Pacific Palisades homeowner Urban J. Didier has been convicted on three counts involving illegal grading of a Rivas Canyon hillside. Neighbors said the grading threatened the stability of their homes.
A West Los Angeles Municipal Court jury found Didier, a Santa Monica businessman who lives at 1270 Marinete Road, guilty of doing the grading after being ordered to stop by the Los Angeles City Building and Safety Department, failing to file a geological report for the work and unlawfully removing vegetative ground cover from the hillside on his property.
Sentencing on the charges, each carrying a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine, will be July 19 before Municipal Judge Ronald Schoenberg. Didier has asked for probation.
Jailing May Be Sought
Los Angeles Deputy City Atty. Judith Levin, who prosecuted the case for the city, said that she will await the findings of the probation report before deciding whether to recommend jail time for Didier.
"I am inclined to ask for a minimum of (jail) time," she said. "Had there been a major rainstorm this past winter, several homes could have been damaged.
"At the same time, the city's major goal is to get him to comply with city laws and either build a retaining wall at the base of the hillside or restore the part that he cut away. We must have compliance before Nov. 1 when the rainy season officially starts."
Didier's attorney, Brian O'Neill, said his client had filed an application to build a retaining wall on the hillside about a month before the trial began in May.
Homeowners on Chautauqua Boulevard, above the hillside where cuts were made a year ago, and those living in Rivas Canyon below his property said that Didier's actions endangered their property.
Problems Started in 1978
O'Neill said that Didier's problems with the homeowners date from 1978, three years after he moved onto the property and began improving it.
"Since that time," O'Neill said, "the homeowners have blamed him for two floods and two fires. They claimed there never was a problem before he moved there. Whatever he has done has been permitted and known by the city. It is a case of a person's right to do something lawfully with his property versus homeowners angry about a newcomer to the canyon."