A Saudi prince seeking to build a sprawling mansion in the famous90210 zip code in the mountains above Beverly Hills, a project thathas drawn opposition from neighbours, has sued the city of LosAngeles to hasten its construction. A land development company belonging to Prince Abdul Aziz, thethird son of Saudi King Abdullah and the Gulf Arab kingdom's deputyforeign minister, said in a lawsuit that California neighbours whooppose the project had pressured the city into requiring anenvironmental impact study. In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, theprince's company, Tower Lane Properties, said such a review wasunnecessary. "Petitioner carefully designed the project to minimize impacts onthe environment and the surrounding area," it reads, adding that it"requires no discretionary approvals." Prince Abdul Aziz purchased the land in 2009 and applied forpermits to build three residences on the five-acre property. The city has so far not issued the necessary building permits,leaving the project in limbo. |
Neighbours in the posh Benedict Canyon community went into anuproar over the initial proposed 85,000-square-foot compound, withan opposition group called the Save Benedict Canyon Campaign formedto halt the prince's plans. In response to the opposition, a scaled-back construction plantotaling roughly 60,000 square feet was presented in 2010, thelawsuit said. Nonetheless, tension between the community and the developers isstill intense. The Save Benedict Canyon campaign says the scale of theconstruction is "like building a Walmart in our neighbourhood," andthat the construction crews needed for the project will overwhelmlocal streets with dirt, industrial equipment, and noise pollution. Yet the project's lawyer, Benjamin Reznik, wrote in November 2011that similarly sized houses upwards of 52,000 square feet have beenbuilt in the neighbourhood without any additional review, and theprince's proposal is not even the largest residential project inthe area.
The city's planning department was inexplicably and erroneouslydemanding the project undergo "additional, unnecessary andinapplicable steps in the plan check review process, before theproject is cleared for construction," he wrote, calling thetreatment of the Saudi prince "unfair." Reznik said he expected a hearing on the matter in the comingmonths but would not comment on the litigation. Should the luxury property eventually be given the green light,Prince Abdul Aziz could count among his neighbours David andVictoria Beckham and Bruce Springsteen. Local opponents to the mansion construction have found an ally inLos Angeles Council member Paul Koretz, who represents theneighbourhood. "The council member feels that any proposed project needs toundergo the appropriate scrutiny and discussion required by citypolicies," said Paul Neuman, the councilman's director ofcommunications.
"Those policies allow for community input and help protect theenvironment. That's as true in this case as it is in any case,"Neuman said.
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