A hulking, unfinished mansion perched on a Bel-Air hillside must be torn down to the slab, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said in a recent ruling, declaring it a “danger to the public.”
But a bankruptcy filing has put that order on hold, alarming neighbors who pushed for the tear-down of the mammoth building that has spurred criminal charges, legal battles with neighbors and an FBI investigation.
The huge home is the work of Mohamed Hadid, a real estate developer known for his lavish homes and stints on reality TV, who pleaded no contest 2½ years ago to criminal charges for building a home far bigger and taller than the city says it approved. Hadid said he would bring it in line with city codes and eventually tore down parts of the unfinished home.
Los Angeles city officials eventually joined neighbors in calling for the entire home to be demolished, citing serious concerns about parts of the foundation driven into bedrock under the home.
In a recent order, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig D. Karlan cited that and other problems, including massive amounts of soil scraped away from the hillside without permits. He chose a receiver to take control of the Bel-Air property and oversee the demolition, calling the site a “serious danger.”
“There is a danger to this neighborhood. It’s plain as one can see. And I don’t know how anyone can view this differently,” Karlan said at a hearing last month.
Karlan put that order on hold, however, after a company tied to Hadid filed for bankruptcy in late November. That company, 901 Strada LLC, owns the Bel-Air site at the center of the case.
At a civil court hearing earlier this month, Karlan said he couldn’t rule on anything tied to the company unless the bankruptcy court gave him the green light. Attorneys representing the neighbors are prodding the bankruptcy court to allow the demolition order to move forward but have yet to win any such ruling.
Neighbors had hoped to get around that roadblock in criminal court, where city prosecutors had asked a judge to stiffen the probation conditions for Hadid and require him to tear the building down to its foundation.
But at a hearing Friday, Judge Neetu S. Badhan-Smith declined to rule on that request, saying that she didn’t want to do anything that might conflict with the order in civil court — even after being told that order was on hold.
During the hearing, Badhan-Smith asked if there was any public safety issue to address on the property. City prosecutor Michelle McGinnis said she had conferred with the building department and there was not.
Attorney Shoshana E. Bannett, who is representing the Bel-Air neighbors, disputed that idea in a statement Friday, pointing back to the findings by Karlan that the building posed a danger to the public — a conclusion that was “reached after numerous hearings, personally visiting the site, and is based on extensive testimony from city witnesses and others.”
It is unclear when the legal logjam over the property could be resolved. A hearing in bankruptcy court is scheduled for next week.
Hadid was not in criminal court Friday, where he was represented by attorneys Donald Re and Robert Shapiro at the hearing.
In the past, Hadid has denounced the civil suit as a “witch hunt” and sued back, accusing one of his neighbors of trying to extort him.
In a previous interview, Hadid said he had done nothing wrong but pleaded no contest to the criminal charges in order to “move on” and avoid embarrassing city inspectors who had signed off on the construction.
The FBI has also looked into possible wrongdoing by a city inspector who received “items of value” in connection with his work at the Bel-Air site, according to a city investigator who testified last year in the civil case. Hadid has denied claims by a former construction manager about perks for an inspector scrutinizing the site, including wooden cabinets and closets.