Demolition of maverick developer Mohamed Hadid’s notorious Los Angeles mega-mansion finally began this week – more than two years after a judge ordered it to be torn down due to the danger the illegal house poses to neighboring homes.
A mechanical excavator was seen in exclusive DailyMail.com photos ripping down a stucco wall on the half-built colossus, while above, hard-hatted workers prepared the flat concrete roof to be cut up into sections and removed.
Sahara Construction, the company demolishing what was supposed to be Hadid’s glittering $100million Bel Air palace, invited DailyMail.com in Tuesday for an exclusive, first-hand look at how the massive mansion is being reduced to rubble and dust.
Outside, a hydraulic excavator used the sharp teeth on an extended arm to rip down the top floor’s dry-wall and stucco walls and aluminum framing and deposit the tons of debris in piles or dumpsters, ready to be hauled away.
At the same time, several workers on the 10-man demo crew, started removing the concrete and wood top story roof in six-foot sections.
Contractors working on the demolition of Mohamed Hadid’s Bel Air megamansion discovered the rotting hulk was far from the glistening hilltop palace the supermodels’ dad had planned
Exclusive DailyMail.com photos show an excavator tearing down the property’s walls Monday, months after it was auctioned off for $5million
Sahara Construction, the company that bought the illegally-built home and agreed to destroy it, has revealed it cannot use a wrecking ball to raze the mansion due to its size and illegal construction work
Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father has claimed he’s facing $60million in losses in the civil suit over his condemned Los Angeles mega-mansion
Hadid’s controversial development, dubbed the ‘Starship Enterprise’ – was first ordered to be torn down out in 2019 after a judge ruled it was a nuisance and a danger to the public. But the home’s demolition was stalled for years after Hadid claimed he did not have the funds to knock it down
The judge who ordered the house to be torn down gave Sahara 60 days to complete the job.
‘I think we’ll be able to finish in that time,’ Sahara assistant project manager Nasim Karawia told DailyMail.com.
‘We’re hoping that by the end of this week, we’ll finish removing the top floor – apart from the main steel beams that support the whole structure.
‘But the top floor is the easy part. The rest of house though, the concrete, the support caissons (piles), the steel structural beams, will take a lot longer to bring down.’
His crew is also installing heavy netting around the steep hillside to stop rubble or masonry hurtling down toward the homes of the neighbors who sued Hadid.
Contractor Paul Ventura, who is overseeing the project, said he preferred to call the operation, ‘dismantling, rather than demolition.’
A side by side comparison shows the rendering for the original, approved 15,000 square-foot development and the 30,000 square foot incomplete mega-mansion Hadid he built instead
Sahara Construction invited DailyMail.com in Tuesday for an exclusive, first-hand look at how the massive mansion is being reduced to rubble
A sleek staircase designed by Hadid and meant to be a focal point in the swanky mansion is now splintered and crumbling
On the exterior, the top floor’s dry-wall, stucco walls and aluminum framing were ripped off by hydraulic excavator
Hard-hatted demolition workers from the 10-man crew were seen hauling out debris to dump into waste containers
‘We are unbuilding this house the same way it was built,’ he told DailyMail.com on Monday. ‘We have to be very careful – we can’t just smash everything down.’
Whether a demolition or dismantling, it doesn’t matter to neighbor Joe Horacek – he’s just over the moon that the giant, half-built mansion that looms menacingly over his nearby home is being destroyed at last.
‘It’s great news – and it’s about time,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘This is like waking up from a very bad dream.
‘I’m delighted that that obnoxious monstrosity is finally coming down. I can’t wait for it to be gone.
‘It’s such a relief to know that soon we won’t have to worry any more about that house crashing down the hill and destroying us and our home. We’ll be able to sleep again.’
The construction company, which bought the property for just over $5million, revealed it is not using a wrecking ball to tear it down.
‘We have to be a lot more surgical than that because of the steep hill the house sits on,’ Ventura told DailyMail.com.
‘If we used an all-out blitz with a wrecking ball, it could send large pieces of rubble and masonry down the hill and endanger the properties below.
‘So we’re using hydraulic excavators with long arms with special attachments on them to take down the structure more methodically and safely.’
A project manager told DailyMail.com demolishing the home’s top floors won’t be as challenging as taking down the concrete, the support caissons and the steel structural beams
Due to the house’s size and position on the hill, contractors must work carefully to prevent pieces of rubble and masonry from endangering properties below
Demolition workers are using hydraulic excavators with long arms with special attachments to take down the structure ‘more methodically and safely’
Contractor Paul Ventura told DailyMail.com the company is using ‘multiple layers of safety’ including strengthening existing fencing and installing netting around the site to prevent 20,000 pounds of debris from hurtling down the hill
The unfinished development project was at the center of a six-week civil trial last summer where Hadid was accused of trying to hide unpermitted construction work from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety
Ventura stressed that the company is using ‘multiple layers of safety’ in the demolition project, including strengthening existing fencing and installing netting around the site that’s strong enough to stop up to 20,000 pounds of debris from hurtling down the hill.
In addition to the steepness of the hill the four-story house sits on, Sahara has to deal with another problem: the parts of the giant house that Hadid built without approval from LA city planners.
The demolition engineers are using the original approved plans to dismantle the building, section by section.
But, added Ventura, ‘Because the original builder (Hadid) did not build it according to the plans, a lot of the demolition work is exploratory.
‘We have to carefully take down the walls to the steal supporting beams to see what’s there.
‘We’re not sure what we’re going to find when we, say, take down a wall or another part of the structure. Because a lot of the building is not on the plans.’
