When U2’s lead guitarist, David “The Edge” Evans, first proposed putting five mega-mansions on an undeveloped hillside overlooking the ocean in Malibu, the California Coastal Commission’s then-Executive Director Peter Douglas called it “one of the three worst projects that I've seen in terms of environmental devastation.” It was rejected by the commission 8-4 in 2011.
But after six years of negotiations, a tighter packing of the mansions at a lower elevation, some environmental mitigation measures and a promise to preserve some property as open land, the commission voted unanimously to approve the project. It still must obtain permits from the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County and an access road has to be approved.
Five houses, each more than 10,000 square feet, will be nestled in the Sweet Mesa area with less glass and prominence above the Pacific Coast Highway. The nestling will be facilitated by repurposing 17 acres of environmentally sensitive habitat and 63,390 cubic yards of hillside on the 5.2 acres where the homes are to be built.
The Edge design team said the approved project is 43% the size of the original pitch and will be built on a lower plateau, rather than stretched out along one mile of the ridgeline. That did not satisfy some of the critics.
Heal the Bay scientist Katherine Pease wrote, “This development requires extensive and significant infrastructure, which would cause unmitigable impacts to a biologically sensitive area and our coastal zone environment.”
Commission senior deputy director Jack Ainsworth said the changes by The Edge team were what they had been looking for all along. “If they would have followed our direction 10 years ago, they'd be having Christmas dinner in their house,” he said at the meeting.
It was a long, hard slog to victory for The Edge. As LA Curbedpointed out: “He gave money to an environmental group in exchange for their neutrality, he broke up the applications so it looked like five separate plans for one mansion each, he petitioned the state Legislature for a new law, and finally he modified the plans just a little.”
The original plan was opposed by the Sierra Club, state Senator Fran Pavley (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Its detractors showed up in force at earlier commission hearings but they weren’t around when the final vote to approve was taken.
The commission meeting was held in Monterey last Thursday, to the chagrin of opponents in Malibu who wanted something closer to home.