Malibu opposes plan to build heliport for Divine Light guru

From Ivor Davis
Los Angeles, Dec 18

In the southern California community of Malibu Beach there is another religious leader besides the Ayatollah Khomeini who is winning no popularity contests.

The guru Maharaj Ji, aged 22, the Indian-born leader of the Divine Light Mission whose followers are said to number seven million throughout the world, is locked in earthly battle with residents of this waterfront community which includes a goodly collection of show business luminaries including Barbra Streisand, Cary Grant, and singers Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt, girlfriend of Mr Jerry Brown, California's Governor.

It all began when devoted followers of the "Perfect Master", as he is called, gave him a spanking new jet helicopter for his birthday. That created a problem. There was nowhere for the leader of the religious cult to land and take off at his $2m (£909,000) hill top estate.

In May the guru's lawyers were denied permission to build a heliport near the pool and tennis court by the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission. The guru is appealing against that decision and his followers are expected to show up at a public hearing before the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors on Thursday.

The guru has taken out full page advertisements in local newspapers to try to placate residents' groups which vigorously oppose the heliport, saying it not only creates noise but is an unnecessary hazard.

Engineers hired by the guru have run extensive tests to prove that their modern executive helicopter is a particularly noiseless one and that wherever heliports are built property values around have gone up. They also say that the guru only plans to use his helicopter six times a year.

Residents still are not impressed and the battle so far has been fought in the columns of the Malibu Surfside News.

"Such a heliport could generate as much noise as a factory right here in peaceful Malibu", Mr John May, a resident declared.

Mr Kent Mulvihill, another neighbour, said: "The most compelling argument against this private indulgence is the alarming precedent it would set. The hills of Malibu are dotted with movie stars, rock singers and top executives who could make an equal or better claim to the need for a private heliport. If this one gets through it could be just a matter of time before Malibu becomes helicopter heaven."

The guru's devotees, however, are undaunted. Over the past weekend dozens of young followers went from door to door trying to persuade residents to see it the guru's way.