Malibu ridgeline goes to the Edge

Rock guitarist "The Edge," aka David Evans from U2, is moving forward with his plans to build a community of mansions along of one of America's most impressive ridgelines. Environmental groups, residents, and the National Park Service have spoken up against the project, with concerns about the potential for a negative environmental impact and the visual effect the building plan will cause.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) has previously voted against the plan and, as evidenced by a letter sent to the California Coastal Commission in 2009, the conservancy strongly opposed the building plan by calling attention to the rare natural conditions of the ridgeline.

According to the letter, the project is also inconsistent with the state Coastal Act, and it would be impossible to build without a significant visual and ecological impact.

In order to obtain approval of the building plan, Evans offered $1 million in funding, which changed the conservancy's mind. Last week the SMMC voted again on approving the plan. The three commissioners who previously rejected the plan were elsewhere, and the voting resulted in favor of Evans by a 3-2 vote.

Quickly following, The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), which is a local government agency that partners with the SMMC and also stands to benefit from the million dollar deal, voted on Wednesday, May 4, to adopt a neutral position to the proposal.

The Sweetwater Mesa area in Malibu, where the debated acres are located, is not only a beautiful coastal line, but is also one of the most environmentally sensitive habitats in Southern California.

In 2006, Evans and his wife bought 156 acres of land with the intention to build five different multiple story mansions. The total building area is estimated to one acre, with the rest of the property planned to be left untouched. Except for that, each mansion would have an individual access road and a trail that would make the area available to the public.

Since purchasing the land, Evans has been denied building permits from the various regulatory agencies, including both the SMMC and California Coastal Commission. After years of fighting, Evans has now come up with the right price to convince the SMMC to act in his favor.

The deal, which critics have referred to as a "legal bribe," consists of Evans donating $750,000 to help the conservancy acquire additional segments of the Coastal Slope Trail, and another $250,000 for consulting services for the SMMC.

However, this transaction will not take place unless the deal gains final approval by all required agencies; however, the SMMC has now dropped their original opposition to the project, and will act in favor of Evans when the issue is debated by the California Coastal Commissioners, who have been clear in opposing the project and have, according to Los Angeles Times, accused Evans of dodging environmental policies.

According to the Associated Press, Evans claims the homes will besome of the most eco-friendly that were ever designed. He claims the houses will be using recycled water and solar power. However the argument that the five mansions planned will be "green houses" does little to convince many upset environmentalists and Malibu residents.

"We feel sad about the area being destroyed like this because a rich person can do whatever they want," said environmental activist and author Joey Lawson. "He has his own idea of what 'environmental–friendly' implies."

Evans has created a website in order to fight off any accusations regarding the environmental impacts. He states: "The California coast is a true natural treasure, and I believe in responsible design that honours such a unique location. I am confident we have done just that. We love this area and are using the highest environmental standards to build our home."