It's been a tough year to be a perpetually skull-capped multimillionaire rock guitarist from Ireland. First your comic book-based musical/stunt show becomes the hottest, most expensive mess to ever hit Broadway (before it officially opens) and then, after a years long-battle, your Malibu real estate dreams are shattered by the California Coastal Commission. You can’t help feel a bit bad for The Edge.
This past Thursday, the California Coastal Commission officially denied The Edge and fellow property owners permission — he really still hasn't found what he's looking for — to move ahead with the building of a mini-community of not one, not two, but five LEED-seeking mansions, designed, according to the Los Angeles Times, “to meet the highest environmental standards by incorporating recycled and renewable materials, rainwater catchment systems, solar panels and native landscaping.”
The location of The Edge’s ambitious eco-enclave? The Sweetwater Mesa area of Malibu, a rugged, ecological sensitive area just above city limits in the Santa Monica Mountains. From the get-go — I first blogged about The Edge’s battle in April 2009 — the project has been controversial and left Malibu residents and local conservationists worried about landslide risk, destruction of habitats, heavy truck traffic, and complex engineering feats.
The Edge — real name David Evans — remained tenacious throughout his four-year fight for permits, countering that he and other property owners had utmost concern for any possible environmental impacts that building the homes might have on the area and that there was no need to worry; things were being taken care of. Back in 2009, The Edge lamented: "'I'm disappointed that certain critics either don't have the facts or have ulterior motives."
The Edge and fellow property owners — described as "family, friends and business associates" — even set up an informative website which set out to dispel any myths about the 156-acre Sweetwater Mesa development while describing, in detail, the five site-specific, Wallace Cunningham-designed homes. The 12,785-square-foot centerpiece, "Leaves in the Wind," was designed as The Edge’s residence.
A section of the website also detailed the Public Benefits Program set up by the property owners in collaboration with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. The program was initiated to "provide new public trail access and natural resource protection upon approval of the projects."
Up until this past April when the group was mollified with $1 million in cash and the above benefits program, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy had been a vocal opponent of the project claiming that it would result in "unavoidable significant adverse visual and ecological impacts."
After the California Coastal Commission voted down the project 8-to-4 last week, Peter Douglas, the agency’s executive director, remarked: "In 38 years of this commission's existence, this is one of the three worst projects that I've seen in terms of environmental devastation. It's a contradiction in terms — you can't be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location."
Fiona Hutton, spokeswoman for the property owners, shot back in a prepared statement regarding the Coastal Commissions decision:
The property owners worked diligently to develop home designs that would meet some of the highest standards for sustainability, blend seamlessly with the natural landscape and preserve the vast majority of their private lands as open space. They undertook this effort with a deep personal commitment and sense of responsibility to protect environmental resources and develop environmentally superior homes. The property owners remain steadfast in their vision and will be vigorously exploring all potential options. Frankly, we’re outraged by this decision and the inflammatory statements of Coastal Commission staff, given we had worked collaboratively with them for the past four years and they had previously recommended approval of 60 separate applications for homes with the same size footprint and in the same habitat area, raising serious questions about this decision and its motivation.
The Edge image: Dave Hogan/Getty Images; MNN homepage photo: ZUMA Press