How to handle Neighbors Pissed Off over a Crazy Late Night Party
(note: I wrote this a year and a half ago at the end of 2008. Hope this will give you insight into how I normally deal with massive conflicts in business, by confronting issues head on, finding common ground, not getting defensive, and taking real genuine action beyond words.)
So last month I rented out my house to a Hollywood promoter who threw an insane party with over 350 people. The party was more elaborate than anything I ever threw. There was a platform with hot girls go-go dancing under a rack of lights beaming a spectrum through the fog. Cool effect, and everyone was having a great time, telling me it’s the best party they’ve ever been to. But it was hard for me to walk around knowing maybe 5% of the people, feeling like I’m in some Hollywood club, only it’s my house, filled way beyond capacity, those are my tables and couches they are spilling their drinks over, these drunk assholes are fucking with MY things.
So anyway, the party seriously pissed off some of my neighbors. I’m probably 1/3 the age of the youngest people that live on this quiet street in Bel Air. I guess they’re not into loud crazy Hollywood parties, and so in the morning I got this email threatening cops if I do it again:
I have been VERY remiss in introducing myself! My family and I live at xxxx xxxx, only three houses up from you on the same side of the street. We used to have a wonderful annual Block Party and active block association, but so many new neighbors moved who were not interested in carrying on the traditions, we just let it fade away. BUT, I am the ad hoc President of the [street] Association and I write in that capacity.
Your last party on October 17, 2008 was a humdinger in that it broke at least two major codes, presented a serious fire hazard and was truly disruptive to your neighbors until 4 AM. No one does that in Bel-Air. You moved into a lovely quiet area where personal parties are handled by professional valets and end around midnight.
Rather than call the West LA police, we thought it better to try again to talk with you. The codes I am referring to are: 1) blocking the streets in a fire area and 2) pay to go parties, both absolute violations and the police will be called in if you do that again. We have already spoken with the fire department about your situation. As I am a night owl, I went out and took pictures in case anyone needs to see what was happening.
In case you are unaware, this whole ridge burned down sometime in November of 1961-every house was lost. Smoking is not allowed in Bel-Air OUTSIDE during the fire season which is now. The young people you have over do not know that and it is your responsibility to tell them. One lit cigarette butt thrown in the dry weeds will do it. Please take this seriously.
Sincerely, Melinda xxxx
My first reaction was, game over, no more parties. I’ve never met her or spoke to her before. And I don’t want cops. So I called her up very friendly:
“Hi Melinda, this is Judd, your neighbor”
“Oh! Hi Judd.”
“I got your email, and first of all, I want to thank you for sending that”
“Oh, yeah right”
“I’m serious. I love living here and plan to be here a long time. The last thing I want is my neighbors harboring grudges against me that I don’t know about. If no one tells me when I’ve done something that upsets them, then I don’t know and there’s no way for me to change. So I’m grateful you wrote that email.”
“You know Melinda, I haven’t met you yet. I don’t have a picture in my head to go with your name”
“I’m the old short fat brunette”
” :) Ok, is it cool if I came up the street and said hello? I’ll be there in 10 minutes”
“Oh, well sure. That’ll give me enough time to put on some lipstick”
Her and her husband were very friendly to me. I told them that they were completely right, thanks for bringing these things to my attention, there’s simple solutions to this, I will continue to throw parties, but my goal is that they do not disrupt the neighbors here in any way, that they’re virtually unnoticeable, but please feel free to pay careful attention that I’m conducting them properly in the future, and call me immediately if there’s anything I’m doing that you’re not happy about.
Apparently she used to help organize neighborhood block parties that faded away about a decade ago. I told her we should throw another one and I will offer my house, provide food and drinks and take care of clean up, if she helps organize it. Being the proactive guy I am, I told her let’s just do it the weekend after next. So now we’re working together on something and she’s helpful.
I wrote up this invitation letter:
I’m Judd. I’m your neighbor down the street. That modern house with the steel and glass garage door and light poles. I probably don’t know you, and you probably don’t know many of your neighbors on this street. It’s embarrassing, but I’ve lived here almost 4 years and I just met my neighbors John and Melinda xxxx who live 3 doors up from me. They tell me there used to be annual Block Parties, but that the tradition faded away and died about a decade ago. No one had the initiative to keep it going. Well then, let it be me. I’d like to offer my house to throw a neighborhood block Cocktail Party on Sunday November 16 for a few hours from 5pm to 8pm. I’ll even supply the drinks and finger food and take care of the cleanup. John and Melinda will help me organize this party. All who live up the street from the stop sign by the school are welcome, and if you live just below the stop sign, you can come too. Bring your kids, grandkids and grandparents, just not your pets.
I love living on this street, and I’d love the opportunity to get a chance to meet my neighbors here. I think you would too. There are so many advantages to having a better sense of community here. There are so many interesting and outstanding people that live just steps from you. Imagine all the possible friendships, business opportunities and community goodwill that would result from getting a chance to know each other better. This is the least I could do for that cause.
