Man facing years in prison for placing simple off-the-grid cabin on his own property

Friday, August 19, 2016
By Paul Martin

by: Isabelle Z.
Friday, August 19, 2016

A California man is facing criminal charges for erecting a small dwelling off the grid on property that he owns.

Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart purchased the 8,422-square-foot piece of land on Los Angeles’ Flat Top Hill in a city auction in December. With no electricity or water hook-ups, it sold for a cheap $21,300. Rhinehart spent a further $1,500 buying a red shipping container to place on the land and adding a portable toilet and solar power. His aim was to create a minimalist home featuring graywater recycling, solar panels, and a septic tank.

Rhinehart offered to move the structure to a different location after complaints from neighbors, but the city had already started to file the charges. He is due in court on September 7 for arraignment. He is facing a $4,000 fine and could even end up spending two years in prison.

Rhinehart is disappointed by the city’s actions. He pointed out that he has spent thousands of dollars improving the land, removing garbage from it, and even mowing the grass on the entire hilltop.

City Attorney Mike Feuer says that unpermitted structures not only pose a safety risk, but they can also be unsightly and adversely affect a neighborhood’s quality of life. Of course, the fact hat Rhinehart does not intend to connect it to the government-regulated grid with its associated fees is probably the biggest motivator behind the legal action.

Rhinehart asked where the city was when the property was vandalized, saying that someone placed graffiti on the structure and smashed his windows. The shipping container has also attracted trespassers, who neighbors say gather there and engage in undesirable behavior.

On his blog, Rhinehart issued an apology to his neighbors. He said: “As a first time property owner, the container was meant to be an experiment in sustainable housing. In the future, I will ensure that I do my due diligence with regard to all city and neighborhood regulations. Flat Top Hill is a gem of Los Angeles, and I intend to make only positive contributions to the neighborhood and community going forward.”

Rhinehart embraces minimalist lifestyle

The Rest…HERE

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