U2's The Edge can’t build six houses in Malibu

The Edge

U2's The Edge's epic 12-year battle to build a development of six homes in the hills above Malibu may finally have ended in failure, unless he and his partners want to start the process all over again before a different government agency.

An appeals court in California has ruled that permits to build on a mountain ridgeline in the undeveloped "Sweetwater Mesa" area were improperly granted.

The Edge, real name David Evans, and others who now own the parcels, including Irish businessmen Tony Kilduff and Dean McKillen, have few other options beyond beginning the planning application process again, this time before an entirely different government body, Los Angeles County.

It is possible The Edge and his partners could appeal to the California Supreme Court for a review, but that panel only considers a fraction of cases filed.

The appeals court, in an opinion overturning a lower court decision, ruled that the California Coastal Commission had no right to grant the building permits in December, 2015, as a change in which body makes that decision was made in October the previous year.

This saga first began with the 2005 purchase of six parcels totalling 156 acres within a "largely undisturbed block of wilderness... that is characteristic of the range: steep, rugged mountain terrain".

Derek Quinlan was one who bought a parcel, but he later gave up the claim. The former CEO of a Georgia golf club James Vandenberg - a club once owned by Mr Quinlan, also bought a parcel, but pulled out.

At every turn, the development was opposed by environmentalists, most notably the Sierra Club, which, along with the Santa Monica Mountains Task Force, brought the action that led to the appeals court decision.

Applications to build were originally turned down by the coastal commission in 2011, but new plans, with a smaller footprint, were filed in 2015.

Opposition came from Superintendent of the United States Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and the fire service.

The Superintendent warned of “habitat fragmentation,” “visual degradation of a currently uninterrupted ridgeline,” and “placement of large homes in a wildland area that burns frequently,” according to the court documents.

According to the court documents, a smaller number of supporters wrote to say they were friendly or knew two of the applicants, while others decried the fact that the developers "had endured a long and arduous process and wished that, as now proposed, that process be concluded favourably".

The coastal commission granted approval in December, 2015, ruling that though there were "significant adverse impacts on coastal resources" but denial would "constitute a taking of private property" in violation of state and federal rights.

The Sierra Club immediately filed a writ asking the Los Angeles Superior Court to oveturn the decision. This was denied, leading to this most recent decision.

Dean Wallraff, a lawyer with Advocates for the Environment, who argued the appeal, told a local newsite, the California Rocker: "The Court held that the Coastal Commission lacked jurisdiction to approve the Coastal Development Permits for the Sweetwater Mesa Project, after Los Angeles County adopted its Local Coastal Plan for the area in 2014."

If the developer wants to apply for new permits, it must go through Los Angeles County, Mr Walraff said.

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