BY CBSLA STAFF
JULY 13, 2022 / 12:27 AM / CBS LOS ANGELES
Some A-list celebrities with multimillion dollar mansions in and around Calabasas are on a water budget like every other house in the Las Virgenes Water District, but a CBS2 investigation found that many of them have been going over their allotted amount.
"It's been this way for 3 to 4 weeks," said Mike Hazan, who was talking about the brown grass outside his Agoura Hills home. "This stinks a little bit."
Ever since a drought emergency went into effect last December in the Las Virgenes Water District, people have been asked to conserve.
Watering is only allowed once a week and everyone has a water budget. If you go over it, you may get hit with financial penalties. Staying in budget leads to the brown grass at Hazan's house.
"I think I'm doing my part. I'm trying to do my part," Hazan said.
While he's doing his part, the water district serves about 75,000 residents and relies on a water supply that's dangerously low. The district covers the sprawling hills of multimillion dollar mansions in western Los Angeles County.
According to water district public records obtained by CBS2 Investigates, some celebrities aren't following the rules that everyone has to follow.
Take reality star Kourtney Kardashian. She lives in an $8 million home in Calabasas. Water records obtained by CBS2 show the home, which is listed under a trust, used 245% of its allotted water budget in May. That's the fourth month it went over budget.
Sylvester Stallone's $18 million mansion in Hidden Hills is also on the list of those who went over budget for at least four months. Records show the account, in his wife's name, used 351% of its budget in May.
Water records in the name of Howie Mandel's wife show that they used 241% of their water budget in May, also the fourth month.
CBS2 also found rapper The Game. His home in Calabasas is on the list of those going over budget at least four months.
"The water supply condition is very dire," said Joe McDermott, with the Las Virgenes Water District.
McDermott said anyone who exceeds 150% of their budget for at least two months pays a penalty for water, in an effort to try and get them to conserve. For some people, though, money flows like water.
"For those customers who are very affluent and have lots of...cash, financial penalties don't necessarily work," McDermott said. "We don't think you can just buy your way out of the drought. Everyone needs to do their part. This is very serious."
This district has devised a plan.
"It's pretty quick and painless as far as installation," said a water district employee.
A small disk placed in the pipe at the water meter of offenders' homes cuts flow from 26 gallons a minute down to much, much less, forcing people to conserve.
"The maximum you can get is a little under one gallon a minute," the water district employee said. "I actually tested one at my house."
Asked what the experience was like, he didn't hesitate.
"It wasn't great," he said.
The flow restrictor is reserved for the worst of offenders with four or more months over budget. That means all the celebrities found by CBS2 Investigates are on the list to potentially get one, and some already have.
Kevin Hart got one. Records obtained by CBS2 Investigates show a flow restrictor was installed on his home in Calabasas with a personalized workout area. It was removed after two weeks.
Another mansion in Calabasas, with an account listed in the name of the Estate of Michael Jackson, also had a flow restrictor on for two weeks.
Yet another home with a flow restrictor has a water account in the real name of rapper Nas.
In keeping with the area, officials say some people, though they won'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 which case I refuse," McDermott said.
Asked if they trying to pay extra to get rid of the flow restrictor tomorrow, McDermott said yes. CBS2 then asked the Las Virgenes Water District representative if he thought that was fair to the average person in their district.
"It's not fair," he said.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is doing her part, but she's also on the list of those eligible for a restrictor because she's been using too much water. However, she's now installing artificial turf and drought resistant plants and said she's reduced her water usage.
"You are known for environmental causes, yet you're on the list as a water offender?" CBS2 Investigative Reporter David Goldstein asked Brockovich.
"In the past there have been months where I was above what I can use. I was fined. I paid those fines and took very swift action," she replied.
For those like Hazan, who are suffering through the drought, the hope is everyone will get the message.
"Hopefully, we can come out of this and get some green lawns again," he said.
Sylvester Stallone's lawyer, Marty Singer, provided CBS2 with a statement, which read:
"With respect to your upcoming story on water usage in the Hidden Hills area, we are concerned that it may 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. 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.
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's a famous person."
Lewis Kay, a representative for Howie Mandel, provided CBS2 with the following statement:
"I cannot speak to the data you're looking at but Howie sent us the attached bills from May and June that highlight the reduction in usage since the restrictions were put into place. He has not heard from anyone that there was any sort of issue until this email."