Officials for the state agency that oversees coastal development has for a second time recommended denying a controversial development proposal led by U2 guitarist The Edge for a cluster of mansions overlooking Malibu.
California Coastal Commission staff on Friday recommended that the board reject the project's application at its June meeting. In February, officials made the same recommendation before the item was pulled from the agenda at the request of the musician and his partners. At the time, project manager Jim Vanden Berg expressed surprise but said he believed they could work with staff to "clarify misunderstandings."
The proposal involving the musician, whose real name is David Evans, includes five multilevel homes ranging from 7,220 to 12,785 square feet to be built on 156 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains. Project designers have said the homes will be Gold LEED Certified and the guitarist has said the mansions will be some of the most environmentally sensitive in the world.
Opponents of the project, including the National Park Service, however, have argued that the project will have considerable biological and visual impacts in such sensitive habitat. The musician and his partners recently appeased the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which had opposed the project on these grounds, after agreeing to give the agency more than $1 million, dedicate nearly 100 acres to open space and provide public access to hiking trails.
A major sticking point for Coastal Commission staff, which suggested building fewer homes on the site, is the belief that the proposal is a large development being coordinated by The Edge instead of proposals by individual property owners to build a single home on their separate lots.
In their report, staff argued that the current owners are all working together to coordinate the development, which has a single project manager, single architect, single website and, until recently, a single agent that came before the commission. The report also pointed to the deal the owners collectively struck with the mountains conservancy.
In a two-page statement, Fiona Hutton, a spokeswoman for the property owners, responded to the staff report by citing the homeowners' contributions to the mountains conservancy, their efforts to be sensitive to the environment and their agreement to many changes sought by staff.
Hutton also accused commission staff of applying unreasonable standards to the project and of changing "the facts to support their predetermined position."
"Alarm bells should be ringing among defenders of basic property rights everywhere in California," the statement said. "This precedent could affect land owners and property rights in the coastal zone and elsewhere in California, if local zoning authorities adopted the same unreasonable demands and standards as Coastal Commission staff is trying to apply."
Staff claims the original principals in the project, who were all connected to the musician, changed in 2010 after staff said they planned to show related ownership. The report said the applicants have declined to provide them with the various partnership agreements. The names of the property owners, which were submitted to the commission late last year, include the guitarist, as well as family, friends and business partners.
Commission staff could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.