The saga of demolishing developer Mohamed Hadid’s Bel Air spec mansion is far from over, with City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office stating it’s now a bit player in the removal process.
A Los Angeles civil court judge, Craig Karlan, ordered the mansion at 901 Strada Vecchia Road torn down in November, stating Hadid created a 30,000-square-feet property structurally unsafe to the point it could roll down the hill it was built upon.
Karlan appointed a receiver, Douglas Wilson, to carry out the demolition process. Hadid appealed the demolition order, but the California appellate courts swiftly rejected l his calls for a reversal.
However, Wilson presently lacks cooperation from the City Attorney’s office or the financing to complete demolition.
The impasse is the latest twist in a more than half-decade feud regarding an ambitious, illegally built development Hadid termed “The Modern House of Hadid,” but one critics panned as “The Starship Enterprise.”
The Bel Air Association, which includes plaintiffs in the civil case — Bibi and Joe Horacek, wrote a letter to Feuer’s office earlier this month indicating the demolition process stalled.
The neighborhood group asked Feuer to not relieve Hadid of his probation — which ended Monday, July 20, — unless Hadid complied with a probation order: Removing the development from the 901 Strada Vecchia property site.
Leela Kapur, Feuer’s chief of staff, responded to the Bel Air Association in a letter July 9: “We agree that the building should be torn down to its foundation. In fact, we took specific action in criminal court to obtain the result. Unfortunately, however, other parties took legal action beyond our control, effectively divesting the criminal court of its authority to make that happen.”
Kapur explained that Karlan appointing a receiver means the criminal court does “not have any ongoing authority.”
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Gary Lincenberg fired back with a letter blasting Feuer’s inaction.
“Your office’s lack of effort in ensuring that this illegal, unsafe structure is torn down unfortunately serves only to protect corrupt LADBS officials and place the interests of law-breaking private developers over the public,” Lincenberg wrote.
The FBI has interviewed at least one former L.A. Department of Buildings inspector, Anthony Anderson, over bribes he allegedly took from Hadid.
Feuer’s office responded to questions on the saga via email late Thursday.
“Given the positive steps we were taking under the auspices of the criminal court to tear down the structure, the imposition of the receiver was frustrating, to say the least,” Feuer emailed The Real Deal. “Now my Office is attempting to support and expedite to the fullest extent the work of the receiver, so the property can be taken down to the foundation as quickly as possible.
Another obstacle to demolition is costs, which parties to the case have pegged at a bit over $5 million. Hadid is not paying for the demolition, and Karlan is funding it by loans made to the receiver.
Not clear yet is how much money solicited lenders including First Credit Bank, the main financier of the spec mansion, are willing to fork over.
Complicating matters is that Hadid has also not paid taxes on the property, and is delinquent $1.2 million in tax payments.
Hadid said in a phone interview that he will not put any of his own money toward demolition, or even back taxes.
“I didn’t pay my taxes, because the house has zero value right now,” Hadid said.
The developer focused his remarks on pending civil actions delayed by court shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic. These include a jury trial in which the plaintiffs will bring damages against Hadid, as well as a Hadid counterclaim that charges Horacek with extortion.