Google Engineer Agrees to Clean Up Malibu Property

Following 20 years of frustration, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) is looking to finally resolve a case of environmental disturbance outside a home on Latigo Canyon Drive in Malibu, since on Thursday it approved an amendment placing responsibility in the hands of Google Engineering Director Hartmut Neven. 

Neven is also one of the developers of Google Glass. 

Hartmut and his wife Jessica Neven have been in possession of the property since April 2013, when they purchased it after it was foreclosed upon. Before the deal went through, they were made aware that the present use of land was in violation of the Coastal Act because prior owners had dumped construction materials into nearby streams. 

“The current owners, Hartmut and Jessica Neven, purchased the property in April 2013 with notice of the Coastal Act violations and have now reached [this] proposed agreement,” said CCC Chief of Enforcement Lisa Haage during Thursday morning’s meeting. Haage went on to praise the couple. 

“The Nevens and their agents have been extremely cooperative to work with and we greatly appreciate their collaboration in crafting the consent agreements for the proposed restoration plan,” Haage said. 

In 1995, the CCC discovered that the then-owner, Forrest Freed, had violated Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA). According to the staff report, “the violations at issue in this matter include dumping of concrete, rebar, bricks, asphalt, plastics and metal materials into a canyon containing two United States Geologic Survey designated blue-line streams, which had the effect of altering one of the streams.” 

Rather than restore the property, Freed sold it to Sanford Horowitz in 2000. 

In the following 13 years, Horowitz thwarted the CCC and continued unpermitted development and “the removal of major vegetation” on the property, as well as dividing the property into two parcels without a permit. 

“After the original consent orders were issued in 2005, staff attempted to work with [Horowitz] to comply with his obligations under the agreement. Staff granted two deadline extensions for him to submit a restoration plan consistent with the terms of the prior consent orders, in an attempt to work with the prior owner to comply with the orders,” said statewide enforcement analyst Maggie Webber, adding, “Unfortunately, in the midst of this, the house was completely destroyed in a November 2007 brush fire.” 

Following the fire, the property went into foreclosure. 

In 2013, the Nevens purchased the property and, according to the CCC, have been working to bring it back to code and clear the ESHA damage done. 

“They have agreed to assume the obligations of the original consent orders … as well as take additional steps to ensure a successful restoration of the property,” states the report, “Staff appreciates the current owners’ work and efforts in coming to this conclusion.” 

The Nevens were not present at Thursday’s meeting, though they did send a letter to the CCC apologizing for their absence from the hearing. 

“I do appreciate that they explained that our staff has worked well with them and they apologized for not being here and also made it clear that they are helping us to achieve the outcome that will be defined in the consent order,” said Chairman Steve Kinsey. 

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the updates to the consent order, in which the Nevens are directed and authorized to “1) recombine lots divided without permit; 2) cease and desist from undertaking additional unpermitted development; and 3) remove unpermitted development.” 

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