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Benedict Canyon project requires environmental review

October 12, 2011 |  6:00 pm

A Los Angeles building official has told an attorney for a Saudi prince that the prince's proposed multi-structure residential project in Benedict Canyon is subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act. 

The prince's representatives have asserted for months that he had the right to build the compound without an environmental review. However, neighborhood opponents have lobbied the city to require an environmental analysis because of anticipated effects from digging, hauling and other construction-related activities.

The mansion project is opposed by, among others, Martha and Bruce Karsh. Bruce Karsh is president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, a senior creditor in the bankruptcy case of Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Bob Steinbach, chief of the city Department of Building and Safety's inspection bureau, told attorney Benjamin M. Reznik that permits for work on the Tower Lane properties had expired and that the project could not proceed until it had been reviewed under the state's environmental law. The permits were related to grading and work on a wall.

The letter stated that the previously granted permits had expired because no work had been done under them for 180 days. Building officials also denied the applicant's request for a postponement of the permits' expiration date.

Steinbach's letter said the city Planning Department had advised building officials that the project could no longer proceed until it had undergone an environmental review. The letter advised Tower Lane Properties, the developer, that it could appeal the department's actions to the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners.

"They're going to have to come in for new permits and go through a whole new approval process," said David Lara, a Department of Building and Safety spokesman.

"We are evaluating our options," Reznik said. He contended that the building department had been "under intense lobbying" from the Karshes and their attorneys. "We are being targeted," Reznik said.

George Mihlsten, an attorney for the Karshes, said the letter made clear "that any project is going to have to go through a hearing process and preparation of an environmental document."

"Until they do that and work with the community," he said, "it's unlikely anything will be built on this property."


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-- Martha Groves

Photo: Bill Christopher, a project representative, shows plans for the Saudi prince's mansion. Credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times