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Sylvester Stallone Sued Over Structure's Height : Actor's Neighbors Rise Up Against the Wall

July 13, 1986|STEPHEN BRAUN | Times Staff Writer

Life can be rough on heroes. After disposing of a muscle-bound Soviet boxer, a horde of murderous North Vietnamese soldiers and a pack of psychopathic killers in his last three films, Sylvester Stallone might seem ready for a well-deserved rest.

Instead, Stallone now finds himself confronted by real-life foes: his neighbors.

Stallone has been sued by his neighbors in the exclusive Pacific Palisades community of Riviera Estates for erecting a spike-topped brick wall around his palatial home. The neighbors, Renato and Laura Gugenheim, allege that the wall, which is eight feet high in some sections, exceeds by two feet the height limit allowed by the community's 60-year-old covenants.

'Out of Character'

"It's not only a violation of the covenants, it's also totally out of character with the rest of the neighborhood and it poses a danger to motorists driving by," said Walter S. Weiss, an attorney for the Gugenheims, who declined to discuss the lawsuit.

Weiss said the Gugenheims and other representatives of the community's residential association had failed to persuade Stallone to dismantle or scale down the wall.

"His attitude has been, 'Don't worry, when I sell the place, you can do what you want with it,' " Weiss said. "But it's still his house and the situation hasn't changed any."

The Gugenheims are asking for damages in excess of $25,000 and an injunction forcing Stallone to scale down the wall to its proper height.

Stallone was unavailable for comment. Neither his attorney, Jacob A. Bloom, nor his business agent, Zeiderman Oberman & Associates Inc., returned telephone calls.

The lawsuit alleges that, according to the Riviera Estates covenants, the brick wall, bordering on the intersection of Amalfi and Capri drives, is two feet higher than the six-foot limit allowed along the street.

"It's a hazard to traffic," said Thomas Ferguson, a spokesman for the Riviera Estates Assn. "Drivers who are going north on Capri have their view obstructed by the wall."

Ferguson agreed with Weiss' contention that Stallone's wall does not blend in with the fences and walls surrounding most other houses in the community. "We understand the need for privacy, but walls like his tend to close off the neighborhood and the beauty of the gardens," he said.

'No Need for Wall'

Ferguson said that over the years, celebrity homeowners such as Ronald Reagan, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Stephen Speilberg have lived in the estates, managing to limit access to their homes without violating the community's charter.

"We have open fences or iron grillwork or even hedges," Ferguson said. "There's no need for an eight-foot wall. Hell, if everybody did it, we might as well be in San Quentin."

Ferguson said that Stallone once told him the wall was built to keep out intruders and limit gawkers who have been known to stand on top of their cars to gaze at the grounds of Stallone's home.

"There have been plenty of fools who've tried to do that," Ferguson said. "I can't quarrel with the man on that score, but we think the wall is a bit excessive."

Weiss said the situation between Stallone and the Gugenheims deteriorated after the actor won a variance from the Los Angeles Zoning Commission allowing him to keep the wall. "Irrespective of the what the city does, the variance still does not override the covenants that govern all the homes in the area," Weiss said.

Stallone's house is a replica of a French villa, reportedly furnished with such regal items as a wolf-skin rug, Rodin sculptures and a full-sized LeRoy Neiman portrait of Stallone's most durable film character, Rocky.

sh Damages Ordered

Stallone has sparred legally with another of his Riviera Estates neighbors, Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. In May, 1985, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury ordered Stallone to pay Scully $69,000 for flood damage to his home.

The jury ruled that Stallone was partially to blame for ordering re-landscaping of a hill separating the two homes. After settling on a $106,000 damage figure, the jury reduced Scully's damages after deciding that the announcer also bore partial blame for the fooding.

Ferguson said he has not discussed the wall with Stallone in at least a year. "From casual observation, I think he must be living somewhere else," he said. "I used to see him ride around on his motorcycle, but not lately."

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