LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U2 guitarist The Edge won approval on Thursday to build five hilltop homes in the California celebrity enclave of Malibu despite opposition from environmentalists who fear it will endanger crucial wildlife corridors for such animals as mountain lions and bobcats, officials said.
The Edge, whose real name is David Evans, and his team bought the property in 2005 and since then he has pursued regulatory approval from the California Coastal Commission to be able to eventually build on the site and live there.
The unanimous vote by the Coastal Commission at a meeting in Monterey, in central California, to approve the 5.2-acre (2.1-hectare) project in the exclusive beach community just outside Los Angeles marked a reversal from its 2011 decision to reject the project.
The project must next go before officials in Malibu and Los Angeles County to obtain permits.
A statement from The Edge's project team said the latest design takes up 43 percent less space than the one rejected in 2011 and would be built on a lower plateau, instead of high on the ridgeline. Each home will have a footprint of less than 10,000 square feet (929 square meters), it said.
Staff members on the commission had suggested the proposed configuration for the project that was approved on Thursday, said Noaki Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the commission.
A report from staff members for the commission said the project is "designed to avoid or minimize significant disruption" of natural habitats.
But despite those changes, environmental groups and lawmakers such as state Senator Fran Pavley, a Democrat who often speaks in favor of green measures, opposed the development, saying it would infringe on wildlife.
State and federal park agencies are working with the National Wildlife Federation to invest millions of dollars to preserve corridors in the area for animals such as mountain lions and bobcats, Pavley said in a letter this month.
As a result, creating an island of homes within the area will "have potentially disastrous consequences," she added.
Pavley and environmental group Heal the Bay also opposed the Coastal Commission's holding of the meeting in Monterey, 250 miles (402 km) north of Malibu, saying it was too far away for people affected by the project to attend.
The Edge and his development team have dedicated 140 acres (57 hectares) of their land in Malibu as open space, officials said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler