In the wealthy hillside neighborhoods bordering Beverly Hills, neighbors are blase about the famous names who live next door and keep to themselves.
But the proposal to build a mega-mansion in Benedict Canyon has drawn the residents out from their gated mansions and onto the twisting streets of their stately canyon neighborhood in protest.
Twenty neighbors held a press conference Tuesday to draw attention to the proposed compound that's roughly the size of the famed Hearst Castle and located in the coveted 90210 ZIP code.
They complained that the project is oversized for the narrow streets, that years of construction will destroy their quality of life, that the proposal would create mudslide and fire hazards and that the unidentified owner wasn't acting neighborly.
"Just because someone has millions of dollars doesn't mean they have the right to stampede through the neighborhood," said Nickie Miner, a retired neighbor and president of the Benedict Canyon Association.
The neighborhood is home to Jay Leno, David Beckham, Bruce Springsteen, Lisa Kudrow and Michael Ovitz. Residents say the compound's size _ a 42,681-square-foot house, a 27,000-square-foot villa, a guest house, staff quarters and a gatehouse _ doesn't fit in with the neighborhood of stately mansions.
"The pool house is bigger than my house," Michael Eisenberg, a neighbor, said.
When Martha Karsh first saw the plans to build 85,000 square feet of new buildings, she assumed there was a typo.
"I thought, that can't be right. It must be 8,500, not 85,000 square feet," of new construction, she said. But as she dug deeper, the scale of the compound became clear, while the identity of the property's future residents is still a mystery.
The person who bought the 5.2 acre hillside lot for $12 million set up a business, Tower Lane Properties, Inc. in London, hired lawyers and contractors and made them sign secrecy agreements.
The property is rumored to be the future home of Saudi royalty. Mansour Fustok _ King Abdullah's former brother-in-law and the uncle of one of the king's sons, according to the Los Angeles Times _ is listed on city planning documents as president of Tower Lane Properties. The documents list Rutter Hobbs & Davidoff Inc. as the law firm involved in the development; attorneys with the firm have previously represented companies owned by Saudi royal family members, the Times reported.
A message left for Olivia Goodkin, a Rutter Hobbs attorney who was listed as the registered agent for Tower Lane Properties, was not returned Tuesday afternoon.
Eisenberg said a representative from the contractor told neighbors that the home would be occupied by a divorced father of three, which could be Fustok's nephew, Saudi Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud.
"It's not even going to be a summer home," Eisenberg said. "We're told it'll be occupied only one month a year."
Eisenberg and Karsh formed a group called Save Benedict Canyon, put up a website and went door-to-door to let their neighbors know about the proposal. They say city planners need to put the project through a rigorous environmental review and plan to show up with their lawyers at the next planning commission meeting April 14.
"They do horrible things on the ridgeline," Karsh said, referring to outsize mansions built in the hills. "This is a chance for L.A. to say there's a line, and past it is just too much."
At the press conference, residents were determined to sound like regular folks fighting for their quality of life.
"On this street, there are three families with kids," said stay-at-home mom MaryBeth Abdo, who moved into the neighborhood from Switzerland only eight months ago. "Many of these people have lived here for more than 10 years."
But their conversations didn't sound like the average block party chit-chat, as they discussed where Springsteen and Kudrow live.
"Springsteen has 24-hour security, when he's here," Eisenberg said. "But I've been in his house. It's totally normal, modest even."