It’s finally coming down.
After years of legal disputes, safety warnings and high-end drama, demolition began this week on Strada Vecchia, Mohamed Hadid’s long-doomed hillside spec mansion in Bel-Air.
“It’s a deep sigh,” said Joe Horacek, a neighbor and chief opponent of the long-notorious property. “Because it’s not felt safe for a very, very long period of time.”
Sahara Construction Company, the Ventura County firm that now owns the site, began demolition this week. The process is expected to take up to two months because of the property’s steep incline and the precariousness of the building; rather than quickly razing the structure with a wrecking ball and bulldozers, Sahara is using equipment such as skip loaders and excavators to take down the house, beginning with the unfinished mansion’s top floor. The demolition team will also use a system of nets to catch any falling material.
Photos published on Wednesday in the Daily Mail show a property that now resembles a construction site, with dumpsters full of debris and workers in hard hats transporting large pieces of sheathing.
“We are unbuilding this house the same way it was built,” Paul Ventura, the Sahara principal who is overseeing the project, told that outlet, adding that he referred to the process as “dismantling, rather than demolition.”
Sahara bought the site in December for $5 million, months after a court-run auction failed to draw bids high enough to cover all the costs of demolition. Sahara’s deal included a provision that the construction firm would demolish the property itself, under court supervision – an agreement that saved money for L.A. County. The county had for months been seeking to sell the property through a court receiver in order to raise funds for the court-ordered demolition.
Sahara has not disclosed its plans for the site, but its purchase late last year nevertheless represented a conclusion to a saga that had dragged on for more than a decade, evolving into among the longest and most salacious construction disputes in L.A. history. The legal fallout is ongoing: In December, months after a jury awarded relatively small damages to the property’s neighbors in a civil trial related to the construction, and a judge further reduced Hadid’s financial liability by $900,000.
Hadid’s lawyer, meanwhile, has said his team plans to appeal the entire judgment.
On Wednesday evening, days after the construction began, Hadid told The Real Deal he had moved on from the saga and intended to never set foot near Strada Vecchia again. He also vented at length over the process that had played out for the better part of a decade, railing against everything from the Bel Air Association to the press and judicial system. Hadid’s primary foil in the dispute — Horacek — was a well-connected operator who had successfully extorted him, he said, repeating a previous claim. Hadid also contended that the judge in the case, who ordered the house demolished as part of a criminal case and later presided over the civil trial, had been duped into believing the house was unsafe.
“The judge made a mistake he couldn’t turn back,” said Hadid, who also claimed the circumstance led to a bias against him in the civil trial.
Hadid wished the new owners well but insisted that Strada Vecchia should still be standing.
“It would have been the most modern home I’ve ever built,” he said. “I didn’t use anything but the best. There’s no way this house would have moved in a million years.”