Developer denied extra time to bring Bel-Air mansion into compliance

LA plans to refer developer of illegally built Bel-Air mansion to the city attorney for possible prosecution

Celebrity developer Mohamed Hadid lost his bid Tuesday for more time to bring an illegally constructed Bel-Air mansion into compliance with city building codes.

Contending that Hadid had violated stop-work orders and built lavish features without permits, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety said it planned to refer the case Wednesday to the Los Angeles city attorney's office for possible prosecution.

In September, building officials revoked the hilltop project's permits, effectively shutting down construction, after a resident who lives below contended that grading and other activity had destabilized the slope.

In the months that followed, residents complained that work was continuing at the 901 Strada Vecchia site in violation of the stop-work order.

In April, building inspectors found numerous examples of unapproved construction, much of it concealed behind tarps, potted plants, paneled walls and taped-over doors.

They told Hadid to demolish and remove all unapproved construction, including concrete decks, guest suites below the swimming pool, retaining walls and a 70-seat, underground Imax theater.

Hadid appealed, saying the building department had abused its discretion by issuing orders to bring the property into compliance with building codes. He also asked for additional time to comply with the orders.

At their regular meeting Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles, the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners voted 4 to 0 to deny his request and to support building inspectors' actions.

"This is a problem property from the very beginning," Senior Inspector Jeffrey Christian told the panel. He said the department's first order to comply was issued in early 2011 after Hadid graded the hilltop without permits.

Shawn Bayliss, a deputy for City Councilman Paul Koretz, called Hadid a "scofflaw" and said: "Koretz sees no value in allowing a continuation of [Hadid's] shenanigans."

"We did what we had to do," Commissioner Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal said after the vote. The project "is over the top."

The owner of the property is 901 Strada LLC. A company report lists as its executive James T. Zelloe, a Virginia attorney. But Larry Galstian, chief of the building and safety department's inspection bureau, said Hadid introduced himself at the site in April as the owner.

Benjamin M. Reznik, an attorney for the property owners, said they would continue to work to bring the property into compliance, adding that the owners had hired new surveyors and contractors.

"The safety issues and the destruction of the hillside are so severe that the only path forward now is a judicial and city-led remediation process to restore the hillside to its original state, and that means complete demolition of the house," said Victor De la Cruz, an attorney for Joseph Horacek, the resident whose concerns about destabilization led to the city's decision to revoke the permits.

martha.groves@latimes.com

Twitter: @MarthaGroves

ALSO:

Drought intensifies debate on backyard pools

4 stretches of freeways tally most big rig crashes per mile annually

New 6th Street Viaduct is a bridge to a different future

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
88°