AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR THOSE WHO SERVE MALIBU

This week some thoughts prompted by Malibu’s purchase of three parcels of land, the development of which is promised by City Hall to be explored in a “robust and transparent process.”

Nice catch phrase, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites. But looking over the deformed and unattractive development to date of Malibu, from the perspective of a former architecture and design critic, for the LATimes, among others, I have to be wary. And as a long time resident of Malibu, I have to sadly add, downright distrusting.

So before the usual suspect cast of commercial developers, rapacious, resident realtors, city hall would-be wheeler-dealers and neophyte planners start their back door discussions, an immodest suggestion:

My focus is on two of the three parcels, the nearly 10 acres in the fractured so-called civic center known as the chilli cook-off site, and 18 acres at the entry to Point Dume, at PCH and Heathercliff, know as the Christmas Tree sale site.

Maybe, just maybe, at long last, the timing might be right for Malibu to pursue the development on the sites of much needed, indeed desperately needed, affordable housing, for those who serve us well, and many of our long persevering, seniors.

Developed modestly and tastefully by a non-profit consortium, the parcels could yield several hundred plus low rise apartments in an attractive landscaped setting.

It is time in particular to provide housing options for our public school employees, some who commute several exhausting hours a day because they love working here, which is reflected in the quality of education. Nice.

And with Malibu hopefully soon to establish it own public school district, the housing could be a real bonus attracting the best teachers, some of whom have shied away from Malibu because of the prices here and the commute.

The same goes for our first responders, who would make great neighbors, especially given the disasters Malibu is so prone to, and the worrisome recent rise in petty crime. Schools could use their kids, too.

And Malibu definitely has a need for affordable senior housing. As heard in the debate over the Airbnbs recently, many elderly residents must rent out rooms regularly to make ends meet, and so be able to stay in the Malibu where they have lived most of their lives and love. And we love them!

With senior housing available, they will have the option to sell and still stay, which would be windfall for them and many of our realtors. They’ll also be in walking distance to shops, which will be good for our frail community-serving businesses. And there’ll be less commuter traffic.

Finally, pursuing affordable housing could begin to refute the city’s reputation as a selfish, spoiled community, which true or not, emboldens rogue bureaucracies like the MRCA and Coastal Commission to ignore legitimate local concerns.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the five city council candidates have to say. Keep tuned.

GREEK TRAGEDY AT GETTY VILLA

It’s September, the traditional launch time for the cultural calendar year , and in an ever challenging L.A. that means a diversity of offerings celebrating what’s new in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts.
 
And increasing it is, making it harder and harder to chose a weekly venue to attend, just as it is harder and harder to get to it on time, given the crush of traffic in the L.A. metropolitan area, especially if you live in Malibu, as I do.
 
So as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites. this weekend I chose something convenient, a theatrical performance, at the Getty Villa in Malibu premiering last night. But to say the least it was not something new by any measure of calendar. Indeed, it was ancient, and if you can trust Wikipedia was first performed in 405 B.C.
 
It was the Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, scripted in his final years while living in Macedonia. Entitled ‘The Bacchae,” it is considered a capstone to his career, winning first prize in a festival drama competition held in the City of Dionysia 2523 years ago.
 
Personally, when I think of it, that addendum of information just astounds me.
 
The play follows the revengeful ruses of the god of wine and madness, and not incidentally fertility, Dionysus, as he return to his birthplace in Greece. As described by the Getty, the play is “packed with striking scenes, frenzied emotion, and choral songs of great power and beauty.”
 
And where better to see it than at the Getty Villa sitting under a dark sky in an open Roman styled amphitheater. If you love theatre, history ad histrionics, you going to love the production, directed by Anne Bogart.
 
It runs Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening, for the next two weekends, closing on the 29th. As for my review, that will be next week.
 
If you live in Malibu and are culturally curious, as I am, but ever wary of PCH traffic and the want something even closer than the Getty Villa, opened this week is a Pop art exhibit at the Weisman Museum at Pepperdine. It runs until December 2.
 
With some 50 pieces including some by Claes Oldenburg and Keith Haring, curated by Billie Milam Weisman herself, the exhibit promises to be top-tier. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and it is free.
 
 

MALIBU NEEDS A GOOD COUNCIL LIKE IT NEEDS RAIN

To say that the attempts by the last several City Councils to lend some needed leadership to Malibu has been less than stellar is perhaps being too kind.

