Soylent founder’s abandoned “eco-living experiment” could land him in jail

Soylent’s Rob Rhinehart is facing criminal charges and fines up to $4,000 for allegedly refusing to remove a shipping container he placed on top of a hill behind his home in the Montecito Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The head of the meal replacement startup weirdly named after a movie where they ground up and served people in drink form was charged with unpermitted construction, grading and zoning code violations in Los Angeles court today for a structure he dubbed on social media sites an “eco-living experiment.”

Rhinehart built the structure on a hill within boundaries of his own property but failed to get the proper permits for the structure, according to the city attorney’s office.

Rhinehart bought the property, which has no water or electricity hookups, for $21,300 at an auction in December, according to Curbed, which first reported the debacle.

The Department of Building and Safety conducted an inspection of the property in January after neighbor complaints and found the unpermitted 9’ x 30’ bright red shipping container on Rhinehart’s lot.

According to prosecutors, Rhinehart abandoned the structure soon after placing it on top of the hill and let it become an “eyesore,” covered in trash and graffiti. The Soylent CEO refused several requests to remove what representatives from the L.A. city attorney’s office refer to as an “experimental living facility,” inciting ire from neighbors and raising safety concerns.

“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.”

Rhinehart, who could not be reached for comment, met with city attorneys last month and was asked to remove the structure but has so far refused to do so, according to the prosecution. He is scheduled for arraignment September 7th and could face up to two years in jail.