L.A. could pros­e­cute builder of man­sion

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

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 fol- lowed, 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 “scoff law” 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 com- pany 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 con- tinue 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.

Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

LOS AN­GE­LES build­ing of­fi­cials on Tues­day re­jected a celebrity de­vel­oper’s re­quest for more time to bring his con­tro­ver­sial Bel-Air project up to code.

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