole Englund, a deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, said the L.A. County noise ordinance by which the Triunfo businesses must abide is based on the ambient noise level for the entire county, a number far higher than the average sound levels in the canyon.
“We’ve done monitoring out there numerous times, and because the noise standard isn’t reflective of what you hear out there, it’s a much higher level, they’ve not been out of compliance, (so) there’s nothing for us to enforce,” Englund said.
“If deputies go out there and they believe that the level of noise, regardless of if it’s under the county noise standard or not, is such that it’s disturbing the peace, then that’s up to them whether or not they want to issue some kind of citation under that code section,” she said.
Yet, nothing changes, the residents say.
“I’ve had the sheriffs stand at my barbecue on more than one occasion this summer alone and they go, ‘this would drive me crazy,’” Gilbard said. “One of them used some rather colorful language to tell me how bad it would drive him crazy. He said, ‘all you can do is keep on calling us.’ But at some point this becomes an exercise in futility because we just become aggravated.”
Both Brookview and Triunfo have an outdoor dance pavilion, which allows them to host events.
Brookview Ranch owner Tom Knapp said he’s been trying to put an enclosure around his outdoor venue to minimize the noise, but progress has been slow because of the various county agencies whose approval he needs to erect the structure. He estimates the work will take about a year.
Bill Webb lives across the street from Brookview. He met Knapp shortly after the problem began and said Knapp was initially receptive to the concerns and even offered his phone number. Webb invited Knapp onto his property during a Brookview event to demonstrate the problem firsthand.
“It had been about a year that we’d been communicating (at that point). I explained I’d put 14 years into building my house, myself. I poured concrete and laid bricks. We built it to enjoy the environment,” Webb said. “I said, ‘in one year you’ve destroyed that. When you’re having a party we can’t come out and relax and enjoy ourselves.’ There’s even a couple of instances where we’ve had people here and we had to go inside because the sound was that disturbing. If I play music I put a little piano jazz on and I can’t even begin to compete.”
Soon, Webb said, Knapp stopped responding to his messages. Webb believes the problem has escalated. In the past, events started in May and were held through September, but this year, he said, both the calendar for both venues shows events through November.
Jacqui Lorenzen, operator of Triunfo Creek Vineyards, said she sympathizes with neighbors, but that she has a right to run her business in the canyon. The neighborhood is zoned for resort and recreational usage.
“Our neighbors across the street are also in resort recreational zoning. That’s not a primary use for that zoning; they’re choosing to have a residence (there). And we’re fine with that,” Lorenzen said.
“We’ve reached out to neighbors and asked what else we can do, what would make them happy. Those that are willing to work with us, we work with them. We go above and beyond what the county asks because we do realize people live in the area and we want to respect that. We just want to coexist,” the Triunfo operator said.
Knapp hired Burbank-based Afriat Consulting Group to conduct a survey of residents to see how familiar they are with the venue and what their grievances are. Afriat said they surveyed 16 of 86 homes in the canyon, 14 of which are on Lobo Canyon Road, a neighboring street. The two party venues lie on Triunfo Canyon Road. Critics say more Triunfo homes should have been surveyed.
Residents hope the problem can be resolved. The Santa Monica Mountains North Area Plan—which defines zoning and property uses in a portion of the Santa Monica Mountains—is being updated for the first time since 2000. A draft released on Oct. 1 outlined several steps to keep commercial venues from disturbing their neighbors.
Englund said the county is hoping to complete the document revision by June.
Next week, an important L.A. County plan that governs the party venues undergoes change. Meanwhile, protests mount.