As the Mayor-for-the-moment Rick Mullen commented in a rare burst of candor about the recent cross walk calamity, it appears the city dropped the ball allowing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest subterfuge involving a cretinous Cal Trans.

And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, it really is sad to witness council members yield repeatedly to the prerogatives of local, regional and state bureaucracies.

Perhaps prerogatives is also too kind; machinations might be more apt, given the paper shuffling and payroll padding of Malibu’s city hall, the blatant hard balling of the Mountains Conservancy, the disdainful dismissals of the Coastal Commission, and the imperious plodding of Cal Trans.

Let’s face it: our local government just does not seem to be working well, despite its constant self congratulations. Not that the present council is any worse than others in the past, though I feel the Barofsky years were particularly shameful.

It is just that the challenges are becoming more pronounced: PCH, planning, pollution, parks, parking, party houses, the fear of fires and effects of climate change. The list just gets longer.

That is why the upcoming city election is so critical. To say we need some tough, transparent leadership is like saying we need some good rain.

Well, some clouds formed and there was a little moisture in the air last week at the first public forum between the five councilcandidates, hosted at the Red Ladder Gallery, that is a noble temporary addition to the civic center.

Hopefully it will be will be an engaging election campaign, but here in the interest of brevity are some first impressions, the emphasis on first and brief:

Karen Farrar: She was the most grounded and concerned for local control, based on her impressive leadership over many battling for a better Malibu public school system.

Mikke Pierson: The most open and affecting, based on his persevering on the planning commission and aiding the homeless.

Jim Palmer: The most disheartening, for all his sincere concerns and years on the public works commission admittedly being ignored by the city, and not doing or saying anything until now.

Olivia Damavandi: She was the most tentative. From a former city reporter and city hall flack, we got platitudes rather than policies.

Lance Simmons. To recommend building inland parking garages and bus shuttle to the beaches says a lot of his being in Malibu for just 3 questionable years.

And though he’s not running, a shout out for the moderator, an amiable and informed Eamon Harrington. That he has been a neighbor for the last 22 years is purely coincidental.

 

MID CENTURY ARCHITECTURE AND A CITY CELEBRATED

This week on arts and entertainment observed on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, it is architecture, and a new and attractive book, entitled “Mod Mirage.” Written by preservationist Melissa Riche and resplendently photographed by Jim Riche, the book’s focus is the singular desert city of Rancho Mirage, a seasonal retreat, of, 17,000 plus.

It is a pleasant place to live, according to its boosters, if you like dry, hot weather, and can afford its lifestyle in this day and age of increasing income disparity in a declining democracy.

What distinguishes the city for me and is celebrated in “Mod Mirage,” is its wealth of the very livable Midcentury Modernist architecture, a distinct inviting style marked by economical post and beam construction, minimal support walls, and the maximum the use of glass, exposing the surrounding landscape.

The flair for flat cantilevered roofs, creating a light, horizontal   machine look, reflects its severe predecessor International Style, out of the pre war European Bauhaus movement, and heralded by the condescending design fraternity. But Midcentury was more.

However loosely labeled, the style extols Southern California benign climate and casual culture, and deserves prominence in the pantheon of design. The unabashed appreciation for the architectural style and affection for Rancho Mirage by the book’s author wife and photographer husband makes for a coffee table must for Midcentury fans, which include many in Malibu

Lending a welcomed perspective is an exuberant foreword by Brad Dunning, who observes that, “since most homes in the desert (in the 1950s) were second or seasonal homes, they represented not only leisure, relaxation and health, but also debauchery and frivolity. It was only natural the more flamboyant and joyous architecture mirrored the association.”

No doubt another book can be written on that theme, given the host of celebrities that frolicked there, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and the Marx brothers, to name just a few.

To be sure, being in the entertainment business, the celebs also obviously had an appreciation of architecture as a stage set of sorts for their lifestyles, and employed a host of distinguished designers of the day, encouraging them to be inventive.  These included Wallace Neff, Richard Neutra, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones and William Cody. They were very much up to the task, as the Riches document in a descriptive text and exquisite photograph, in an elegant design for Gibbs Smith publishers. Glad to see they are still doing architecture books.

“The budgets, the clients, the views, and the unique environment all encouraged architects to think differently, “ writes Riche. “The result was an unparalleled collection of modernist designs at its most refined.” And a modest, desert city like no other.

Kudos for all who have rallied to preserve the distinctively styled architecture in Rancho Mirage, and also to Melissa and Jim Riche for faithfully documenting the history.

