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The CEO of Soylent Is Enraging LA With a Single Shipping Container

Seems as though it’s easier to reinvent the way humanity eats rather than the houses we live in.
July 28, 2016, 5:00pm
Image via Facebook user Soylent

Rob Rhinehart would like to replace meals with meal-replacement beverages and houses with shipping-container homes that are experiments in sustainable living. And while Soylent, the crowdfunded beverage that he created, is now valued at over $100 million, his first experiment in eco-living has turned into something of a debacle.

Sure, Rhinehart thinks outside of the box when it comes to both food and shelter—in fact, his new home is a box, but it's one that his neighbors are none too happy about. They say the red shipping container that Rhinehart installed on a hill overlooking LA has been abandoned, graffitied, and littered with trash. Is this the end of Rhinehart's dream of experimental living?

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container life

A photo posted by Robert Rhinehart (@robertrhinehart) on Apr 19, 2016 at 12:11am PDT

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The city of Los Angeles says Rhinehart doesn't have the property permits for the container, and has ordered him to remove it; he hasn't complied. Now, the Department of Building and Safety is asking the city attorney's office to file criminal charges.

It all began last December, when Rhinehart bought land in an area called Flat Top, which borders Lincoln Heights and Montecito Heights. The 27-year old paid $21,300 for the property in an auction; the cheap price reflects the lack of water or electricity hook-ups. Rhinehart soon installed a red shipping container on the land, added solar panels, a portable toilet, and dubbed it "home sweet home." It may seem like pretty sweet living, but it is unclear whether Rhinehart ever actually lived in the container. He did, however, have several parties there.

Party on, Garth A photo posted by David Benhaim (@readygopictures) on Jul 3, 2016 at 6:55am PDT

Gabriel Wrye, a film editor who lives nearby, told The Guardian that the parties had been pretty wild. He described one gathering of a "ton of vehicles" and the presence of an "inflatable drone." The creator of Soylent also appears to have hosted a pig roast on the property.

But the container seems to have been largely left unattended, and officials have cited Rhinehart for having an "abandoned or vacant building open to the public." Neighbors of the Flat Top area, who have tried for years to have it preserved as a public space, are seriously pissed. Tamar Rosenthal, president of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, described the container-cum-house as follows: "The red makes it feel like a middle finger."

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A photo posted by Robert Rhinehart (@robertrhinehart) on Apr 19, 2016 at 12:11am PDT

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Uninvited visitors have ransacked the place, smashing windows, scrawling gang-related graffiti, and creating mayhem. Roy Payan, the public safety chairman of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, says he's seen criminal activity at the property.

Rhinehart disagrees with the neighbors' assessment of what's going on. "There is no evidence of illegal activity taking place on the property," he told Curbed. "I have private security conduct regular inspections." When MUNCHIES reached out to Rhinehart for comment, he told us, "I have no further comments on the matter at this time."

Seems as though it's easier to reinvent the way humanity eats rather than the houses we live in. Then again, no one should underestimate the man who lived on Soylent alone for months at a time.