LINCOLN HEIGHTS –– The City Attorney has filed multiple criminal counts after Robert Rhinehart, whose company makes the meal replacement drink Soylent, refused to remove a cargo container on Flat Top Hill that neighbors says has become a magnet for criminal activity.
Rhinehart was charged with four criminal counts in connection with the container that sits on land he owns at 2936 N. Ashland Avenue. The counts include construction and grading without permits; zoning code violations and failure to comply with orders from the Department of Building and Safety. If convicted, Rhinehart could face up to two years in jail and $4,000 in fines. Arraignment is scheduled for September 7.
“Unpermitted structures pose a safety risk. They also can be unsightly and erode the quality of life in a neighborhood,” said City Attorney Michael Feuer in a statement. “My office will work to hold property owners accountable if they flout our building and safety laws.”
Rhinehart told Curbed L.A. that there have been no signs of illegal activity at the container, which he has described as an “eco home” and an ”experiment in sustainable living.” He also said that he’s frustrated by the city’s permitting system. “In the city of Los Angeles one may not install a garbage disposal without seeking a permit,” he said. “I feel like I’m living in the movie Brazil.”
The City Attorney issued a summary of actions city officials have taken in recent months:
“In January 2016, the Department of Building and Safety conducted an inspection of the property in response to community complaints of unpermitted grading and construction on the vacant lot. Subsequent inspections found further alleged unpermitted work continuing on the site. In April 2016, inspectors also observed a 9’ x 30’ bright red shipping container secured on the lot allegedly being used by Rhinehart as an experimental living facility. Follow-up investigations in June observed recently installed windows on the container had been smashed and the container was covered in graffiti.
A City Attorney Office hearing was held in June to resolve the violations. Rhinehart allegedly refused to remove the container from the site and agree to any timeline for complying with Building and Safety Orders.”
Update: One of our readers on Facebook posted a photo showing what looks like Rhinehart’s cargo container being transported away on a truck.
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