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Saudi prince will redraw plans for housing compound in Benedict Canyon

Plans for an 85,000-square-foot compound will be revised, says a lawyer for the Saudi prince seeking to build on 5.2 acres in Benedict Canyon.

April 08, 2011|By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times
  • The 5.2-acre Benedict Canyon property, center, where an 85,000-square-foot residential complex was planned.
The 5.2-acre Benedict Canyon property, center, where an 85,000-square-foot… (LeNoir Photography )

A Saudi prince who outraged residents of a posh Benedict Canyon neighborhood by applying to build an 85,000-square-foot compound there has withdrawn the proposal and will instead submit plans for a smaller project, his lawyer said.

Benjamin M. Reznik, a lawyer for Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud, wrote the Los Angeles Planning Department on Thursday and informed them that his client was withdrawing the application, just one week before a public hearing was scheduled on the matter. "Our client has taken into consideration concerns raised by neighbors and is in the process of reevaluating aspects of this project," Reznik wrote.

Opponents of the project charged that Tower Lane Properties — the corporate entity that owns the 5.2-acre property and filed the applications — had sought to mislead the city. They said the owner was trying to avoid environmental review by submitting piecemeal plans for three separate yet adjacent properties.

"This is a huge victory for residents of Los Angeles," said neighbor Martha Karsh, who filed the original appeal of the project with the city. "This development scheme should never have been allowed to get as far as it did. … My best advice is for the landowner to get to know his neighbors, share plans and work cooperatively with us."

The prince, a son of Saudi King Abdullah, had sought to keep his identity a secret during the permitting process. The Times first reported the plan and the Saudi ownership last month.

The compound was envisioned as a main residence of nearly 42,000 square feet along with a "son's villa" of about 27,000 square feet and other residences.

City planning staffers this week recommended that the neighbors' appeal be denied and that the Planning Department's approval of a required property-line adjustment be upheld. The city planning commission had been slated to consider the appeal on Thursday.

Reznik said in an interview that his client had instructed his team of architects, engineers and attorneys "to revisit aspects of concern." Notably, neighbors had protested plans for thousands of trucks to haul away dirt and other materials through narrow, winding canyon roads.

"It's a work in progress," Reznik said, "but in the next couple of weeks, we'll submit some revised plans." Those will call for a total of about 52,000 square feet, with the main residence, a guest house of 4,400 square feet, a caretaker's house of about 2,800 square feet and a 3,300-square-foot building for cabanas and pool equipment.

Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz, who had last month advocated a full environmental review of the project, said he was "very happy the applicant decided to withdraw the request."

"My hope is the applicant will work with neighbors and propose something more appropriate," Koretz said.

martha.groves@latimes.com

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