Uproar in Beverly Hills 90210 over $12m 'mega-mansion' plan
Saturday 26 March 2011
The bemused property developer calls the plan "just a normal Mediterranean-style house". To a Saudi prince it might be – but the plans for a mega-mansion on a $12m (£7.5m) plot have left even the wealthy residents of an exclusive Beverly Hills community spluttering on their iced teas.
Plans for the 85,000sq ft compound in Benedict Canyon have been greeted with the sort of uproar that its upmarket residents – such as David Beckham, Jay Leno, Bruce Springsteen and Lisa Kudrow – are normally rather keen to leave on the outside of their private, gated community.
Twenty neighbours held a press conference this week to draw attention to the size of the proposed project in the much-desired 90210 zip code. The secretive nature of the deal for the 5.2-acre hillside lot has fuelled rumours that the property could be the future home of Saudi royalty.
Rather than disclosing his identity, the owner has set up a business, Tower Lane Properties Inc., and forced lawyers and contractors to sign secrecy agreements. The London-based Mansour Fustok, the uncle of one of the son's of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, is listed on city planning documents as president of the business, according to the Los Angeles Times. The complex may be intended for the prince as, according to a representative of Mr Fustok's business, the owner is a single father of three.
If the owner gets his way, the compound will include a main house of 42,681sq ft, a double-winged 27,000sq ft "son's villa", a 4,400sq ft guest house, a 5,300sq ft building for staff and a 2,700sq ft gatehouse.
The neighbours, however, complain that the construction plans are not in keeping with the area. They say the compound is too big for the area's narrow, twisting streets and raises concerns that years of construction would destroy their quality of life, and would create mudslides and fire hazards.
More than 150 residents have now been drawn out of their mansions to protest against the proposals, mounting door-to-door campaigns and launching a website.
Nickie Miner, president of the Benedict Canyon Association homeowners' group, said: "Just because someone has millions of dollars doesn't mean they have the right to stampede through the neighbourhood." Another neighbour, Michael Eisenberg, said: "The pool house is bigger than my house."
Opponents have asked Los Angeles officials to begin an environmental review into the plans, claiming the city ignored "numerous glaring omissions".
The existing site is considered an eyesore by residents, after the previous owner pulled down the former house and built an underground garage and a 500ft-long wall on the site instead.
It is not the first time the residents of Beverly Hills have taken on royalty. In the early 1990s, the actor Jack Lemmon and ex-entertainment industry executive Sidney J Sheinberg were among those who successfully fought against the Sultan of Brunei's plans for a 59,000sq ft estate. Mr Sheinberg told the Los Angeles Times: "It's hard for us to understand why anyone needs an 80,000sq ft compound."
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