Thursday, March 24, 2011

90210 Neighbors Protest Mansion

It's common-fare to see the wealthy use zoning codes to exclude the less-well-off.  It's much less common to see the wealthy invoking land use rules to exclude the mega-wealthy.  But that's exactly what's happening in Benedict Canyon, an enclave of the rich and famous in Los Angeles.

In a neighborhood home to such luminaries as Bruce Springsteen, Jay Leno, and David Beckham, a mystery landowner had begun plans to erect an 85,000-square-foot family compound.  More specifically, the landowner (thought to be a Saudi prince) wants to put up a 42,681-square-foot house, a 27,000-square-foot auxiliary villa, a guest house, staff quarters and a gatehouse.  According to the L.A. Times, local residents believe that the proposal is akin to "commercial-scale construction, like building a Wal-Mart in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood."  Both parties seem highly motivated and have deep pockets, so this dispute could go on for a while. 

My questions is: why would the landowner not reveal his/her identity?  There's obviously a pretty huge status quo bias at work - people don't want their property taxes to go up, they don't want their property values to fall, and they worry about the environmental quality of their neighborhood.  But most of all, I think the residents of Benedict Canyon seem worried about changing the social fabric of their enclave.  If you're the landowner, why not reveal your identity and do the necessary PR work?  Seems like a rookie mistake. 

Steve Clowney

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