The PJ Tatler

Saudi Billionaires Attack Bel Air!

Things are tough all over, especially in one of the richest places in America. From the Los Angeles Times comes this heartbreaking story of really rich people being outspent and inconvenienced by folks who are really, really rich:

At the end of a narrow, twisting side street not far from the Hotel Bel-Air rises a knoll that until recently was largely covered with scrub brush and Algerian ivy. Now the hilltop is sheared and graded, girded by caissons sprouting exposed rebar. “They took 50- or 60,000 cubic yards of dirt out of the place,” said Fred Rosen, a neighbor, glowering at the site from behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade on a sunny October afternoon.

Mr. Rosen, who used to run Ticketmaster, has lately devoted himself to the homeowners alliance he helped form shortly after this construction project was approved. When it is finished, a modern compound of glass and steel will rise two stories, encompass several structures and span — wait for it — some 90,000 square feet… Why are people building houses the size of shopping malls? Because they can.

It doesn’t help that some of “them” are Arabs and Muslims:

Mr. Rosen is hardly alone in his objection to the disruptions created by these pumped-up projects. Another house in Bel Air developed by Mr. Hadid — a Palestinian émigré with a flowing gray mane and a burnt sienna tan — is the scourge of nearby residents. The 30,000-square-foot house, a modern, circular colossus that has been nicknamed the Starship Enterprise by angry neighbors, who include Leonard Nimoy, looms 67 feet above grade (the height limit in Los Angeles is 36 feet)…

Then there’s the dream house of Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. A Saudi Arabian prince and deputy foreign minister of his country, Mr. Abdulaziz purchased a Spanish colonial residence in Benedict Canyon from the movie producer Jon Peters, tore it down, and submitted plans to build an 85,000-square-foot estate. Neighbors like Michael Ovitz, a founder of the Creative Artists Agency, promptly started a drive to stop him. (Mr. Ovitz — whose trophy house, a contemporary villa cum art museum designed by Michael Maltzan, measures 28,000 square feet — was able to persuade the prince to downsize slightly after pointing out that two of the structures he planned to build looked down on his backyard.) The project remains under review by the city.

Mr. Ovitz calling out a neighbor for overbuilding is a little like Lady Gaga accusing someone of overdressing. And some say that the pushback against the prince stems less from construction concerns than from ethnic enmity. “They don’t want a Saudi prince,” Mr. Abdulaziz’s lawyer, Ben Reznik, told Vanity Fair, which devoted a column to the controversy.

First World problems…