Sean Parker ordered to pay $2.5 million in settlement over unpermitted wedding site.
from SF Gate
Entitled Internet billionaire brat Sean Parker loves Big Sur so much that he couldn’t let permits, penalties or threatened species get in the way of his plans for a lavish wedding amid the redwoods.
The California Coastal Commission slapped the Napster co-founder and early Facebook executive with a $2.5 million fine, after it discovered his $10 million ceremony last weekend entailed major construction on a public campground, without any oversight or permission.
The commission discovered the construction a month before the wedding, but apparently opted for the settlement rather than moving to shut the event down. The body put a surprisingly positive spin on the agreement, complimenting Parker on his cooperation and highlighting that the funds will go toward additional conservation and public access projects.
The commission must still approve the deal.
In a too-close-for-comfort twist, two of the highest officials in the state were reportedly at the star-studded event, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Harris is the top law enforcement official in California. Newsom’s state website
says said the Lieutenant Governor serves on the Coastal Commission in alternate years, but his office said he does not. Newsom does serve on the Ocean Protection Council every other year.
Calls to Harris and the Coastal Commission weren’t returned.
(For pictures of the site, click here.)
To the outside observer, Parker’s actions look like contempt for the piddling rules that we non-billionaires can’t buy our way around. And it certainly does nothing to alter the increasingly popular local view of the tech class as selfish and aloof, conspicuously relishing their venture capital rounds and IPO winnings, as a growing portion of the Bay Area population struggles to make their skyrocketing rent.
In a compounding act of gall, Parker attempted to use the settlement to paint himself as a modern day John Muir.
“We always dreamed of getting married in Big Sur, one of the most magical places on earth,” Parker said in a statement. “In continuing my foundation’s mission, we are excited to support these important conservation related projects for and with the local community.”
There’s a reason why Big Sur is magical, of course: The pristine stretch of California coastline around the Santa Lucia Mountains has been carefully preserved through more than a dozen state parks, federal wildernesses and other protected areas. In other words, average Joes and billionaires alike aren’t allowed to just flatten the ground and build whatever they like.
Yet that’s precisely what happened. The Coastal Commission report says the wedding site included “a gateway and arch, an artificial pond, a stone bridge, multiple event platforms with elevated floors, rock wall, artificially created ‘ruins’ of cottage and castle walls, multiple rock stairways, and a dance floor.”
So far, it doesn’t appear any major damage was done, but there was a very real environmental threat.
The campground in question is adjacent to Post Creek, a spawning habitat for steelhead trout, a species the federal government lists as threatened.
“Steelhead populations require, among a variety of other factors, the maintenance of low instream turbidity and water temperature, both of which are highly susceptible to degradation by anthropogenic activities,” the commission report said. “Development resulting in erosion along waterways increases the sediment load in streams which can smother eggs and occlude light necessary for aquatic flora photosynthesis and growth.”
In addition, the dense redwoods canopy keeps the water cool, so any damage could undermine the stream’s suitability as habitat for the threatened fish.
The 170-acre property in question includes the luxury Ventana Inn and Spa, as well as the campgrounds where the wedding was held. Parker and his company, Neraida, seem to have dealt directly with the private owners, a limited liability corporation.
But development and use of the environmentally sensitive property is regulated under the Coastal Act, which established the commission’s authority. Their report said the owners were already in violation of their permit for never building a planned parking lot and for closing down the public campgrounds in 2007. Both had the effect of eliminating low-cost, public access to the site, the report said.
Parker made his name by breaking rules, co-founding Napster, the renegade music file swapping service that took a bite out of the traditional industry’s business model. He’s now a director at Spotify, a streaming music service which has seized much of the momentum from Apple’s iTunes.
But this mindset appears different outside the context of business and technology. Disregarding rules protecting public treasures to ensure a prettier backdrop for Sean Parker’s special day looks less than disruption and more like self absorption.