 

 

WHILE MALIBU CITY HALL TWIDDLES ITS THUMBS…

Upcoming is Labor Day, the traditional end of summer, time for a beach picnic, a backyard barbeque, kick back and reflect, as I do on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

If anything, it has been a Summer of discontent for my Malibu. There is of course the natural beauty that attracted us to this singular seacoast village, the benign climate, the beach, the mountains, space to breath. These are blessings.

However, creeping into the conversation among family and friends, the dog park crowd, in the social media and the KBU “real news” sanctuary, is an unease with what I perceive is the drift of local government.

For me the unease chills to the bone, even in this day and age of record temperatures. Fires are a constant concern, prompting my pointed opposition to the mindless (or is it Machiavellian) ) MRCA proposed campground atop Puerco Canyon, and a seemingly helpless city.

And what has the city’s paid State- wired consultant done for the millions of dollars, yes, millions, paid over the years, other than to make the occasional councilperson feel important in Sacramento or attending spurious conferences, padding their expenses accounts in the process?

Why isn’t someone kicking the MRCA’s fat ass? I don’t think giving him a Dolphin Award will help.

Meanwhile, there are other local concerns, most often voiced being the traffic, on the dreaded PCH. But also on secondary streets, leading to the beach and trail heads; the clutter and the crowds. And the city continues to twiddle its thumbs.

Why isn’t someone at City Hall riding full time herd 24/7 on Caltrans? And what has happened to the long promised traffic improvements on PCH. Or just the right turn lane at Trancas?

Then there are the once family friendly homes in our neighborhoods metamorphosing into second house trophies for the distant one percent, or weekend party pads rentals. And too bad about the parking, trash and noise. And the recent rash of petty car robberies have to be a concern.

Too bad also about the long promised new surface for our dog park. Dogs don’t vote anyway.

The list unfortunately goes on: the curbing of the misshapen mansionizations corrupting neighborhood character, and the misdirected legacy of Legacy Park, for which the city is to be billed a half a million dollars and no doubt more to redo. It is not nicknamed Lunacy Park for nothing.

You would think the open space deeded to the city could be amended to allow a ballfield there, maybe a skateboard park, a community garden, and a well designed dog park.

And, by the way, what has happened to plans for the recently acquired Trancas Field, paid for by the public for I assume public use and not someone’s front lawn? And what is going to happen to the city’s latest land purchases?

Meanwhile, City Hall is making more hires to do exactly what is not known beyond the usual bureaucratic babble, though, most likely there will be an increase in pay, perks and pensions. Yes, it high time for some oversight and perhaps an overhaul.

These are issues that should be raised by the city council candidates this election season, which traditionally heats up after Labor Day. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

‘AIN’T TOO PROUD” CHRONICLES THE TEMPTATIONS

Made it to downtown L.A. in the teeth of the usual frustrating traffic to see the heralded production of “Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations”.

And maddening traffic or not, you should, too, before the run ends September 30th, at the Ahmanson Theatre and moves east to Broadway to probably become a hit and hot ticket.

There has become some debate among critics what to label the production: a jukebox musical, or a more respectful biography of a fabled singing group, with a patina of history and histrionics?

But as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, forget the labels, they are just a crutch for critics. I would wrap it all up, put a bow on it, and call it a celebration, especially if you loved the Temptations back in the 60s and 70s, as I did. The bursting-at-the seams production makes it a joyful evening.

Loved the songs, their singular sounds, the distinct harmonies, and their smooth, choreographed delivery. They are performed with a syncopated sparkle that ignites the stage under the smooth direction of Des McAnuff, who not incidentally was the guiding hand for the hit musical Jersey Boys.

He is ably aided here by choreographer Sergio Trujillo, musical conductor Kenny Seymour and scenic designer Robert Brill. A shout out also for the flash-bam lighting design of Howell Binkley, and the glittering costumes by Paul Tazwell.

Indeed, it is an all star production, with a talented cast headed by by Derrick Baskin as the persevering Temptation original Otis Williams, Jawan Jackson with the a bass that echoes the fabeled Melvin Franklin, as does Jeremy Pope hitting the high note falsettos of Eddie Kendricks. And capturing the sad saga of David Ruffin is a convincing Ephrain Sykes.

But as a tough love I would suggest before moving on to Broadway, some nip and tucking is needed. 31 songs are a lot: Let “My Girl” resound, while a few others can be forgotten.

