Attorneys representing billionaire bond king Bill Gross and his Laguna Beach neighbor continued their feud over noisy music and an art installation Friday with an Orange County Superior Court judge expected to rule next Friday on a request to jail the PIMCO founder.
Gross’ neighbors, Mark Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara, have asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill to extend a restraining order against Gross and his wife, Amy, for another five years and prohibit them from playing any music outdoors.
Towfiq and Nakahara also want to restrict the height of any umbrella on the Gross’ property to seven feet because they argue the 15-foot one blocks their view of the ocean.
The dispute centers around a call Towfiq and his wife made to police on July 7 alleging the Grosses were violating the restraining order with loud music and shouting.
Towfiq’s attorney, Chase Scolnick, said Gross is so wealthy that any fine would be meaningless to him.
“We know any financial sanctions are not going to have any effect on Mr. Gross,” Scolnick argued. “He’s a man of means.”
However, if he is sentenced to up to five days in jail that would send a message, Scolnick said.
“He will take it seriously,” Scolnick argued. “That this isn’t a game. This is serious.”
Scolnick added that the Grosses “can’t be trusted to police themselves.”
Scolnick showed a cellphone video of Amy Gross that he said showed she was laughing in contempt of the police response to the noise complaint. Even when police advised her they were disturbing the peace she kept shouting, Scolnick argued.
“She just didn’t care,” he said. “She thinks she is above the law and doesn’t have to comply with a court’s orders.”
Towfiq and Nakahara were “terrified” and “felt powerless” because even the police could not get them to “turn the music down,” Scolnick said.
Scolnick argued that Bill Gross and his wife violated a city noise law and had directed one of their speakers at the bedroom of their neighbors. He argued the music wasn’t turned down until 10:40 p.m., well after the 9 p.m. curfew.
Attorney Patricia Glaser, who represents Gross and his wife, argued that Towfiq filed the contempt of court complaint just to stymie imminent approval from the city of a glass art sculpture.
“He knew this could hold up the permit,” Glaser argued. “He decided to weaponize the restraining order.”
She called it an “abuse of the process.”
Glaser also argued that Towfiq failed to prove her clients exceeded the noise ordinance level because a decibel-level reading was never done on Towfiq’s property as is required for such a complaint.
“He relied on self-serving evidence” that the music appeared to be too loud, Glaser argued.
Knill visited the neighborhood earlier this month as part of the hearings to get a sense of the ambient noise from the ocean and Pacific Coast Highway.
Glaser noted that the existing ambient noise level is about 80 decibels, which is higher than the 60-decibel cap.
She also argued that the city’s curfew on noise levels is at 10 p.m., not 9 p.m.
Glaser said Towfiq and his wife may be “over sensitive” to the noise and music since last year’s conflict. And they may not want to hear their neighbor play any music while frolicking in their pool, but that doesn’t mean they violated the law, she argued.
Glaser noted that police did not issue a citation to Gross and his wife and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in any event.
She also argued that the police who responded to the noise complaint were aware of news stories from the neighbors’ conflict in court last year and had “preconceived opinions.”
Glaser also disputed that her clients did not turn down the music until 10:40 p.m., but did so soon after police left.