Hadid had shared updates of the development project over the years on social media and vowed to complete it despite legal threats from neighbors
A rendering of what the home was meant to look like once finished, but now Hadid’s dream is in tatters and those plans will no longer come to fruition
It was that secret, unpermitted construction, including a 70-seat IMAX theater and a huge wine cellar, that saw the house grow to more than twice the 15,000 square feet the city had approved – and led Hadid’s neighbors to sue him.
Horacek, 80, his wife Bibi and two other elderly neighbors, John and Judith Bedrosian, spent four years and an estimated $9million in legal fees, fighting a civil lawsuit against Hadid over the now-crumbling, colossus that sits ominously above their luxury homes.
Their battle with the 73-year-old Palestinian-American tycoon – father of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid and former guest star on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – came to a climax last September at the end of a civil trial when a Santa Monica jury awarded the Horaceks and the Bedrosians a total of $2.9million.
It was a bittersweet victory for the neighbors since the payout barely covered a third of their lawyer fees and was just a fraction of the $26million they were seeking in damages.
During the six-week trial, the neighbors’ legal team painted a picture of the Horaceks and the Bedrosians – both in their mid-80s – being unable to enjoy their golden years in the quiet and peace of Bel Air because of the daily specter of Hadid’s massive structure above them.
Hadid’s mansion sparked outrage among residents of the wealthy Bel Air neighborhood claiming it was two times larger than the permitted size and was so unstable they feared it could slide down the hill and destroy their houses below
Attorneys for Hadid’s neighbors had painted a picture of the Horaceks and the Bedrosians being unable to enjoy their golden years in the quiet and peace because of the illegal structure towering over their homes
Neighbors had been fighting for years for the demolition of the property because of all the alleged unapproved construction. The development of the home has also been an eyesore to nearby residents and was a danger in rainstorms
Neighbors’ attorney Gary Lincenberg pointed out that according to expert opinion, piles supporting the house – which were not sunk deep enough into the hillside to comply with local building codes – would fail’ in the event of a 24-year earthquake or a 10-20-year rain event’
They wanted to punish Hadid for building a house that became such a behemoth that they called it the ‘Starship Enterprise.’
They told anguished stories of how 10 years of building work on the mansion on Strada Vecchia that Hadid once hoped to sell for $100 million brought ‘stress, anxiety, constant fear and sleepless nights’ into their daily lives.
And they told the jury that they were afraid it could slide down the hill and crash into their homes directly below because its foundations don’t comply with safety standards.
The home was built atop a hill where illegal grading (shifting tons of earth) made the steep slopes it sits on unstable and prone to landslides, the neighbors said.
Hadid adopted a defense of denial during the trial. He denied violating building regulations – even though in 2015 he pleaded no contest when he was prosecuted criminally by the City of LA after he refused to comply with ‘stop work’ orders issued because of illegal construction.
He denied bribing City building inspectors to turn a blind eye to construction work being done without permits.
And he denied that the mansion’s weak foundations and the unstable hillside it’s built on pose a risk to other homes in the community.
After the trial, Horacek – a retired entertainment lawyer whose clients have included movie star Michael Douglas and TV’s Dr. Phil – questioned whether the neighbors will be able to collect even the $2.9million, a fraction of what they had hoped to win in his lawsuit.
The monstrous mansion was built atop a hill where illegal grading made the steep slopes it sits on unstable and prone to landslides, putting neighboring homes at risk
Neighbors had complained about the property claiming they were afraid it could slide down the hill and crash into their homes directly below because its foundations did not comply with safety standards
The demolition of the property has been a long-awaited dream for neighbors, Joe (pictured) and Bibi Horacek and John and Judy Bedrosian, who spent $9M in legal fees fighting Hadid over the neighborhood eyesore
Hadid (pictured leaving the Santa Monica courthouse in August) scored a massive victory in his trial last summer after a Santa Monica jury awarded the neighbors a total of $2.9million – a fraction of the $26million they were seeking
Because Hadid – once frequently dubbed a ‘multi-millionaire’ – claims he’s broke and facing $60million in losses over his dilapidated project, half of that his own money and the other half loans.
He also claimed that he owes an additional $15million in other court judgements against him, he had to ‘drastically downsize’ from a 48,000 square foot home to a more ‘modest’ one, he’s made nothing from the caviar and champagne products carrying his name, and his daughters’ eyewear line – also using the Hadid brand – has also earned him no money.
It was in November 2019 that LA Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan declared Hadid’s mansion a ‘clear and present danger’ to the local community and ordered it to be torn down.
Yet the house – which dominated the skyline in its exclusive Bel Air enclave – continued to stand through today because Hadid claimed he doesn’t even have the $5million to demolish it.
And a buyer who had offered $9million to purchase the building – and tear it down- backed out of the deal.
Douglas Wilson, the receiver Judge Karlan appointed to supervise the sale and demolition of the house, was forced to put the property up for auction and it finally sold in December for $5.05million to Sahara Construction, based in Moorpark, west of LA.
Wilson – who oversaw the $35million repair of Donald Trump’s California golf course when three holes collapsed into the ocean in 1999 – also persuaded Sahara to take on the demolition of the house as part of the deal.
Over the past two years, Hadid has tried several legal moves to try to stop or delay the demolition. First he filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming he ‘couldn’t afford’ the $5million demo cost. That was dismissed.
Then he filed an appeal against Judge Karlan’s order to tear down the giant house. That too was denied.
He went to California’s Supreme Court to try to save his project. But the state’s highest court torpedoed his efforts, refusing even to hear the case.
Still undeterred, Hadid’s lawyers filed a second appeal – this time against Judge Karlan’s decision to appoint a receiver to oversee destruction of the house. He lost that appeal as well.
Last month, Hadid’s legal team filed a third appeal, this one against the $2.9 million judgment awarded to the neighbors by the civil trial jury.