By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Irish supergroup U2 has long been acknowledged for its altruism, for using its fame to spotlight global issues like poverty, the AIDS crisis and the environment. But while music critics and fans are focused on the band’s spirit and energy, which is readily apparent on U2’s new album, No Line on the Horizon, the band’s guitarist, David Evans, a.k.a. the Edge, has been drawing a less-welcome sort of attention from his Malibu neighbors, who accuse him of hypocrisy in how he’s developing two huge properties there.
Residents in the Coral and Latigo canyon areas of the Malibu hills are in an uproar over the Edge’s plan to build five homes across a proposed area of nearly 1,000 acres on two key sites, one bordered by the spectacular Latigo Canyon and the other at Serra Retreat.
In the three years he’s owned the properties, the litany of complaints hurled at the Edge include, among other things: his eviction of a long-standing archery club; his plans to level a mountain on the property, which would cause destructive water runoff and land erosion; wildlife endangerment; and potential obstruction of existing views. If his plans become real, decry neighbors, there may be one less lovely line on Malibu’s horizon.
Among those most frustrated by the Edge’s plans is Candace Brown, a resident and longtime partner of Malibu mayoral candidate Councilman Jefferson Wagner. She accuses the U2 guitarist of spearheading an overly ostentatious and self-serving development that will upset the ecosystem and create an eyesore of, in her words, oversized “McMansions.”
“They evicted the archery club, which was an institution in Malibu,” says an exasperated Brown of the Edge and his project partners. She says that they also dug a 15-foot trench “the size of three football fields,” and that eyewitnesses have reported seeing wildlife, including deer and fox, trapped in the trench.
But critics say that the digging is a minor issue compared to the overall consequences of the project. One disgruntled neighbor, Jim Smith, a building contractor who has looked at the Edge’s plans, estimates that the proposed construction would affect the community for years to come. Smith says that an existing mountain on the property will, in effect, disappear, and that approximately 5,000 truckloads of earth removed from the site would be transported along a road not nearly large enough to handle the load.
Resident Scott Wilder has watched the ongoing development unfold over the past two years, and has seen the Edge walking around the property and discussing plans with engineers. According to Wilder, “the sheer size of this project will have a detrimental effect.”
Like many archetypical rock stars, the Edge has had an ongoing romance with L.A., with repeated visits and tours since the band’s rise in the ’80s. He was based in Malibu for a couple of years in the early ’00s, after marrying a backup dancer from U2’s Zoo tour, Morleigh Steinberg, in 2002, and sending his three kids to an area school. Bandmate Bono explained the Edge’s affection for L.A. at a press conference last week at Capitol Studios in Hollywood: “Edge has a soft spot for L.A., seeing as though he fell in love with a California girl.” The singer was no doubt referring to Steinberg, who was born and raised in Santa Monica.
In addition to the Malibu development, the Edge’s real estate portfolio includes a $5 million loft in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood, a villa on the French Riviera and a house in South Dublin County, Ireland. The Edge and U2 also poured millions of dollars into the development of the industrial wasteland of Dublin’s docklands area, including a proposed tower that stands to be Ireland’s tallest building, housing a recording studio and luxury apartments. The credit crunch has stalled the project at the excavation stage.
The Edge bought the two Malibu sites in November 2006. Though neighbors all say he’s been sociable in his encounters with them, and all of his projects have been granted full legal permits, residents feel they’ve been misled by his stated intention to build so many homes on the land. As well, he seems to be contradicting his band’s purported commitment to environmentalism.
Take, for example, the trench, which neighbor Wilder believes was created with a very specific intention. “The land formed a ridge line that prior to the trench being dug would have made it an unfit building surface,” he says. “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.”
Malibu developer Don Schmitz has been hired by the Edge to oversee the development. A longtime resident, Schmitz has acted as a middleman for various building projects in Malibu for the past two decades with his company, Don Schmitz and Associates. When asked about the project, Schmitz declined to comment, or to even acknowledge his client. (The Edge declined to comment on this story.)