Things just got a lot more serious for Soylent CEO Robert Rhinehart, who has installed, and apparently refused to remove, a bright red shipping container from a hill above Lincoln Heights. City prosecutors announced Friday that they’ve filed criminal charges against him.
Rinehart faces four counts of construction and grading without permits, zoning code violations, and failing to comply with orders from the building and safety department. According to the city attorney’s office, if convicted, the 28-year-old could be sentenced up to two years in jail and pay $4,000 in fines.
The cargo container has been described by Rinehart as an "eco home" and "experiment in sustainable living." Curbed LA first reported about the weird experiment earlier this month. Neighbors said the box had become a nuisance; it was covered in graffiti and its windows were smashed.
"Unpermitted structures pose a safety risk. They also can be unsightly and erode the quality of life in a neighborhood," City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. "My office will work to hold property owners accountable if they flout our building and safety laws."
It appears Rinehart might have removed the cargo container recently as today; but we haven't heard back from the city attorney's office about how that might affect its decision to file charges:
Rhinehart bought the land beneath the shipping container at auction in December for $21,300, property records show. The city attorney’s office says building and safety officers inspected the property in January and April after neighbors complained. In June, they held a hearing over the violations, but Rinehart "allegedly refused to remove the container from the site and agree to any timeline for complying with Building and Safety Orders." In July, he threw a Fourth of July party on the site and roasted a pig, which, as we've pointed out before, is a little ironic considering Rinehart is known for surviving for months on nothing but Soylent. Is Soylent allowed in jail?