Environmentalists were up in arms last month when the California Coastal Commission gave its OK to U2 guitarist the Edge's much-protested plan to build five mansions with swimming pools on an untouched Malibu ridge.
On Thursday, the Sierra Club, which has fought the project in the Sweetwater Mesa area for years, filed a lawsuit asking that the commission be made to set aside its approval.
The petition for a writ of mandate, filed in L.A. County Superior Court, contends that the commission violated state law in approving the project.
As the lead agency on the project, for instance, the commission was required under the California Environmental Quality Act to fully assess the project’s potential impact but failed to do so -- the lawsuit contends -- on a variety of fronts, including air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.
It also was required to look at a range of alternatives but did not consider scenarios with no homes built or with just a single home, the lawsuit states.
The commission also violated the California Coastal Act and did not follow the area's local coastal plan when it allowed a non-essential private project of this kind to disrupt environmentally sensitive habitats, the lawsuit says.
Applications for the proposed development led by the Edge, whose real name is David Evans, first came before the commission in 2011. When the panel issued a denial, Evans and three other Malibu property owners sued, saying the action amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation.
The commission and the owners eventually reached agreement on a scaled-down version of the project -- with the houses clustered more closely together and sited farther away from the ridgeline.
The lawsuit states that the commission and its staff "failed to fully enforce" state laws "because of the threat posed by the applicant lawsuits."
Each lot in the proposed development is listed under a different corporate name, but Evans is the only owner whose name is publicly known.
Numerous opponents of the project have said that no amount of scaling down of the project is adequate, and that the properties should remain protected open space.
The lawsuit comes at an interesting time for the commission, when members are trying to oust their conservation-minded executive director -- a move that some characterize as part of a shift in favor of coastal development.
The commission had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz said Friday.