The wealthy residents of the southern California city of Laguna Beach are embroiled in a nasty feud over a sculpture by glass king Dale Chihuly, and it’s led to dueling lawsuits.
Last year, billionaire Bill Gross gifted his partner Amy Schwartz, a former professional tennis player, the $1 million sculpture, which, in typical Chihuly fashion, features colorful glass orbs and tendrils with fish-tails.
The work appears to have gone relatively unnoticed—though it lights up at night—until Gross and Schwartz erected a large net held up by poles in order to protect the sculpture, which they claim had incurred up to $100,000 in damages from errant palm fronds and the like, the Los Angeles Times reports.
At that point, their neighbors, tech entrepreneurs Mark Towfiq and Carol Nakahara, filed a complaint with the city because Gross did not have proper permits for the structure, which happens to obstruct their seaside view. Towfiq and his wife live in a modernist mansion designed by the late architect Mark Singer, and it once boasted of seamless oceanfront vistas.
Presumably referring to the sculpture’s abstracted marlins, Schwartz claimed in court filings that “they are like my babies,” and added that her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and enjoys looking at the colorful work.
One of Dale Chihuly’s other glass works, Neon 206 (2017). Courtesy the New York Botanical Garden, photo By Ben Hider.
After the complaint was filed, Gross and Schwartz began a campaign to annoy their neighbors into submission by, among other things, playing the Gilligan’s Island theme song on repeat at a ridiculously loud volume, Towfiq says.
Despite Schwartz’s claims that she and her partner made ideal neighbors because they only occupied the multi-million-dollar estate for a handful of weeks a year, Towfiq says that the music continued even while the couple was away, arguing that they must be using a remote device.
“Bill Gross is a billionaire used to getting his own way,” Towfiq’s lawyers allege. They note a text message sent by Gross that reads “Peace on all fronts or well [sic] just have nightly concerts big boy.”
Neither men is a stranger to the perils of homeownership. Towfiq and his wife faced their own battle when a neighbor tried to quash their home-building plans because it conflicted with their own desired views. Gross on the other hand, copped to buying foul-smelling aerosol spray to ruin his ex-wife’s home during their bitter divorce.
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