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U2's the Edge might get second chance for Malibu mega-compound

June 16, 2012 |  9:08 am

Lobbyists and lawyers behind a plan by U2 guitarist the Edge to build five mansions on a scenic bluff above Malibu are pushing a bill that could give the rock star another chance at his dream compound.

The original development was killed by the California Coastal Commission, which said it would scar a rugged ridgeline and harm sensitive habitat.

Environmentalists and state agencies say that if the legislation becomes law, it will undermine the commission's position on his project and also extend to the character and development of the entire California coast and to state public lands.

At issue is how government agencies determine property ownership and how they use the findings in deciding whether to approve development.

The Coastal Commission has discretion to approve projects in environmentally sensitive areas — and the size and nature of those developments depend on ownership. The agency is more inclined, for example, to turn down a developer seeking approval for a multi-home project than a property owner trying to build a single-family house.

Developers at times try to skirt the issue by claiming each homesite has a different owner. They shield the identities through formation of limited liability corporations.

In the case of the Edge, whose real name is David Evans, the agency denied his plans because it said he was attempting to bypass environmental rules and maximize development by submitting five separate applications, each under a different corporate name.

Under the bill, state agencies would have to accept as fact that the person holding the deed is the property owner. If the state sought to challenge true ownership, it would be held to the same evidentiary standards that apply in the court system. The Coastal Commission and others argue that the standard would hamstring public agencies because they have none of the court system's tools of discovery: subpoenas, depositions and sworn testimony.

--Michael J. Mishak