Lawyers, architects and city officials struggled to come to an agreement on how to proceed with demolishing parts of Mohamed Hadid’s illegal half-built mansion on Thursday, delaying the ongoing case even further.
Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan, who is overseeing the civil case, struggled to contain his frustration with the dozen or so lawyers in the crowded courtroom. They included celebrity attorney Robert Shapiro, Hadid’s lawyer in the separate, but related, criminal case.
“The only thing clear to me is that no one knows what is going on,” Karlan said during Thursday’s hearing in Santa Monica. “It’s a complete mess right now.”
Hadid, a spec home developer, has been at the center of civil, criminal, and most recently, FBI cases over his property at Strada Vecchia Road in Bel Air. The city has already fined him over the 30,000-square-foot project, which the city ordered him to demolish in 2015. Neighbors then sued Hadid, and the city, in the hopes that it would get torn down.
The parties in the case have been debating the demolition matter for several weeks, and planned to continue deliberating late Thursday and, likely, next week.
In a weary tone, Karlan noted that given with “how things are moving,” it could be another two to five years before Hadid’s plans for the site are finalized. That timeline could then be doubled with appeals, the judge said.
The latest conflict began in late December, when a separate judge overseeing the criminal case ordered Hadid to start demolishing the top floor of the massive property by Feb. 1. The Bel Air neighbors suing Hadid in civil court then filed a restraining order in an effort to halt any demolition work, fearing that it would be done improperly and thus cause damage to their nearby properties.
On Thursday, one of a handful of lawyers from Hadid’s camp offered to stop any demolition work at the site until proper permits had been awarded. In doing so, they would be appeasing the neighbors’ request, while also preventing any water-related damage from occurring. (Removing the third floor, or roof, they argued, could cause mold during the rainy season.)
But the judge didn’t budge, calling that a “short-term fix that’s not a solution.” Instead, he demanded the parties take a recess to put “pen to paper” and come up with a demolition plan that laid out the exact time frames of what could be demolished and when.
The hour-long recess didn’t resolve much, and the judge requested the lawyers continue deliberating through the early evening.
As the hearing dripped into the afternoon, a sense of frustration wafted through the room as the budding heads plotted their next meeting, the fourth of its kind in less than a month.
“Hadid is wearing down the city,” said Gary Lincenberg, a Bird Marella attorney representing the neighbors.