The Environmental Destruction of the Rich and Fabulous

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Janani Ravikumar
Staff Writer

On a hillside 10,000 feet above the Malibu Pier lies the Sweetwater Mesa spanning more than 150 acres. David Evans, more commonly known as U2 guitarist “The Edge,” believes this is an ideal location for a new house. After seeing the vista for the first time in 2005, the guitarist purchased the land in hopes of building a residential compound.

“We were absolutely blown away by its beauty, and the position of it, and every aspect of its potential,” said Evans, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While the idea of owning a house on the ridge sounds appealing, Evans’ battle for his real estate dream has been a difficult one. According to the Los Angeles Times, he and his wife have had to file more than 70 technical reports and obtain support from all sorts of experts — such as geologists, biologists, hydrologists, archaeologists, arborists, structural engineers and transportation engineers — in order to persuade the California Coastal Commission to give approval. He needed to prove that the residential compound wouldn’t create stress for the plants and animals living on the hillside, or be an eyesore to the neighbors and surfers on the beaches far below.

According to ABC News, this project calls for a cluster of five 10,000-square-foot homes, each the maximum size allowed in environmentally sensitive areas. These two-story home designs depicted pools that would encircle homes like a moat; another house would wrap around a pile of boulders. Evans’ own home would simulate falling leaves with curved roof lines.

The goal, according to ABC News, is to have the homes be Gold LEED Certified, strictly adhering to the greenest building standards. This requires the residential compound to use recycled materials in construction and environmentally friendly amenities to reduce energy consumption. The homes will also have native landscaping, electric vehicle charging, solar panels and on-site wastewater treatment.

The city of Malibu is no stranger to dangers to the environment posed by real estate. According to Vanity Fair, Broad Beach, a one-mile stretch of about 114 homes housing big names like Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, has lost up to 60 percent of its beach. Even in low tide, the waves only hit a wall of rocks.

“I do think the Broad Beach homes are in jeopardy, and I don’t want to be cold or callous about that,” said Tom Ford, the director of marine programs at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation to Vanity Fair. “But we have to recognize that scientists in Rhode Island and New Jersey [and other places where there’s a lot of erosion] are talking about ‘managed retreat’… We simply have to recognize that building homes on beaches is not sound policy.”

We’re already seeing this in action in Isla Vista. According to an article in the Santa Barbara Independent, erosion has worn the cliffs of Del Playa down significantly, and the cliffs lose several inches to a foot each year. This wave erosion at the cliff base, terrestrial water runoff at the top (such as rainfall), groundwater seeps and urban runoff are all contributing elements. These are common to all beaches with development.

After a ten-year struggle, Evans has finally obtained permission from the California Coastal Commission to build his mansions, according to Curbed, although the city of Malibu and Los Angeles County still need to give their approval.  As part of his deal to get approval, he agreed to dedicate 140 acres of his property as open space for public hiking and an equestrian easement.