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Neighbors Blast Coastal Commission Ruling on Singer’s House

June 15, 1990

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Singer Olivia Newton-John was honored this week by the United Nations as a special ambassador for the environment, then was slammed by Malibu neighbors who call her seaside home-under-construction a mess.

The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday ruled that a seawall built to protect the 6,000-square-foot home is taking too long to finish, but found no fault with methods used to make it.

Neighbors had complained about the seawall, calling the massive pile of sand an eyesore and an environmental hazard.

Gretchen Buck, who lives several hundred feet away, said the seawall construction involved dumping dirt, sand and debris on the beach.

Some washed out to sea, she said, and the ocean was so muddied for a time that she was forced to suspend her daily swims in the exclusive Paradise Cove area of Malibu. The commission ruling angered her. ″A railroad job, that’s what I’d call it,″ she said.

Investigators for the state panel acknowledged that Miss Newton-John and her husband, Matt Lattanzi, had violated the Coastal Act by carrying out construction without a permit extension. But no penalties were levied.

″I’m glad it’s over and I know Olivia is,″ said Lattanzi. ″Neither of us would knowingly do anything to hurt the environment.″

The couple bought the property in 1981. They’re building a solar-powered house designed to resemble a sand castle.

The commission might seek civil fines later, said Nancy Cave, the agency’s chief enforcement officer. It can seek penalties of up to $5,000 a day in cases where applicants knowingly violate coastal building codes.

The commission issued a permit for the seawall last June. It expired Nov. 1. The panel approved an after-the-fact permit for the work Wednesday, criticizing the couple for not requesting an extension.

″This is a project out of control,″ said William Litvak, an attorney for several neighbors who also contend that grading has destabilized bluffs overlooking their properties.

An attorney for the couple disagreed.

″Because we’re dealing with a celebrity who also happens to be an environmentalist, the whole issue has been blown out of proportion,″ Elizabeth Watson said. ″It’s a hullabaloo about nothing.″

Critics said the singer was receiving special consideration because she is a celebrity. Miss Newton-John received the United Nations tribute this week for her work furthering environmental causes.

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