Some A-list celebrities with multi-million dollar mansions in and around the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County have water budgets like any other home in the local water district, but afound that many of them exceeded their allotted amount.
“It’s been like this for 3 to 4 weeks,” Mike Hazan said, referring to the brown grass in front of his home in Agoura Hills. “It stinks a bit.”
Since a drought emergency took effect in the Las Virgenes water area last December, people have been urged to save.
Watering is only allowed once a week and everyone has a water budget. Those who go beyond this face fines. Staying on budget has resulted in brown grass at Hazan’s house.
“I think I’m doing my part. I’m trying to do my part,” Hazan said.
While doing his part, the water district supports about 75,000 residents and relies on a dangerously low water supply. The district encompasses the sprawling hills of multi-million dollar mansions in the western part of the county.
According to water district public records obtained by CBS LA, some celebrities are not following the rules that everyone should follow.
For example: reality star Kourtney Kardashian, who lives in an $8 million home in Calabasas. Water records obtained by CBS LA show the home, which is listed under a trust, used 245% of its allocated water budget in May — the fourth month in which it has gone over budget.
Sylvester Stallone’s $18 million mansion in a town and gated community next to Calabasas, Hidden Hills, is also on the list of those who have gone over budget by at least four months. Records show that the account in his wife’s name used up 351% of his budget in May.
Water records on behalf of Howie Mandel’s wife show they used 241% of their water budget in May, also in their fourth month.
CBS2 also found that rapper The Game’s Calabasas home is on the list of those who are at least four months over budget.
“The condition of the water supply is very bad,” said Joe McDermott of the Las Virgenes Water District.
McDermott said anyone who exceeds 200% of their budget for at least two months pays a water penalty to try to get them to save. For some people, however, money flows like water.
“Fines don’t necessarily work for customers who are very wealthy and have a lot of … cash,” McDermott said. “We don’t think you can just buy your way out of the drought. Everyone has to do their part. This is very serious.”
This district has developed a plan.
“Installation is fairly quick and painless,” said a water district worker.
A small disc inserted into the pipe on the water meter at offenders’ homes reduces the water flow from 26 gallons per minute to much, much less, forcing people to economize.
“The maximum you can get is a little less than a gallon per minute,” the water district official said. “I actually tested one at my home.”
When asked how the experience was, he didn’t hesitate.
“It wasn’t great,” he said.
The flow restrictor is reserved for the worst offenders with four or more months of budget overruns. That means any celebrity found by CBS LA may get one, and some already have.
Kevin Hart got one. Records obtained by CBS LA show that his Calabasas home had a flow restrictor installed. It was removed after two weeks.
Another mansion in Calabasas, with an account in the name of Michael Jackson’s estate, also had a flow restrictor on for two weeks.
Another flow-restricted house has a water account with the real name of rapper Nas.
Officials say some people, though they don’t say who, tried to pay their way out.
“Some have asked us to remove it and how much it would cost to remove it, in this case I decline,” McDermott said.
When asked if they tried to pay extra to get rid of the flow restrictor, McDermott said yes. CBS2 then asked the Las Virgenes Water District representative if he thought it was fair to the average person in their district.
“It’s not fair,” he said.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is doing her bit, but she’s also on the list of those eligible for a restrictor for using too much water. However, she is now installing artificial turf and drought-resistant plants and says she has reduced her water use.
“You’re known for your environmental commitments, but you’re on the list as a water sinner?” CBS LA Investigative reporter David Goldstein asked Brockovich.
“In the past there have been months where I was above what I needed. I was fined. I paid those fines and acted very quickly,” she replied.
For residents like Hazan, who are suffering from the drought, there is hope that everyone gets the message.
“Hopefully we can get out of this and get some green pitches back,” he said.
Sylvester Stallone’s attorney, Marty Singer, provided a statement to CBS LA that read, “Regarding your upcoming story regarding water use in the Hidden Hills area, we are concerned that you may be threatening the water use situation at my client misrepresent and misrepresent property. They have over 500 mature trees on the property including countless fruit trees as well as pines. Without adequate watering, they would in all likelihood die. This could result in dead or damaged trees falling onto my client’s property or neighborhood properties. My client approached the situation responsibly and proactively. She has let grasses die off, other areas are irrigated by a drip irrigation system. They have also notified the city of the mature trees and are awaiting an inspection and further direction from the city on how to proceed. I’m confident that all of the larger properties in the area have similar problems. I therefore trust that my client will not be singled out in the story simply because he is a famous person.”
Lewis Kay, a representative for Howie Mandel, provided the following statement to CBS2: “I can’t speak to the dates you’re looking at, but Howie sent us the attached bills from May and June showing the decline in usage since.” Highlight implementation of restrictions He hasn’t heard from anyone until this email that there has been any problem.”