This is not meant to be a meeting to discuss any specific community issue and rally against greedy developers. Someone else can organize that if they like. I’m not trying to be president of any community organization. I just want to throw a friendly cocktail party to let the residents here meet each other. Talk about whatever you like. There will be name tags for you to write your name and address. There will be wine, alcohol, soft drinks, snacks and maybe some Baja Fresh :)
Please RSVP with me if you’ll come. You don’t need to bring anything, but if you would like to bring a bottle of wine or prepare that famous tasty dish of yours, let me know so that I know what to expect. There are over 50 addresses here, and I hope for a turnout well over 100. And if you can’t make it, I hope that you’ll find some other way to introduce yourself to me and others. If this goes well, I hope someone will want to host another block party, and continue a tradition worth restoring. But don’t count on it. I understand there hasn’t been a block party for almost a decade, so don’t miss out.
I’m excited, and I can’t wait to meet you guys!
Block Cocktail Party – Sunday, Nov. 16 – 5pm–8pm
I took this letter and walked up the hill with a bunch of copies, ringing neighbors’ doorbells and meeting them for the first time, or dropping it in their mailbox. Unfortunately I was very sick and cold and should be in bed. I met many of my neighbors for the first time, but I was losing my voice and squeaking like I’m going through puberty. Whatever, I don’t want cops, so I’m gonna do what I need to do.
The response was amazing, all these neighbors I hadn’t met were just so happy with me. Even the neighbors I pissed off told me what a wonderful thing I’m doing. Even this other old lady who didn’t want to talk to me, I called her up and invited her personally and she came around. I brought up the parties I threw that pissed her off and asked her for advice on how to throw them without upsetting my neighbors.
If I’m going to throw this party I wanted to ensure turnout is good, so I wrote another note and took another walk up the street to drop in mailboxes a few days before the party:
Turnout should be good for the Block Party this Sunday, but when I walked up the street and met many of you, I didn’t keep any tally of who said they’re coming. Do me a favor, send me an email if you’re coming and who you’re bringing, so I know what to expect. If you’re not coming, well, send me an email anyway so that I know who I’m missing. If you already sent me an email, called or dropped a reply in my mailbox, ignore this, or send me an email again just for fun :)
I will help create an updated contact list for everyone on our street.
I hired a bartender for Sunday. He’s a fun guy, you’ll like him.
This event is family friendly, so bring the kids.
This will be pretty casual, no need to wear a tux.
You really don’t need to bring anything. Just bring a smile.
I’m glad to see so many as enthusiastic about this as me. Finally a chance to meet everyone around here. I’ll see you Sunday!
Block Cocktail Party – Sunday, Nov. 16 – 5pm–8pm
So, a few days ago, I had the party and it went great. Turnout was good. I really did meet some awesome neighbors, who I actually might do some business with. The Bartender was a great touch, very professional and helpful with a fun attitude; he even walked around to see who’s drinks were empty and brought them a new one (call him: Max Diaz 818-371-9366). Everyone was very grateful, and they all thought that I’m a very nice guy. They don’t need to know the truth…
Only mistake was that I stocked up for a party of over 200, because I’m crazy and I always over do things. I had already bought too much wine and everyone brought a bottle with them, I don’t know what to do with it all.
On a side note I realized something very important: old people don’t eat or drink much, no one threw up in the bathroom, and the house was pretty clean when they left. They actually got tired around 8pm and left me with plenty of time to take care of other things and get a good night sleep. That’s it, fuck all you assholes; I’m only throwing parties for old people from now on!
The next morning I received this email from Melinda:
Judd, you did a wonderful job! John and I were delighted and a little surprised at the number of neighbors who came to your lovely home. Many I hadn’t met before and some I hadn’t since in seven years. The food was great and the bar always a hit. It will be so much fun for me to see the updated neighborhood list.
Rita is so beautiful – the men went gaga and made a beeline for her. She seems to be able to handle herself. A lovely and gracious young women. Being on my best behavior, I made nice with Betty and Gary who unnecessarily and unimaginatively took our ocean view with a banal hedge. They didn’t even try. Grrrrrrrrr. Gary can barely look me in the face. Betty has no conscience. I don’t understand people like that, but I do believe in karma.
It was just grand and we are so grateful that you pulled us together. John and I got credit for all the work you did, but we tried to correct that when we could. We snuck out around 7:30 because John has to get up early for a long dental appointment and was tired. I was going to stay until he informed me that the make-up I had used to cover up the bruising on my face was wearing off. That made me trot out in a hurry. At least the swelling had gone done and I didn’t look like a puffer fish. xo Melinda
Ok, so she’s a little strange, and she’s got some beef with other neighbors, but the point is, she’s got no beef with me! And better, no one has any intention to call cops on me in the future. In fact, they’re totally on my side now, even ENCOURAGING me now to throw parties, saying it’s great to see young people have a good time. I could have stopped throwing parties like my neighbors demanded and Melinda and I could have remained angry with each other for years, but it’s better to always look for ways to turn a nasty situation around. I replied with this:
Well your email settles it then, the party was officially a success :)
Thanks for coming early to help out. Rita is great, I think I’ll keep her. What’s a neighborhood party without a little neighborhood drama? We had enough snack food around to enjoy watching you guys go at it, but I guess it’s nice you remained friendly.
You do deserve credit. I had the idea when talking with you guys, and the neighborhood probably wouldn’t have had this if you hadn’t been so observant and tough. Please stay that way Melinda. I know I don’t want some hotshot punk coming here and ruining our street. I feel better with you out there protecting us :)