The Edge’s Malibu Mansions Fight Is Still a Cliff-Hanger

Monday, June 18, 2012
David "The Edge" Evans

U2 guitarist David Evans, known professionally as The Edge, called his plan to build five mansions on a rugged ridgeline above Malibu “Leaves of Wind.”

Peter Douglas, Coastal Commission executive director at the time, called it “one of the three worst projects that I've seen in terms of environmental devastation” and in June 2011 the commission rejected the proposal, 8-4. Evans and his associates filed lawsuits in Superior Court in August seeking to overturn the decision, arguing that the decision illegally deprived them of use of their property.

Last week, the project saw further signs of revival when lobbyists and lawyers associated with the project were seen at the Capitol lobbying for a bill that would limit the Coastal Commission’s ability to constrain such mega-developments. Evans had attempted to bypass environmental rules limiting development by submitting five separate applications, each using a different corporate name, but the commission had chosen to regard the proposals as a single project.

The proposed bill would compel the commission to accept as fact that the person holding a deed is the property owner, shifting the burden of proving otherwise to a commission that lacks the sort of investigative tools (subpoenas, depositions, sworn testimony) that a court has. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Ben Hueso, said the legislation was in response to concerns from the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups and was not introduced with Evans in mind.

But Hueso said he got the idea for the bill from Paul Bauer, a lobbyist hired by Evans last year when he was battling the commission. Evans’ attorney, Stanley Lamport, is also lobbying for the bill, but says he is doing so as legislative chairman of the California Business Properties Assn. Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, who was a consultant to Evans in 2011, has written the commission arguing that it should support the legislation to rein in local agencies that insert “their own interpretation of property ownership.”

Evans' spokeswoman Fiona Hutton said that Evans is not paying any consultant to lobby for the legislation.      

Evans began seeking permits for his own 12,785-square-foot house and four others in 2006, hiring lobbyists and promoting the development as consistent with the environmental activism he and his rock group were known for. The five houses would be built with recycled and renewable materials and use rainwater catch systems, solar energy and native landscaping.

“It's a contradiction in terms—you can't be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location,” responded Douglas, who has since passed away. He said that habitat, land formation, scenic views and water quality would be heavily impacted.

–Ken Broder

To Learn More:

U2 Guitarist May Get a Second Chance at Malibu Mansions (by Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times)

The Edge, Associates File Lawsuits Against Coastal Commission (by Knowles Adkisson, Malibu Times)

Coastal Commission Rejects U2 Guitarist's Malibu Development Plan (by Martha Groves and Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times)

U2's The Edge Says He's an Environmentalist, but he Still Wants to Pave Over Paradise (by Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

U2's The Edge Finds Conservancy's Price (by Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

Coastal Commission Case Documents (pdf)

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