US court blocks Saudi prince's mammoth compound plans

One of the sons of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah has been barred from building a 60,000 sqft compound after complaints by neighbouring billionaires
US court blocks Saudi prince's mammoth compound plans
Saudi deputy minister of foreign affairs, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (R). (AFP/Getty Images)
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 18 Feb 2015 11:38 AM

A California court has blocked plans by one of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah’s sons to build a mammoth compound amongst other billionaire homes because it would block access by emergency services, the LA Times has reported.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has requested to build "...six retaining walls, four houses, three water features, two above-ground garages and two auxiliary buildings" on 5.2 acres he owns at the end of a private cul-de-sac called Tower Lane, in Benedict Canyon, according to the court.

Neighbours have protested against the private development, claiming it is illegal because it does not provide an alternative route for the emergency vehicles or for residents to escape in the case of a fire.

The project covers about 60,000 square feet on three parcels of land. It had initially been 85,000 square feet.

The prince had initially suggested including a set of hillside stairs in place of secondary road access.

The court ruled against the prince’s demand to be allowed to immediately begin building, ruling that the plans must go through an environmental review.

Planning director Michael LoGrande said the ruling gave him "the right to protect the city of Los Angeles”, LA Times said.

The prince’s attorney, Benjamin M. Reznik, reportedly said his client might seek a planning department waiver that would allow him to complete the project without the secondary access road.

LoGrande said the planning department would review any waiver request and determine the appropriate level of review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Tower Lane project first came under scrutiny four years ago when billionaire Bruce Karsh, who owns a stake in the LA Times, and his wife Martha, whose estate is next door, learned of its scale and established a coalition of opponents, LA Times said.

At the time, Martha Karsh described the proposed compound as being similar to "building a Wal-Mart in the heart of a quiet residential neighbourhood".

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