Celebrity real estate developer Mohamed Hadid is being sued by Bel-Air residents living downhill from the unfinished mansion that led him to be slapped with criminal charges.
Their goal: to force Hadid to tear down the building.
Hadid, known for his opulent homes and his stints on reality television, was accused by city prosecutors of illegally building a home bigger and taller than city rules allowed — estimated at roughly 30,000 square feet — and flouting repeated orders to halt construction.
Building permits were revoked for the towering home on Strada Vecchia Road. Prosecutors said it included whole areas, including bedrooms, decks and an IMAX theater, that the city never approved. Last year, Hadid pleaded no contest to criminal charges, was sentenced to community service and fines and ordered to craft a plan to stabilize the hillside.
Hadid has turned in revised plans for the Bel-Air house, which are still under review with the building department, and says he is working to get approval for a smaller home that falls in line with current codes.
Now neighbors living downhill are suing him, contending that the city of Los Angeles has failed to enforce its own order, which demands that builders of the Bel-Air home either get city approval or tear down “all unauthorized, unapproved construction.”
In the meantime, the neighbors say that they live in “constant fear” of the hillside collapsing, that their home values have suffered, and that “their privacy and serenity are invaded by the illegal and unsightly structure looming above them.”
In their lawsuit, Bel-Air residents John and Judith Bedrosian and Beatriz and Joseph Horacek urge the court to order Hadid to remove “all improvements” on the Strada Vecchia property and fully restore the hillside between his and their properties, bringing the slope back to the same condition it was in when Hadid bought the site.
“Mohamed Hadid has made a mockery of the city’s laws and the safety of his neighbors, and astonishingly the city of Los Angeles has turned a blind eye,” their attorney Victor De la Cruz said in a statement.
“At this stage, the only way to bring this illegal mansion into compliance is to tear it down and start over,” De La Cruz added.
Hadid said Thursday that he had yet to review the lawsuit, but denounced the push to tear down the house as a “witch hunt” by a neighbor seeking financial gain. He and his attorneys have said the Bel-Air house was inspected frequently during construction.
“The house was totally signed off by every single inspector,” Hadid said. “It’s nonsense to say it was not approved.… This lawsuit is total nonsense.”
Hadid said he had done nothing wrong, but pleaded no contest to the criminal charges tied to the house to “move on” and avoid embarrassing the city inspectors. Russell Linch, the project manager for the Strada Vecchia site, told The Times that a city inspector was “100% aware of every change and deviation” and told him to get the permits revised after the fact.
“It was totally standard,” Linch said. “I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong.”
Building department spokesman Jeff Napier said the process described by Linch “has never been a policy of the Department of Building and Safety.”
”All construction work on a permitted project is required to be on the approved plans prior to it being constructed,” Napier said.
The lawsuit, which also names Los Angeles as a respondent, calls for the city to be ordered to take action to “abate the nuisance.” Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said the office was reviewing the complaint and had no further comment.
The Bel-Air residents said it was inexplicable that the city had not forced Hadid to remove the disputed parts of the building. Napier said that although the order to address the unapproved construction was issued three years ago, the criminal case was ongoing and that “the timeline for compliance” was under court control.
So far, only a portion of the unapproved construction — a deck — had been removed, Napier said.
Hadid and his attorneys have argued that tearing down the home would be a long, impractical process that would burden the neighborhood. De la Cruz countered that legalizing the home would send a dangerous message to other developers and reward Hadid for breaking the law.
The lawsuit also targets a company identified as the legal owner of the Bel-Air property, along with a Virginia attorney linked to that firm, which the suit alleges were “the alter egos” of Hadid himself.
In addition to demanding that the building be removed, the Bedrosians and the Horaceks also want the court to choose a receiver to take possession of the Strada Vecchia site and order Hadid to cover the costs of fixing it, as well as attorney fees and unspecified damages.