Facebook Billionaire to Pay $2.5 Million for Unpermitted Big Sur Wedding in the Woods

Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Sean Parker and wife Alexandra Lenas

The good news is that Napster founder and Facebook billionaire Sean Parker has agreed to “collaborate” with the California Coastal Commission by spending $2.5 million “on programs that promote coastal conservation.”

The bad news is he agreed to the contribution as a settlement with the commission staff after it became known that his $10 million wedding to Alexandra Lenas last Saturday in the woods at Big Sur lacked any permits.

Parker, who booked the entire Ventana Inn and Spa for the nuptials, built a wedding site that resembled a movie set in an ecologically sensitive part of Big Sur. He hired contractors to build fake ruins, multiple event platforms, rock walls, a pond with a waterfall, a dance floor and a stone bridge at a closed public campground, according to the commission staff report.   

“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 staff wrote.

The Ventana campground is in a redwood forest adjacent to Post Creek, “a critical link in maintaining a natural steelhead fishery in the Big Sur water shed,” according to the staff report.

The commission found out about the wedding project in April and visited the site May 1. The staff informed the commission’s Central Coast District enforcement staff the next day of possible violations.   

While the staff report, buried on the commission website, is pretty damning and indicates the Ventana Inn will be held accountable in a separate settlement, the commission’s press release, linked to from its homepage, barely mentions the wedding or what improvements Parker made to the forest. The release includes a quote from Parker—“We always dreamed of getting married in Big Sur, one of the most magical places on Earth” —and one from commission chief of enforcement Lisa Haage—“We’re pleased to be working with him and Alexandra on this precedent-setting package of programs.” 

While the press release assures that the forest will be returned to its original state once the settlement terms are met, the staff noted erosion problems and physical damage to trees:  “The unpermitted development has thus impacted the existing redwood forest habitat and has likely caused sedimentation of Post Creek.”

The commission will consider the staff recommendations at an upcoming meeting.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

New Government Documents Show the Sean Parker Wedding Is the Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess (by Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic)

Sean Parker's Wedding: Mogul to Pay $2.5M in Settlement (by James Dearen, Associated Press)

Sean Parker Dinged $2.5 Million for Unpermitted Wedding Project (by Paresh Dave, Los Angeles Times)

California Coastal Commission and Sean Parker Reach Agreement Resulting in Expanded Coastal Conservation and Public Access Programs (California Coastal Commission) (pdf)

Recommendations and Findings for Consent Cease and Desist and Consent Restoration Orders (California Coastal Commission staff) (pdf)

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