85,000-Square-Foot Home Plan Rattles Posh L.A. Neighborhood

There is a battle brewing in Benedict Canyon, Calif., over a five-acre property being developed into an 85,000-square-foot home plan for a Saudi Arabian prince.

For the uninformed, Benedict Canyon is prime California real estate which stretches from the picturesque Mulholland Drive down to the famous Sunset Boulevard. Stars such as Jay Leno, Bruce Springsteen, and David Beckham all reside in Benedict Canyon. In the last week, interest has been sparked globally thanks to an article in the Los Angeles Times by Martha Groves.
According to the article, three adjoining lots have been purchased at $12 million each by Tower Lane Properties, which lists Mansour Fustok of London as president. Fustok is a former brother in law to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Longtime Benedict Canyon resident Michael Eisenberg insists that the action has absolutely nothing to do with the fact the property is being built for a prince. "The battle started before
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we knew who owned the property," he says, "and does not change because of who the owner is." He adds, "The problem we have is that it was not submitted as one project, but as three separate parcels. If it had been submitted in its entirety, an environmental impact study would have had to been performed according to the California Environmental Quality Act."

Opponents point out that there will be 6,000 truck trips through a densely populated area just to prepare the land for building. Some 30,000 cubic yards of dirt need to be moved down small, hillside roads. That is before a single piece of wood is delivered. Critics fear this project will adversely affect their quality of life, increase traffic, and affect the ability to get emergency vehicles through when necessary. "It is like having a Wal-Mart being built in your residential neighborhood," says Eisenberg. He feels it is a serious issue that is being sensationalized because it happens to be in the 90210 zip code.

Halfway across the world, it does matter who the project is being built for. Saudi Arabia has a reputation as a very wealthy nation, but the wealthy and royals make up a very small percentage of the population. There is a serious housing shortage for low to middle income families and an unemployment rate estimated to be as high as 25 percent. While over 7 million people are employed, 80 percent of the workforce is non-Saudi. A Saudi blogger who learned about the controversy online says if the people of Saudi Arabia found out about this project there would be a huge uprising. Only 24 percent of nationals own their own home, and the prince is building a multimillion-dollar vacation home in Beverly Hills.

Luckily for the royal family, nothing disparaging is allowed to be printed about the royals and most nationals in Saudi Arabia don't read the Los Angeles Times.

Barbara Green is The Design Diva and owner of Sensibly Chic Interior Design. Follow her on Twitter @thedesigndiva.

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