Despite promises by U2 guitarist The Edge that it would be one of the greenest developments in the world, California's coastal development agency rejected a proposal for five mansions overlooking Malibu citing concerns that it would irrevocably damage the environment.
On Thursday, staff told the California Coastal Commission that approving such a project would set a precedent and invite other large developments to rugged, environmentally sensitive locations. Commissioners voted 8-to-4 against the proposal.
The proposal led by the musician, whose real name is David Evans, called for five multilevel homes of up to 12,785 square feet (1,188 square meters) to be built on 156 acres (63 hectares) in the Santa Monica Mountains. Project designers said the homes would have the top green building certifications and the guitarist said the mansions would be some of the most environmentally sensitive in the world.
Project opponents, including the National Park Service, however, said the development would scar the expansive ridgeline. The musician and his partners had earlier appeased one of its staunchest opponents, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, after agreeing to give the agency more than $1 million, dedicate nearly 100 acres (40 hectares) to open space and provide public access to hiking trails.
The owners have claimed they are five separate owners each building a single home on separate lots, an argument that would make it more difficult for the commission to deny their proposals.
But commission staff said the current owners have not adequately shown the properties are individually owned and believe the project is a single coordinated development with a single project manager, single architect, single website and - until recently - a single agent that came before the commission. Staff suggested building fewer homes on the site but proponents called this a violation of property rights.
To prove that each lot was under individual control, one owner flew in from England while others sent video clips telling commissioners they were not taking any direction from Evans regarding the development of their site.
Don Schmitz, the project's planning consultant, told commissioners there are homes at similar elevations in the Santa Monica Mountains and there is plenty of development near the site including Malibu's exclusive Serra Retreat neighborhood.
Commission Chair Mary Shallenberger recalled a conversation she had with the musician where he talked about his project and how "he and his wife fell in love with the land but couldn't afford it so they got some friends to go in on it."