U2 guitarist's plans have Malibu up in arms
MALIBU -- A few years ago, U2 guitarist The Edge went for a hike, and there in the golden hills overlooking Malibu's cerulean waters, he finally found what he was looking for.
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, bought 156 acres in Santa Monica Mountains and now want to build five mansions there, including their own dream home. From a distance, they say, their house will look like nothing more than scattered leaves on the ridgeline.
"These homes will be some of the most environmentally sensitive ever designed in Malibu -- or anywhere in the world," the guitarist, whose real name is David Evans, said in a prepared statement.
Nearby residents, however, haven't bought his green pitch and say The Edge is endangering the beauty of one of Southern California's most famous beachfront communities along with U2's globally conscious image.
"It is going to look nice to the human eye but at what cost?" said surf shop owner and City Councilman Jefferson Wagner. "When is enough enough?"
The plan has sparked the latest development controversy in Malibu, where residents and city officials portray themselves as stewards of a blessed environment -- even as the construction of palatial mansions and sweeping driveways turn vast swaths of that environment to mulch.
The project proposed by The Edge calls for a cluster of five, 10,000-square-foot homes. The two-story, earth-toned dwellings would be the maximum size allowed in areas designated as environmentally sensitive habitat.
Renderings show organic design features such as a pool that encircles one home like a moat. Another house would wrap around an existing pile of boulders while The Edge's own dwelling would feature curved roof lines to simulate leaves.
"They're claiming it's a green environmental project, but you'd have to live in the houses a thousand years" to make up for the carbon dioxide emitted by the trucks hauling the dirt out, said Lawrence Weisdorn, president of the Serra Retreat homeowners association.
Still, the plan by The Edge has won the approval of Los Angeles County and in June is expected to go before the California Coastal Commission, which regulates coastal development.
Steve Hudson, regional supervisor of planning and regulation for the commission, said the project will have to overcome some hurdles. For instance, the road would require significant grading in a habitat of chaparral and coastal sage where landslides are an ongoing issue.
"We have concerns," Hudson said. "We're still evaluating the application in regards to impacts to the environmentally sensitive habitat areas and potential impacts to public views."
The Edge is also fighting a "not in my backyard" mentality among the well-heeled denizens of Malibu. Many fear the access road might someday be extended to the other side of the hill and pave the way for a flood of unwanted visitors from Los Angeles County.
Critics have seized on The Edge's green credentials saying recycling, composting and avoiding plastic foam cups is commendable but putting mansions in such a sensitive habitat erases all those good intentions. Flora and fauna may be lost, energy and water will be used to create and transport building materials, not to mention filling the pools and lighting up the mansions even if they are helped by solar panels.
The guitarist, who owns more than 400 acres in Malibu, declined a request for an interview but said in his prepared statement that his critics "don't have the facts or have ulterior motives."