And the unquestionably truthful dialogue by Dominique Morisseau frankly needs editing. For all the fame and fortune, the climb out a down-and-out Detroit and life on the road, obviously took its toll. There are drugs and drink, and to borrow a word, temptations. All true, but also cliché. Meanwhile, you want to hear the music, and as batted out in “Ain’t Too Proud” for sure ain’t bad.

It all makes for a great first offering for the Fall season at the Ahamson, where followed for sure will be sellouts of “Dear Evans Hansen” and “Come From Away.” It is not too early to get tickets.

 

 

 

MALIBU PLANNING FOLLIES

Observed with dismay was the recent Malibu Planning Commission and the city’s compliant staff, twisting themselves into a knot at a recent meeting reviewing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest development requests.

A painful review of the convoluted chatter rfevealedthat after commission indicated it would probably reject the requests, it wavered as city staff blabbering on suggested some half-witted and unattractive alternatives.

This included painting a questionable “do not block” traffic zone in front of the Inn, ostensibly for guests and parking valets. Also suggested was allowing a particularly ugly multi level parking lift fronting the hotel site, by relocating a proposed swimming pool. Talk about dumb and dumber

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, you would think staff was in the employ of the developer, and not working for the city and therefore sensitive to residents and the city’s mission to protect its rural seacoast character. The only person making any sense at the hearing was Lester Tobias, a local architect, rising from the audience to take exception to the requests and the city’s mishandling.

You would have hoped that at least the commission would remind staff of its job, but they, like the council members who appointed them, tend to be self absorbed. Malibu, we have a problem, that the next local election may, or may not, solve.

Meanwhile, as for the commission hearing, it involved the beachfront hotel requests to park on the landside of PCH, in the former Hertz property. This would allow it to build the swimming pool on its present inadequate parking lot.

The formerly immodest motel has been consciously compromising the city’s building and zoning codes, and the local coastal plan in recent years as it morphed into a high end hotel and over priced restaurant. To be sure, this has been accomplished legally, however arbitrarily, while a less than competent city smiled, however amiably.

The latest incursion was the construction of a signaled cross walk that screwed up commuter traffic for several days. This compounded the crush of cars already there for the slavering celeb scene at nearby Nobu.

As I have previously riled, Caltrans had typically mindlessly approved the crosswalk, while the city, also typically mindless, had explained that the PCH was not its jurisdiction. It is, if City Hall would only assert itself.

But after being chastened, city council members indicated it would not approve the hotel’s latest artiface, though after the planning commission aired it. That was the last meeting, where the air was unfortunately hot air.

Another hearing has had to be planned, which unfortunately will be the night before the Fall election. Hopefully the rejection then will be a no brainer. Actually, considering that the planning commission and city staff will be involved, better make that a half-brainer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROAD FEST BECKONS ALL

Upcoming is Labor Day weekend, and given the frustrating rush and crush of the three-day holiday, it is not too early to make plans. That is a challenge these days.

I do have a specific recommendation, at least for that mid holiday Sunday afternoon, two to seven. It is the Broad Fest, a very varied multi cultural and multi generational programs, something free, and for all.

Kids in particular I think will love it, and you, too, if you are into different musical sounds, and dance, as I am. And it relatively easy to get to, at 11th and Arizona, in Santa Monica.

But as mention of public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, reservations are recommended, so contact the broadstage.org.

Yes, it is a three day weekend, and there of course is also the beach for which Los Angeles is rightly famed. But expect getting to any of its accessible stretches of sand, if hopefully by an air conditioned car, finding a parking space, and then trying to find a spot to put down the blanket and the crammed ice container, is going to be a shlep, unless you leave early enough.

And if you haven’t noticed as the Southland has become more and more populous, early enough increasingly has become earlier and earlier each year. The freeways may be free of tolls, at least for the moment, but not of a constant flow of traffic.

You have to wonder where are all these cars are going, and whether you also should be going there, wherever that is. On Labor day weekend for most that happens to be the beach.

But it also increasingly true of the museums I recommend, especially on the Westside. I love the Getty not only for its varied and always diverting exhibits, as I had noted last week, and also for its views and breezes high above Brentwood and the 405 Freeway. And at the end of the Summer, it also has become loved by the increasing hordes of tourists.

It used to be you can escape to an air conditioned movie theatre, but since they have become more plush and expensive I’ve become more choosey. Also with food now being served during the showings means people around you murmuring orders, fumbling for credit cards and eating loudly.

