Facebook billionaire to pay $2.5M after wedding in fragile ecological area
Sean Parker, left, and Alexandra Lenas arrive at the Pre-GRAMMY Gala & Salute to Industry Icons with Clive Davis honoring Richard Branson in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2012. (AP / Vince Bucci)
Jason Dearen, The Associated Press
Published Monday, June 3, 2013 8:47PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 3, 2013 8:50PM EDT
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook billionaire Sean Parker's lavish, $10 million Big Sur wedding got even more expensive Monday.
The California Coastal Commission and Parker said they have reached a $2.5 million settlement to pay for coastal conservation programs after the Napster co-founder built a large movie-set-like wedding site in an ecologically sensitive area of Big Sur without proper permits.
The parties reached the agreement after officials were tipped that Parker had built a cottage, fake ruins, waterfalls, staircases and a huge dance floor near iconic redwoods and a stream with threatened steelhead trout.
The commission learned about the construction at a closed campground owned by Ventana Inn & Spa after a county investigation spurred by neighbour complaints. The Ventana is negotiating a separate settlement for allowing the construction to occur.
"Despite the continued unauthorized closure of the campground to the public, earlier this year, the property owner entered into an agreement giving Sean Parker exclusive use of the campground for several months to construct a sizeable wedding venue," the commission's staff wrote in a report.
Ventana spokesman Francisco Carrasco did not return a call or email seeking comment.
The Ventana is located within the coastal zone, an area regulated by the commission, an independent state agency that oversees coastal development. Any significant construction within the zone has to be permitted.
When staff inspected, they found the temporary structures had already been built, but they allowed the wedding to proceed anyway.
The commission started negotiating a settlement with Parker and his representatives instead of shutting the event down.
"Mr. Parker has been extremely co-operative and actively involved in working with Coastal Commission staff to reach this resolution which both addresses our Coastal Act concerns and will result in greater coastal access and conservation in the Big Sur and Monterey Peninsula areas," Charles Lester, the commission's executive director, said in a statement.
Parker, 33, the former president of Facebook Inc. who was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the movie "The Social Network," married singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas on Saturday in a ceremony with gowns and sets made by a designer for the "Lord of the Rings" films.
Rick Zbur, Parker's representative during negotiations with the commission, said Parker worked diligently to address the issue once it came to his attention.
"So as soon as he was made aware of the Coastal Commission's concerns, he immediately stepped forward to discuss how he could protect the coastal area and resolve these issues," Zbur said in an email.
Parker also asked his guests, many of them extremely wealthy entrepreneurs and celebrities, to donate to Save the Redwoods or the California League of Conservation Voters in lieu of giving gifts, according to a program.
Since Parker did not get permits for the construction, commission staff will oversee the breakdown of the vast set so no damage is done to the environment. The commission said no major damage had yet been done, but it wanted to reach a deal quickly so the violating structures could be removed safely.
"Normally (negotiations) happen over a couple of months, but because of the nature of the violations here we wanted to get it out as soon as possible so Mr. Parker could go ahead and do the work the way it should be done," said Lisa Haage, the commission's chief of enforcement.
Money from the agreement may be used to purchase public easements and hiking trails in the Big Sur area and as grants for nonprofits doing conservation projects.
Also, as part of the settlement, Parker offered to produce and distribute a public education video or create a mobile app aimed at helping to identify areas where the public can access the coast.
Haage said the commission is hopeful Parker's assistance will help it spread more information about California's coastal resources.
In a statement, Parker said he was delighted to help the commission achieve its conservation goals and to help Big Sur area businesses.
The commission will vote on the agreement at its next meeting scheduled June 14.