Beverly Hills residents and concerned Angelenos are organizing to fight a home project that Hadid Development wants to build on hillside peaks bordering Franklin Canyon Park.
“When we first saw bulldozers up here we were told by the men operating the machines it was work being done for the [Santa Monica Mountains] Conservancy,” said Ellen Scott, a regular hiker of 20 years who is the unofficial spokesperson of Save Franklin Canyon. “If we hadn’t been mislead we would have taken action sooner.”
Now the group is threatening to sue developer Mohamed Hadid, who wants to build up to 11 homes on 97 acres abutting the park. The disputed land is adjacent to Hastain Trail, which hikers have assumed for years was park property and part of the conservancy. Situated on one of the canyon's highest peaks, the land is actually private property.
“I understand they believe the land belongs to them, because they have been hiking here and there for years,” Hadid told the Los Angeles Times. “But it's private land.”
Hadid, 62, has designed and built more than a dozen Ritz-Carlton hotels and Beverly Hills mansions. His Bel-Air home “Le Belvedere”—boasting 19 fireplaces and 14 bathrooms—reportedly sold for $50 million in 2010 and was featured on an episode of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Attorney Stephen Jones is helping Save Franklin Canyon prepare a lawsuit against the hillside development. The group will try to get a public easement for Hastain Trail, a 2.3-mile loop. Jones plans to argue that “implied dedication” of the trail gives the public rights over private land owners based on the number of consecutive years the trail was in public use.
Opponents of the development argue that the leveling of the peaks, which Hadid began early this year, severely affects the natural topography and wildlife of the canyon, and blocks hikers' access to the views looking west to Santa Monica and the ocean, east to the skyline of downtown and south over the rooftops of Beverly Hills and beyond. Hadid said he has had to put up some barriers along the trail to keep people from vandalizing his construction equipment.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has offered to buy the land for its appraised value but could not meet Hadid's price, the Times reported.
“This is evidently about one developer's desire to profit versus the rights of the public to enjoy nature in their midst,” Beverly Hills Councilman John Mirisch told the newspaper.
Hadid said that he had been offered $15 million for 40 acres of the land by a private buyer, but that he is open to compromise and suggested that the conservancy contribute about $3.8 million—reportedly its appraised value—adding that he would help raise additional funds through other means.
This report was compiled with information from City News Service.