U2’s The Edge Housing Development Upended on Appeal in Sierra Club Malibu Lawsuit

By JOHN DALY

The Sierra Club won its appeal on Thursday to prevent U2’s the Edge from building a residential development on Sweetwater Mesa in Malibu.

The victory on appeal of the Sweetwater Mesa lawsuit has been long in the making and challenged the project proposed by David Howell Evans, better known by his stage name the Edge in rock band U2.

The ruling by the Second Appeallate District of the Court of Appeal of the State of California reversed an earlier judgment by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and nullified the Coastal Development Permits issued by the Coastal Commission in 2015. Those permits allowed five residences and an access road to be constructed along a 3,000-foot stretch of a “Signigicant Ridgeline” in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and its Santa Monica Mountains Task Force (SMMTF) was represented by Dean Wallraff from the firm Advocates for the Environment in both the original lawsuit and this successful appeal.

“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,” said Wallraff. “The project permits therefore must be set aside. If the developer wants to obtain new permits, it must apply to Los Angeles County, not the Coastal Commission.¨

Sweetwater Malibu - Image courtesy of Sierra Club
Sweetwater Malibu – Image courtesy of Sierra Club

The Sierra Club originally filed its lawsuit in 2016 to stop the Sweetwater Mesa project and its plans to build a complex of houses in the mountains above Malibu.

Sierra Club activists had worked hard over the years to block the development at many hearings of the California Coastal Commission. The Commission denied the project in 2011, but was subsequently sued and pressured by the real estate developers to reconsider its decision, the Sierra Club said. The Sierra Club lawsuit called out the Coastal Commission for violating state law in approving the project.

The project is located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area, one of the most well-known and revered urban parklands in the country. About 54 percent of the 160,000 acres is public or otherwise protected open space that’s home to coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife.

The parcels are adjacent to, and in close proximity to, the  environmentally- sensitive, undeveloped Sweetwater Mesa area in the Santa Monica Mountain Range, lying within the world-famous Malibu Coastal Zone.

There are remarkable views from the top (from 600 to 1,050 feet above sea level) and the bottom (Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu).

The ridgeline has steep canyons, native and endangered species of vegetation, and it’s where major wildlife networks exist and where there are popular hiking trails. This range is also located where about half of the mountainous region is held in state and federal parks and recreation areas. Also, the area is subject to catastrophic wildfires.