Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 – 11:06 AM
The more than three-year saga over illegal development at developer Mohamed Hadid’s 901 Strada Vecchia megamansion in Bel Air appears to be coming to a conclusion.
Hadid, 68, entered a no contest plea in Van Nuys Superior Court Tuesday morning in the ongoing criminal case regarding his nearly 30,000-square-foot development at 901 Strada Vecchia in Bel-Air.
The plea was entered through his attorney, Robert Shapiro. Hadid, as has been customary throughout the case, did not appear in court.
Superior Court Judge Eric Harmon made it clear that before sentencing, he wanted to hear from neighbors and community members about how they feel the megamansion has negatively impacted their community, and what they believe should be done to bring it into compliance.
“I need to hear from a competent witness, who can tell specifically what remedial actions need to be taken, so I can fashion an order that would insure this is brought into compliance as quickly as possible.” Harmon said.
Assistant City Attorney Tina Hess noted that the City Attorney’s office has already received at least a half dozen public comments from neighbors and community members.
City officials allege that the home, which includes a subterranean IMAX theater, violated L.A. building code with several unapproved features – including concrete decks, retaining walls, basements and stairways.
Hess also has asked for a bond to ensure that if bringing the structure into compliance cannot be done legally, that the city will have funds to pay for its demolition.
Hadid has pushed for more time to revise plans, but new building standards in Bel Air call into question whether the home could ever be brought into compliance without a complete teardown. New Bel Air construction laws call for homes bigger than 17,500 square feet to undergo rigorous environmental review.
Hadid has remained steadfast that the home would never been torn down. “Demolish this house? Never!” he was quoted in Town and Country Magazine as saying. “This house will last forever. Bel-Air will fall before this will.”
James T. Zelloe, a Virginia attorney who had been listed as a managing agent on the property for years, did not enter a plea through his attorney on Tuesday morning. Zelloe’s attorney said he was in the process of settlement talks with the City Attorney, and said his case should be separated from that of Hadid.
Zelloe’s attorney said his client would be willing to agree to tear down the home, because he currently has no vested stake in the home.
“I’m not sure if the claim that he’s not able to bring the property into compliance, or at least help in some respect, is well taken,” Harmon said. “It seems to me that if you had a hand in constructing this… and financing it… if you’re able to create that situation, you ought to be able to fix that situation.”
Hadid is scheduled to be sentenced June 27. According to a proposed sentencing memorandum prepared by the City Attorney’s Office, city prosecutors are asking that Hadid be placed on three years probation and be ordered to perform 200 hours of community labor and pay $3,000 in fines. Prosecutors are also calling for him to pay $250,000 into a community improvement fund.
“These were serious violations,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. “It was essential to hold the defendant accountable for committing them. We have building and safety rules for a reason and no one is above the law. At the sentencing hearing we’ll make our case for strong and appropriate sanctions.”