LOS ANGELES--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Save Benedict Canyon today announced that the Los Angeles County Superior Court dealt a severe blow to Saudi Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud’s quest to build a mega compound in Benedict Canyon without any environmental review or public input. The Court rejected his team’s demands that the City allow construction to begin now, despite the project’s failure to comply with the City’s rules for development in sensitive hillside areas.
“We are gratified that the Court agreed with Planning Director LoGrande’s determination that secondary vehicular access is required. We’ve said all along that the Prince needs to comply with the same rules we all do, and now a court has agreed.”
Specifically, the Court upheld Los Angeles Planning Director Michael LoGrande’s 2012 express confirmation that the steeply sloping Benedict Canyon property, located at the end of a narrow, dead-end street in a “very high fire hazard severity zone,” must have secondary vehicular access. The Court rejected the Prince’s argument that a winding stairway path traversing a utility easement on a neighboring property could replace the requisite vehicular access road.
“You can’t drive a fire truck up a stairway. That’s just absurd,” said longtime Benedict Canyon resident and community leader Nickie Miner. “We are gratified that the Court agreed with Planning Director LoGrande’s determination that secondary vehicular access is required. We’ve said all along that the Prince needs to comply with the same rules we all do, and now a court has agreed.”
Secondary vehicular access is one of the conditions of a private street approval for the Prince’s property. In November 2012, LoGrande confirmed that permits could not be issued because there was no secondary vehicular access to the compound. LoGrande also made clear that if the Prince seeks a waiver or modification of the secondary vehicular access requirement, it “will require environmental review.”
The Court ruled: “There has been no written waiver by the Planning Director of the secondary access condition that was imposed in 2000, and, as of this date, there is no secondary access to the development site.”
In an attempt to keep this case alive, the Prince sought an additional evidentiary hearing. The Court rejected this, concluding: “That would serve no purpose as the Municipal Code gives the Planning Director discretionary authority over the Petitioner’s compliance with the condition in issue and the Planning Director has not waived that review authority with respect to this development.”
“The Tower Lane team has steadfastly refused to participate in a public environmental review of the project—its attorney claiming ‘public input is irrelevant,’” said Michael Eisenberg, a nearby Benedict Canyon neighbor. “This ruling should serve as a wake-up call. If the Prince wants to proceed any further, he must comply with the same laws, building codes and public review that we all have to follow.”
City Councilman Paul Koretz, the Bel-Air Crest Neighborhood Council, the Benedict Canyon Association, the Hillside Federation and more than 1,000 local residents have joined the City in the call for environmental review but the landowner has simply refused.
“We thank Councilman Paul Koretz and Planning Director Michael LoGrande for their strong leadership, and for others in the City for their continued defense of our community against this landowner’s attempts to live by a different set of rules,” Miner said. “It’s time for the Prince to share his plans and allow them to be reviewed in the light of day. Any other project of this size and scope in a sensitive hillside area in Los Angeles would be subject to environmental review. The Prince’s plan should not be an exception. It is time for the Prince to comply with the land use laws, and follow the clear direction of city officials and the ruling of the Superior Court.”