The Edge - Sweetwater Mesa.jpg

Sweetwater Mesa Road in central Malibu is located above Surfrider Beach, the Malibu Lagoon and the historic Malibu Pier on an undeveloped ridgeline.

Lawyers for the Sierra Club are declaring victory after the California Supreme Court last week declined to review a lawsuit that effectively blocked a five-home development on a coastal bluff at Sweetwater Mesa in Malibu. That is according to information provided by Advocates for the Environment, “a nonprofit public-interest law firm” representing the club.

The development would have been constructed on land owned by a number of investors including U2 guitarist David Evans, better known by his stage name “The Edge.” But a lawsuit against the building of those homes prevailed after a judge determined permits were issued illegally. Following a March 18 decision, property owners wishing to use the land for residential development—which they have been pursuing for nearly half a decade—will be forced to go back to the drawing board to pull permits through Los Angeles County. 

The permits obtained by the investors were issued by the California Coastal Commission, but the ruling found that the decision to grant permits should have fallen under the jurisdiction of LA County, because the county has a Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Plan in effect that supersedes the coastal commission. 

Several years of back-and-forth between the commission and investors resulted in smaller home designs with larger set-backs. In late 2015, the commission approved the plans, which was soon challenged by the Sierra Club. 

As previously described in The Malibu Times: The plans have been tied up in court since January 2016; first, Sierra Club lawyers filed a petition for a writ of mandate asking that the court stop the project from proceeding. When that was thrown out, the club appealed on several grounds: According to the club, the commission failed to properly study the environmental impact of the development, abused its discretion because the project violated the local coastal plan, and was incorrect in stating denial of the project would constitute a taking.

According to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, the California Coastal Commission simply did not have the authority to approve the projects.

Although attorneys for Evans and the other investors had hoped the case might be taken up by the highest court in the state, the justices declined to hear it and the would-be developers are out of luck.

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