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Palos Verdes Estates homeowner charged with running a party palace

After neighbors' complaints to police and city officials, Melahat Uzumcu faces four misdemeanor counts after allegedly renting out her mansion for weddings and other events.

September 30, 2009|Jeff Gottlieb

The question is whether Melahat Uzumcu will have to move from her big house, to the other big house.

Uzumcu's 7,000-square-foot house in Palos Verdes Estates sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with a view of the South Bay laid out in front of it. There are seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms and floors custom made with wood from Brazil. The bathrooms have granite tile and marble counters. There are three fireplaces and three living rooms. Two life-size statues guard the front door. It goes without saying that there's a heated swimming pool.

It's the perfect place to get married or to have a party. Unless you're a neighbor who never expected the nearby mansion to be advertised as a wedding and party palace that can hold 200 people seated or 300 for a cocktail reception.

And that's what has gotten Uzumcu into trouble.

Because of neighbors' complaints to the police and city officials about noise, traffic and parking, Palos Verdes Estates has charged the mansion's owner with four misdemeanors, including two zoning violations, committing a public nuisance and operating a business without a license.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, October 01, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Party palace: A headline in Wednesday's Section A on an article about a mansion rented out for parties and weddings said the house is in Rancho Palos Verdes. As stated in the article, it is in Palos Verdes Estates.

Uzumcu potentially faces two years in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Having arrived back in town after spending more than a year in Argentina and her Turkish homeland, Uzumcu is none too happy with what greeted her.

The neighbors "are just jealous they don't have my home," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I'm very sad for them. They are very miserable."

Replied Margaret Sahroian, who lives next door, "There's nothing to be jealous of. Everyone who has complained has a house as nice or better than hers."

According to a police report filed with the complaint, officers responded to the house 14 times for noise and parking complaints in July and August. Police have visited four more times since then, said Police Cpl. Greg Robinson.

City Manager Joseph Hoefgen said an auctioneer rented the property last September and sold art and furniture. Neighbors told police an 18-wheeler was brought in.

The home on Paseo del Mar remains advertised on several websites, not only for weddings and other large gatherings, but for film shoots and vacation rentals at $2,000 a night and $10,000 a week.

In interviews with The Times and police, neighbors compared the noise to a rock concert. "The sounds of the ocean are drowned out by amplified music and PA systems," Richard L. Chapman Jr. said.

He told police that he e-mailed Uzumcu several times pretending that he wanted to rent the house. "She made it clear she was allowing her residence to be used for commercial events."

Neighbors have complained not only about the noise, but how the valet parking clogs the streets.

Sahroian said events were so loud that they kept her up at night. Her husband said they had to change bedrooms.

According to an article in Asia Times, Uzumcu was married in 1996 to Umran Uzumcu, one of the richest men in Turkey. The article describes Melahat Uzumcu as independently wealthy in her own right. But the couple went through a lengthy and bitter divorce, fighting over their assets. At one point, according to the article, each made off in Turkey with millions of dollars in jewelry, rugs and art that they then fought over.

The couple also battled over the Palos Verdes Estates house, with Melahat Uzumcu, according to documents, getting help from her brother to buy out her husband.

This isn't the first time a homeowner association spat has enveloped Palos Verdes Estates. It is the same place where resident Sheryl Iannitti and her husband sued the city after becoming so angry when told to take down some of the $50,000 worth of Halloween decorations in front of her house. The city countersued, and she ran an expensive but, ultimately, losing race for City Council.

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jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

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