U2 guitarist The Edge has been labelled an environmental hypocrite over his plans to develop five mansions on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean
He is one of rock music's most principled stars, nobly fighting poverty in Africa, lobbying for world peace, and saving the planet. But U2's David Evans may have finally picked a fight too far: against America's wealthiest Nimbys.
The guitarist has upset residents of Malibu, the seaside city north of Los Angeles, by attempting to build five new luxury homes on a pristine hillside overlooking the Pacific.
Neighbours in Sierra Canyon, an exclusive district inhabited by the likes of Dick Van Dyke, Kelsey Grammer and James Cameron, have launched a noisy campaign against the development, which they claim will "permanently scar" the landscape.
Evans, a supposed environmentalist, is accused of wanting to flatten the top of a mountain, put a road through slide-prone areas, and move over 50,000 cubic metres of earth for construction of the 'McMansions', which will boast views of the world-famous Surfrider Beach.
Critics claim his construction will harm wildlife, cause noise and dust pollution, add to land erosion and run a water pipe through pristine wilderness.
"The downside of this is a permanently scarred mountainside, for the benefit of a very few, that for many years all will view," Jefferson Wagner, a Malibu councilman, told the Los Angeles Times. "For somebody so revered even to be orchestrating this type of development in such a sensitive area is hypocritical."
Evans intends to live in one of the new properties, a four-bedroom house called 'Leaves in the Wind'. Another will go to his partner in the construction project, Irish property developer Derek Quinlan. The three that remain will be sold on the open market.
That, however, will mean it will have to be rubber-stamped next month by the California Coastal Commission, which admits to "significant concerns" about the development after receiving many complaints from locals.
"All of us believe [U2] is a band that's going to save the world, that has brought attention to so many disasters on the planet. Then, when it comes to the little things, they would just tip-toe around and do stuff that's not quite right," a resident, Candace Brown, said.
She said bad blood had existed between Evans and his neighbours since the local archery club, "an institution in Malibu", was evicted from its practice grounds on the property, which he'd bought for $15 million in 2006.
Another neighbour, Scott Wilder, told the LA Weekly that he objected to aspects of The Edge's rock-star lifestyle.
"There was one occasion when his enormous tour bus stopped dead on the road to my house, blocking it," he said. "I asked the driver to move but he said I'd have to wait, as he didn't want to interrupt The Edge and Axl Rose [a fellow Malibu resident], who were in an intense discussion at the back of the bus."
Evans has owned a different home in Malibu for a decade. With his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, he also keeps properties in Manhattan, the south of France and Dublin. Like the rest of U2, he controversially chooses to pay taxes in the Netherlands.
"These homes will be some of the most environmentally sensitive ever designed in Malibu or anywhere," Evans said, in response to critics. "I'm disappointed that certain critics either don't have the facts or have ulterior motives."