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Commission delays vote on U2 rocker's proposed Malibu compound

Commission delays vote on U2 rocker's proposed Malibu compound
A Malibu homeowner looks at the view from the property owned by David Evans, also known as U2 guitarist the Edge. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday postponed consideration of U2 guitarist the Edge's controversial proposal to build a compound on an unspoiled Malibu ridge.

Letters of opposition had poured in to the panel in recent days, with state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), the National Park Service and Heal the Bay among those complaining that the project would cause irreparable harm to pristine acreage, destroy habitat, pose an extreme fire danger and possibly open the way for even more development.

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Several foes also objected that the vote was coming two days before the Coastal Commission is slated to consider a new set of planning guidelines, long in the works, that have been approved by Los Angeles County supervisors. Under the  Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Program, the county rather than the state would be in charge of approving coastal development proposals.

But it was not the opposition per se that prompted the postponement until January, when the commission will next meet in Southern California. Rather, it was an administrative snafu: The panel did not notify interested parties soon enough about the timing of the vote.

Late on the afternoon of Sept. 19, a Friday, the commission posted the item on its agenda for this week's meeting in Newport Beach. Opponents complained that they had not been given enough notice to prepare for the debate.

"We are very pleased with the postponement," Mary Ann Webster, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's Santa Monica Mountains task force, said Wednesday.

Fiona Hutton, a spokeswoman for the Edge, whose real name is David Evans, characterized the setback as a "procedural hiccup."

"We'll be back in January," she said. She acknowledged that the Local Coastal Program would then be "the standard of review" and that the Edge's team would work with commission staff to ensure compliance.

The guitarist has fought since 2006 to secure permission to build five houses, including his own, and an access road on Sweetwater Mesa in the Santa Monica Mountains.

After the commission rejected the Irish musician's plan in 2011, the property owners filed suit. His consultants subsequently began negotiating a settlement agreement with commission staff, who demanded that the project be scaled down.

Although it is now more compact, the project would still require extensive brush clearance and grading, as well as construction of a water line and a 2,000-foot driveway.

In her letter, Pavley cited the efforts of state and federal park agencies to create secure wildlife corridors for mountain lions, bobcats and other animals -- saying allowing such developments "will have potentially disastrous consequences," she said.

Twitter: @MarthaGroves

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