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Neighbors’ Ire Equals Scale of Ovitz Plan

Making friends wherever he goes, deposed Hollywood pooh-bah Michael Ovitz has worked his future Beverly Hills neighbors into a lather, and they haven’t even met him yet.

“Why not just make this Michael Ovitz Drive?” snarked one of the residents in the splendiferous hills of Benedict Canyon near leafy Leona Drive, where Ovitz plans to build his castle.

“We’d like a little less Xanadu and a little more Leona,” chimed another foe.

The object of residents’ ire is the massive scale of the Ovitz project, which they say will temporarily turn their streets into a mammoth construction zone and permanently destroy the quiet country vibe. They plan to storm a Beverly Hills Planning Commission meeting tonight and raise a stink.

On roughly three acres, Ovitz plans to build a 28,059-square-foot house, which includes a 13,974-square-foot basement.

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Do you put signs on the walls of a house that big?

“Kitchen, Next Exit, 1/4 Mile”

The entire casts of several Disney flops could live there and not bump into each other for weeks. But the ex-Disney president and super-agent, who now lives in Brentwood and also has a spread in Malibu, wants to make sure there’s plenty of elbow room for himself and his wife. So plans call for a separate 4,997-square-foot office with guest accommodations.

We can only imagine what kind of pad Ovitz would build if he had been a success at Disney, where he was dumped by Michael Eisner after just 14 months on the job. They wanted him out so badly they coughed up a $109-million buyout.

Among my favorite features of Ovitz’s “Hooray for Hollywood” compound, there’s the 2,407-square-foot covered tennis pavilion, a 13-car garage, an art gallery for Mr. Ovitz’s private collection and a yoga room where he can meditate next time he thinks Hollywood’s “gay mafia” is out to get him, as he charged two years ago in Vanity Fair.

To erect this cozy little hideaway, 77 trees will have to be uprooted, including 51 from a city-designated “urban grove.” To regrade the land and make room for the world’s largest basement, roughly 15,000 cubic yards of dirt will be hauled away and dumped on the heads of David Geffen, Michael Eisner, Barry Diller and others Ovitz kicked around in Vanity Fair.

Neighbors are trading estimates of how many thousands of dusty, noisy, traffic-snarling dump trucks it takes to remove 15,000 cubic yards of dirt.

The residents asked not to be named, by the way. Ovitz, explained one neighbor, used to hand out copies of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” when he ran the Creative Artists Agen- cy.

“This is a man who’ll sue us,” said another jittery foe.

While we were chatting in front of Ovitz’s property, a Porsche Carrera zipped up the street.

“That’s him,” one of the residents said. “Let’s move out of the way or he’ll run us over.”

False alarm. Beverly Hills planning department officials were arriving for a meeting with William T. McGregor, who is managing the Ovitz project.

McGregor graciously invited me onto the property to see a 3-D mock-up complete with foliage and little wooden buildings. It looked more like a college campus than a house. I asked to speak to Ovitz about all this, but McGregor didn’t make any promises.

If you move more than 3,000 cubic yards of dirt in Beverly Hills, or build a house bigger than 15,000 square feet, you need city approval, even if you’re Michael Ovitz. That’s why there’s going to be a showdown tonight.

“He hasn’t even attempted to meet with us,” one aggrieved neighbor said. Others told me they were being treated like second-class citizens.

In my time, I’ve met plenty of people who have been crushed by society’s power elite. But I’ve never met a group of victims quite like this one, which included real estate titans and entertainment industry success stories.

We piled into BMWs and Mercedeses for a tour of the neighborhood, and drove past tennis courts and stately, oak-shaded mansions. One of my guides said they’ll have no control over “the barbarians” who go barreling through their lovely knoll with truckloads of dirt and fallen trees.

“We should get the Sierra Club to come and lie down in the street,” one member of the posse suggested.

We were in the vicinity of the house where Lillian Gish lived, and someone wondered if another foe was living in the house that used to be Elizabeth Montgomery’s. Just down the road was where “Mission: Impossible” stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain lived.

As legend has it, an L.A. Times carrier may have inadvertently killed Bain’s pooch in 1984. The dog was either struck by the delivery vehicle or accidentally clobbered with a tossed Sunday Times the approximate weight of a torpedo.

The story went national, and circulation has never recovered.

Later on the tour, someone pointed through a chain-link fence. “Is this the Springsteen property?”

Sure enough, it was Bruce’s place, and I could see the wheels spinning.

Springsteen throws a benefit concert to keep the riffraff out of Beverly Hills.

What will an Ovitz buyout cost this time?

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Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at www.latimes.com/lopez.


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