Bel-Air man­sion builder or­dered to re­move work

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Martha Groves martha.groves @la­times.com Twit­ter: @MarthaGroves

Los An­ge­les build­ing in­spec­tors have or­dered the de­vel­oper of a con­tro­ver­sial hill­top man­sion in Bel-Air to de­mol­ish and re­move all un­ap­proved con­struc­tion — in­clud­ing con­crete decks, re­tain­ing walls and other fea­tures that they say were com­pleted in vi­o­la­tion of a stop-work or­der.

“He was pretty much caught red-handed,” Luke Zam­perini, chief in­spec­tor for the Los An­ge­les Depart­ment of Build­ing and Safety, said Wed­nes­day. “He’s got to ei­ther get per­mits for what he has done or de­mol­ish the il­le­gal con­struc­tion.”

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

Since then, other neigh­bors of the project at 901 Strada Vec­chia had re­ported sev­eral times to city of­fi­cials that celebrity de­vel­oper Mo­hamed Ha­did was con­tin­u­ing con­struc­tion on the 30,000-square-foot, multi-level house, in vi­o­la­tion of the stop-work or­der.

In­spec­tors who vis­ited the prop­erty this week noted a laun­dry list of vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of wiring, cab­i­netry, a con­crete slab in the drive­way and steel stud par­ti­tions in the garage to cre­ate of­fice and stor­age space.

They also cited far more se­ri­ous ex­am­ples of un­per­mit­ted con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of two lev­els of ir­reg­u­larly shaped con­crete decks, an en­tire story be­low base­ment level and three large re­tain­ing walls.

The in­spec­tors also listed a dozen changes that had been made to the floor plan, in­clud­ing in­creases in the height of each floor of the main struc­ture “be­yond the scope of ap­proved plans.”

Benjamin Reznik, an at­tor­ney for 901 Strada LLC, which owns prop­erty, said con­struc­tion com­pleted af­ter is­suance of the stop-work or­der was done to pro­tect the ex­posed house from rain — with the build­ing and safety depart­ment’s ap­proval. He also said that in­spec­tors ap­proved the build­ing of the base­ment and that his client would sub­mit re­vised plans.

He said other is­sues re­lated to “tech­ni­cal stuff” — work that his client had agreed to do once the stop­work or­der was lifted.

Ha­did, who pro­motes him­self on so­cial me­dia and has ap­peared on re­al­ity TV shows, is known for a lav­ish life­style and for build­ing over-the-top houses for the ex­tremely well-to-do.

He has 15 days to re­move the un­ap­proved re­tain­ing walls and other un­per­mit­ted work or to seek per­mits. He also must pay an in­spec­tion fee of $336.

“He has a lot of work to do, and it’s not go­ing to be easy,” Zam­perini said.

If Ha­did does not com­ply, build­ing of­fi­cials might ask the city at­tor­ney to file crim­i­nal mis­de­meanor charges, Zam­perini said.

Vic­tor De la Cruz, an at­tor­ney for neigh­bor Joseph Horacek, who has chal­lenged the project, said the work “could never be per­mit­ted retroac­tively be­cause it vi­o­lates the zon­ing code.”

“There does not ap­pear to be a path for­ward for this home out­side of com­plete de­mo­li­tion,” De la Cruz said.

Pho­to­graphs by Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

BUILD­ING OF­FI­CIALS re­voked the per­mits of a 30,000-square-foot res­i­dence in Septem­ber, ef­fec­tively shut­ting down con­struc­tion. But neigh­bors and city of­fi­cials say that the de­vel­oper con­tin­ued con­struc­tion.

JOSEPH HORACEK’S home is over­shad­owed by the large devel­op­ment at 901 Strada Vec­chia. Horacek’s at­tor­ney says the project should be torn down.

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