Yes, expect crowds and people eating loudly too, at the Broad Fest. But the music is going to be loud, and it all being free, you can try the different attractions. Consider it an adventure. I do, and that is what motivates me,

 

 

 

 

MALIBU POISED TO SLAP DOWN DEVELOPER,YES!

Finally, Malibu has an opportunity to make amends for its somnolent city administration and drive a nail into the expansion plans of the Malibu Beach Inn, which threatens to exacerbate the already frustrating and dangerous PCH traffic.

On the Planning Commission agenda for this Monday are several items that would effectively block the Inn from constructing a parking lot across PCH. There’s considerable pressure on the commissioners from sheepish council members and chastened city’s officials to slap down the Inn, and certainly not to eat there anymore.

If you might recall, that expanded parking was why the infamous cross walk was needed, so the Inn’s vehicle valets can dart back and forth across the PCH servicing guests.

And talk about a local “lebensraum,” the infamous German term for an aggressive, nefarious land policy used as a rationale for the start of World War Two.

The lot on the former Hertz property in effect would have allowed the Inn to expand, build a swimming pool and other amenities, and not incidentally covering its ass from having abused the city’s commercial zoning code and local coastal plan, adding seating and not providing parking.

The construction of the crosswalk severely screwed up commuter traffic for several days, prompting road rage, at least that is what I felt being late for an anticipated medical exam. Also angry was local architect Lester Tobias, who to his credit critiqued and pressed the issue.

Caltrans had typically mindlessly approved the crosswalk, while the city, also typically mindless, had explained that the PCH was not its jurisdiction. That‘s bureaucracy for you.

Though Caltrans in making excuses said that it is always open, indeed welcomes, the comments of effected local government. But Malibu City Hall is said to seldom say anything.

No surprise there, given the pro private property rights proclivities of our liaisons with regional and state agencies, and their lamentable primping (pimping?) beyond Malibu for perks and positions, now and in the future. Those expense reports do add up.

Perhaps that will improve after Laura Rosenthal and Lou MaMonte are termed out and replaced in this Fall’s election.

Meanwhile, the crosswalk calamity and the public protests could augurs well for increased local involvement.

It therefore will be interesting to see the turnout Sunday, for a gathering to discuss keeping the Santa Monica Mountains safe, announced for 11 AM at King Gillette Ranch, up Malibu Canyon to Las Virgenes and Mulholland. Just follow the signs there.Ostensibly recent shootings there are on the agenda.

But hopefully someone from the should-be frightened Malibu also will raise the issue of the proposal by the SMRCA for an asinine, arsonist-friendly overnight camp in Puerco Canyon, and whether that includes private weddings and film shoots there. Time to put the feet of our public officials to the fire, figuratively speaking of course.

 

 

 

AT THE GETTY, BEYOND THE NILE

 

Finally made it to the Getty to see its premier attraction of the last several months, entitled “Beyond the Nile, Egypt and the Classical World.”

I am very glad I did, for it closes September 6th, and now having seen it I recognize to might have missed it for some poor excuse or other, for me would have been unfortunate.

And I ‘m glad I ‘m reviewing the exhibit for public radio, 99.1 KBU and select websites, with several week left before it’s gone. Maybe it’ll prompt others to see it. And this is an exhibit that should not be missed, certainly notfor anyone curious about art and history, and past civilizations. To see the artifacts –the jewelry, the sculptures, the statues, ceramics and mosaics, that were produced thousands of years ago – is breathtaking.

Just to think how, why and where they were crafted, is mind bending. And there they are, many as pristine as produced yesterday, others quite conspicuous beneath a patina of age. It is Getty Museum at it best.

Enthralling also is to think these artifacts were traded and given as gifts by the Egyptians and Greeks, as early as the Seventh Century B.C. as they and others traversed the Mediterranean, and up and down the Nile.
As the dominate civilization in the ancient world, with its mastery of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and writing, Egypt wielded much influence. That made its arts and crafts coveted, even as its power waned in the wake of the Roman Empire, and why incidentally so much of it was in time found in Italy.

Fascinating as they may be, as displayed in the exhibit, most captivating for me actually was a densely-scripted papyrus manuscript, written mostly in Egyptian.

A handbook of sorts, according to a curator, it addresses a catalogue of revealing topics, such as how to commune with the gods about the future, how to attract, and get rid of, a lover, and how to kill someone. But also noted is how to heal, including blindness and migraines, among other things.

 Few people then could read, so the manuscript apparently was not a best seller. But it did survive the ages, and there it is now, on a museum wall in Los Angeles. You have to be impressed.

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