U2, perhaps the world’s most well-known rock-and-roll band, is among the most aggressive celebrity outfits to leverage its stardom to promote what it perceives to be in the public’s interest. Bono, the Irish outfit’s lead singer, has established a reputation as one of Hollywood’s holiest do-gooders by championing crusades against the evils of everything from AIDs to third-world poverty.
So, when the band’s guitarist The Edge, whose real name is David Evans, proposed building patchwork of palatial homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the otherwise pristine ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains, it was not surprising that he sanctified this exercise in what many would consider to be excess by promising to neutralize the environmental impact of the estates.
Solar-energy panels, electric vehicle charging systems, native landscaping and onsite waste-water treatment systems are among the “green” features of the proposed project, which would build five homes averaging 10,500-square-feet on parcel of land that stretches across 156-acres of the Santa Monica Mountains.
By virtue of bearing America’s most rigorous green building seal, the mega-homes would look like “nothing more than scattered leaves on the ridgeline.” “From the beginning the intention was to achieve a benchmark for sustainable design in a sensitive area,” the Edge’s web-site said. At least that was the logic. The experience has turned out to be something else entirely.
The Edge’s new estates would be constructed according to the strictest standards of the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED),” which was developed by the Green Building Council and has become the benchmark for green design. But that has not convinced environmentalists that the project would be truly “green.” Green building standards mean very little for buildings sited in ecologically sensitive habitats and delicate environments like coastal Malibu, many have argued.
The Green Building Council has said the LEED system is flexible and not designed to replace local land-use laws regulating where homes are built – or, more importantly, where they are not allowed to be built. In February, the California Coastal Commission was advised by key groups to reject the proposal – or, alternatively require the project to be substantially scaled down in size – because of the potential harm it would do to the local landscape.
Critics say LEED standards are not intended to justify siting projects in ecologically-sensitive areas where ANY construction will lead to potentially irreparable harm on sensitive ecological systems. Despite U2’s reputation for fighting the good fight, he has not escaped sharp objections from environmental groups.
One can only imagine what they would have said if a conservative celebrity pursued a similar project.
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