Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Malibu residents upset at Bob Dylan's outhouse

March 16, 2009 |  3:00 pm

How sweet is life when you live next to a celebrity in Malibu? Outside Bob Dylan’s house, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

That’s what some of the singer-songwriter’s neighbors are claiming in an increasingly onerous dispute over a porta-potty at his sprawling ocean-view estate on Point Dume.

Residents contend that the nighttime sea breeze sends a noxious odor from a portable toilet on Dylan’s property wafting into their homes. The stench has made members of one family physically ill and forced them to abandon their bedrooms on warm nights, they claim.

For more than six months, Dylan has ignored their complaints and their pleas to remove the outhouse, the downwind neighbors say.

“It’s a scandal -- 'Mr. Civil Rights’ is killing our civil rights,” said David Emminger, whose home is directly behind the porta-potty -- apparently intended for use by employees of the entertainer best known for his 1960s-era protest songs.

Emminger and his wife have installed five industrial-size fans in their front yard in an attempt to blow the odor back at Dylan. But they say the fans are no match for the ocean breeze that sweeps across the singer’s land.

Dylan, who has lived on a multi-lot compound next to Bluewater Road for more than two decades, did not respond to inquiries about the toilet. Neither did his New York-based attorney.

Malibu municipal officials said they are investigating the porta-potty complaint. But because of that, they are unable to discuss the issue, they said.

But Dylan’s neighbors, who contend their patience has run out, have plenty to say about the odor.

“It started in September. I’d go into the front yard and get nauseous,” said Cindy Emminger, 42. “I couldn’t figure out at first where the smell was coming from.”

But then her 8-year-old son, David Jr., was sickened by the stench. Then she became ill too.

“We both [have] allergies and are sensitive to chemicals,” Emminger said. “I finally noticed that they had moved the porta-potty directly in front of my front door. I figured out that the smell was coming from that.”

She called her husband, an international bond trader who at the time was on the East Coast addressing a group of city and county managers. He suggested she contact Malibu’s municipal officials.

By some accounts, the city’s response has been sluggish.

In January, one inspector reported that a city code enforcement officer was turned away by Dylan’s security staff and told that he was trespassing. “He said they were going to sue the city,” the inspector said.

Guards in security shack that is staffed around the clock near the edge of Dylan’s compound are among those who use the porta-potty, according to neighbors.

The guard house has been the source of controversy in the past. In 1989, when Dylan sought a permit to build it, Los Angeles County building and safety inspectors discovered it was not accessible by the handicapped. According to county records, the singer bypassed accessibility requirements by promising, in writing, that he “would not hire any handicapped persons” to work in it.

Cindy Emminger said material burned in an apparently recently installed stove inside the guard shack adds to the odor problem on chilly nights, when Dylan’s workers use the heater.

-- Bob Pool