MALIBU—On Friday, April 21, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled against a Sierra Club petition preventing developers from breaking ground on a $79 million residential project in the Santa Monica Mountains. The ruling will allow U2’s The Edge to move forward with the Sweetwater Mesa Project, which involves the development of five luxury homes on 151 acres of a Malibu ridge.
In 2005, The Edge, or David Evans, bought Sweetwater Mesa, an open space 1,000 feet over the Malibu Pier. Over the years, he faced opposition from environmental groups and residents, who claimed that the development would damage wildlife, worsen air quality, and increase greenhouse gas pollution. The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, raised concerns about noise levels and potential parties that would disturb the neighbors. They claimed that a 2,180-foot access road and a 7,000-foot water line would disturb vegetation and ruin views of the hillside.
In an effort to appease critics, Evans hired architect Wallace Cunningham to design more environmentally friendly, unobtrusive homes, taking into consideration the stability of the ridge and availability of open space.
In 2011, the California Coastal Commission denied applications to build homes on the site. After four developers filed lawsuits, the commission agreed to remand the applications and allow new ones to be filed with an improved plan.
The commission approved a development proposal by Evans and his partners in December 2015. Evans thanked the commission and the community for their feedback.
“From day one my intention was to build a home of the very highest possible standard of environmental sensitivity and sustainability. Together, this collaborative effort has achieved that goal,” Evans said.
In January 2016, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit alleging California violated its own environmental laws by approving the proposal and that the commission had weakened in the face of legal threats. The petition asked that Judge James Chalfant set aside the approval until the development was in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state’s environmental law, and the California Coastal Act.
At a hearing on Tuesday, April 18, Deputy Attorney General Jamee Patterson argued for the Coastal Commission, stating that the commission had complied with CEQA and was exempted from considering non-coastal impacts. Attorney Dean Wallraff, who argued for the Sierra Club, claimed that the commission should have acted as a lead agency and completed a broader environmental review.
On Friday, April 21, Judge Chalfant rejected the petition and ruled that the commission was not required to act as a lead agency and that the 2015 report complied with the Coastal Act. He considered the report to be sufficient as an environmental impact review. Chalfant’s decision will allow Evans to continue with the development. According to reports, the developers have agreed to set aside undeveloped open space.
Evans, best known as the Edge, is the lead guitarist, keyboardist, and backing vocalist of the bestselling, award-winning Irish band U2. The band has campaigned for human rights and causes, addressing issues such as poverty and social injustice. The Edge is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.