Editorial: Malibu Residents Pushed Over The Edge - Publication: LA Weekly - March 2009 Back to Editorials

Nineties supergroup U2 have been often been revered for their altruistic ways, from halting global poverty and AIDS to saving the environment via Greenpeace -  though amidst the frenzy over their latest installment of syrupy anthems yet another of  the band’s wealth generating schemes is causing upset

Residents in the Coral and Latigo canyon area in the Malibu hills are in an uproar over proposed real estate developments, by U2 member The Edge AKA Dave Evans that include private and spec homes that have been registered in his own and his children and wives names

The development proposals  span an area of nearly 1000 acres, on two key sites in the Malibu Hills, one bordered by  the spectacular Latigo Canyon ( latigo Canyon Drive) and the other at Serra retreat, specifically Sweetwater Mesa Drive.Amongst a litany of complaints is the eviction of a long standing archery club, environmental damage through extreme excavation, destruction of an entire mountain, problematic water run off, ensuing land erosion, endangered wildlife and obstruction of existing views.-yes there will be "No Line On The Horizon.”  Many  are galled that the band are seeming to contradict their apparent devotion to philanthropy and the environment. For many self confessed fans  the fairytale is shattered

Candace Brown, concerned resident and defacto partner of Malibu mayoral candidate and councilman  Jefferson Wagner seems motivated by  the contrast between  the bands insatiable enterpreneurialism and dramatized public persona.

Brown accuses Evans of hypocrisy, with an ostentatious and  self serving development that will upset the environment  ecosystem and create an eyesore with  oversized “Mcmansions.”

“They are contradicting their much publicized “environmentalist,” stance “They evicted the archery club  which was an institution in Malibu,  the site has been dormant for years. They also dug a trench “the size of three football fields,”  and 15 feet deep  that became a hazard, with countless wildlife already falling into the hole and dying.“

Investigation proved that while the trench has since been filled, it remained on the site for over a year, reaping havoc on wildlife and causing voluminous erosion and runoff that effected surrounding properties.

 Ultimately the trench is a minor issue compared o the overall consequences of the enormous project.  A private home and additional spec houses proposed by Evans on  the two different sites  will see ongoing developments and construction activity that will t effect the community for an estimated ten years.

An existing mountain will in effect be no more, with an estimated 5000 semi truckloads of earth removed from the site and transported along a flimsy road, the as wide as th average driveway  that currently serves a handful of residents. Scott Wilder another concerned resident of Latigo Canyon Drive has looked onto the ongoing development for the past two years. He’s also spotted The Edge (David Evans) scoring the property with engineers.

According to Wilder. “The trench is just a side issue, the sheer size of this project will have a detrimental effect. Wilder claims the whole practice of digging the trench is dubious.” The land formed a ridgeline prior to the trench being dug that would have made it  an unfit building surface. The developers have subsequently filled in  the trench and there is no more ridge line.  By filling it in they’ve flattened the ridge and created  a building pad.”

In addition to huge portions of mountainside being carved up, there’s proposed buildings that will completely destroy existing views “I can presently see a view from my home called the “Queens Necklace,” which shows areas of LA from Santa Monica to LAX. The development  will directly impede residents existing views and impact the scenic drive through Latigo canyon for  the general public,” Wilder claims
.For Wilder the U2 glam factor really doesn’t I wash, though he does recognize Evans  charismatic wealth could fast track the development. Himself a stuntman the prospect of celeb spottng, party invites or even groupies straying onto his land fails to impress ( he’s married anyway).

 “There was one occasion when his enormous tour bus stopped dead on the road to my house blocking it. Myself and several other cars had to wait behind it for some time until I became annoyed and approached the window of the bus. I asked the driver to move, though he said Id have to wait as he didn’t want to interrupt The Edge and Axel Rose (fellow Malibu resident) who were in an intense discussion at the back of the bus.”

Another gripe by the residents of Malibu was the eviction by the Edge and his developers of the longstanding Malibu Mountain Archery Club, an institution that had occupied land bordered by Latigo Canyon Drive since 1938. The development saw it forced to close two years ago. http://www.socalarchery.com/Malibu/Member_info.htm As Treasurer of the Archery club Sharon Prey, also a resident laments its loss. “ We had 150 members and catered to around 200 local residents, with regular events that raised money for local charities benefiting underprivileged kids.  The club is rich in history, it also served as an Olympic venue and there were countless movies shot there.

After Errol Flynn made archery popular in his films, it was very fashionable,  Ive got photographs of everyone from Shirley temple to Bob Hope and James Garner at the old range. Sharon Prey sees  Evans development as transformation of Malibu into a “Hong Kong by the sea,” with not only the archery club’s closure  an issue but the environment spelling bigger problems. “ It was  once a haven for wildlife, with fox, deer, coyote and bobcats wandering through the grounds from the adjacent national park, though that’s no longer the case.”

Malibu Developer Don Schmitz  has been enstated by Evans to oversee the development. When asked about the project, he claimed confidentiality permitted him from discussing it, or to acknowledge who his client is. An authorization document to the Coastal Commission ( a body that processes development applications) signed by Evans (AKA Edge) notifies that he has authorized Schmitz to oversee the development. When asked about the trench on the Latigo Canyon site, Schmitz denied it was leveled for purposes of creating a building pad, claiming the excavation to date was “purely for geological purposes.”

Residing in the Serra Retreat area, on Sweetwater Mesa Drive Jim Smith has been  vocal in his disapproval of The Edge’s development.  Smith’s key issue is what he sees as the destruction of an entire mountain.

“Two years ago he pulled up outside my house and mentioned he was going to be my new neighbor, he was friendly and charismatic. I was happy knowing he was buying the land as assumed he would be sensitive to the environment, though that’s not the case.”

Smith says  that in addition to a site  for the Edge’s own house there are an additional five parcels of land that will host additional spec homes. “The grading plan shows there will be 7700 yards of grading needed and 4500 truckloads of dirt removed.” Smith also claims a man made slope as the mountain is excavated will span  the height of a 20 story building and carve the mountain till it is unrecognizable.
“When expressed my concerns about the development, he told me he was sympathetic to my concerns, though he’s done nothing, he’s not walking the walk of an environmentalist .”

Written by Craig Stephens

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