SOME THOUGHTS FOR MALIBU BEFORE SPRING BREAK

It’s Spring break time for Malibu and other school districts around the Southland. This prompted me to think it also would be a good time for mine, especially since I’m scheduled for a few necessary medical procedures in the next several weeks.

But as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, as a long time concerned resident of Malibu, I frankly also need a break from some persistent local issue.

These include traffic tieups on PCH, the protracted school divorce proceedings, the homeless, and the raw surface condition of the Trancas Canyon Dog Park.

But before I climb out of my catbird seat for a few weeks, I have some parting comment, of course.

The PCH: Enough already with the blame game and the mea culpas. There’s enough to go around for all: a callous Cal Trans, a sluggish City Hall, servile councilpersons, and inconsiderate developers . And yes also, an angry but not particularly alert public .

Hopefully the recent fiascos on the PCH have taught lessons to all, and the promised fixes will make driving on the dreaded highway somewhat more tolerable. To this I would add some common sense and some common courtesy. But realistically, the traffic will never cease. It is the bane of Malibu. And there is the question whether City Hall can become more proactive.

Concerning the creation of a separate school district for Malibu: Lets continue to exercise good faith, and hope, in the push for an equitable divorce settlement, despite the recalcitrant Santa Monica reps on the board.

But, really, they have to drop their ridiculous demand that after the divorce.Malibu continue to subsidize Santa Monica schools. and for no less than 50 years. If anything, it is sanctimonious Santa Monica that should be paying reparations to Malibu, for the years it has shortchanged educational instruction and facilities in the seacoast city..

But, if being reasonable won’t work, and soon, then Malibu must appeal to the county for the divorce, and back it up with boycotts, protests and political resolve.

As for the homeless, the restoration of the meal program in the civic center is a start, but a more permanent solution is needed. There is a real and pressing need, and we as a city have a responsibility to do something.

But something also has to include the library somehow being made safe and welcoming for the locals, and not have to suffer being a sorry way station for the homeless.

Meanwhile, it was encouraging for me and my Corgi Bobby to attend a recent Parks and Rec Commission meeting., and hear concerns for the raw surface condition of the neglected Trancas Dog Park.

Now let see if was just talk, and that actually something promised will be done, perhaps when I’m on break. But I wont be holding my breath,

 

 

DANCE BECKONS

I am happy to report on my arts and entertainment commentary for public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, that dance is flourishing in Los Angeles. But this frankly has made it a real challenge to keep up with the increased venues.

This is especially a problem if you, as me, love modern dance, melding as it does music, and movement, celebrating the sensuality of sound and the human body, embodying and expressing a range of emotions.

For me, it’s alive as no other art. But sadly I just can’t attend every thing, being just a once a week cultural critic with an aging Prius living on Pt.Dume in the far reaches of western Malibu. Finding time is fine, but getting places is a bitch.

So this weekend it is the hard choice between the L.A. Dance Project at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, and a Kyle Abraham’s program of three premieres at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA’s Freud Theatre.

Both are promising. According to the advance publicity, Abraham, born into the hip hop culture, “entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary with a strong emphasis on sound, behavior and all things visual, “ It is personal and provocative, and what you’ve come to expect from the inspired UCLA’s Center.

Meanwhile, at the same time, at the Wallis, premiered are three distinct performance pieces by its heralded company-in-residence, directed by Benjamin Millepied.

Included in particular is the Martha Graham Duets drawn from her magnum Diversion of Angels and Canticle for Innocent Comedians that in part won for her the title of “dancer of century,” and sainthood from her many legions of followers.

The chance to see a Graham creation performed also won me over, if only for the nostalgia. I was smitten seeing her perform 60 years ago, being introduced to her at a performance by a dancer friend of mine at the time in New York City.

And so my choice was the Wallis. The performance is for tonight, and tomorrow, at 7,30, and if you are interested hopefully there a few tickets still available.

And then there is next week at the Wallis, where the celebration of dance continues with an inventive reinterpretation of the classical ballet Giselle. A classical story yes, but expressed in contemporary dance techniques infused with African dance steps,. Have to see that. .

Performances are scheduled evenings, Thursday the 12th through Saturday, the 14th. It happily is on my schedule.

So is the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem It will be performing for just two nights, April 20th and 21st, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on Santa Monica. That also should not be missed.

 

 

LACMA EXHIBIT CELEBRATES ART AND URBAN HISTORY

As I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select web sites, the exhibit “City and Cosmos” that just opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, uniquely embraces both art and urban history.

And let me state from the beginning of this review, modest as the exhibit may be in three galleries in the Resnick wing of sprawling LACMA, it is not to be missed.

Engagingly revealed are the finding of the lastest exhaustive excavations in the ancient city of TEOTIHUACAN of three pyramids. the sun, moon and feathered serpent, and the adjacent residential compounds.

The excavations have been ongoing by international teams of archeologists, for the city in central Mexico was for centuries, at the turn of the first millennium, from about 100 b.c. to 600 a.d , the largest urban center in the Americas, with an estimated population of 100,000.

For a context, they lived in single family, one story houses, off a well planned street system, focused on a major avenue anchored by the three impressive pyramids.

The city is considered the centerpiece of Mexico’s rich narrative, and its ruins draw about 4 million visitors a year.

The 200 or so objects displayed are fascinating, for me riveting, Included are both large and small scale impressive stone sculptures, beautfully crafted jewelery, and household items, principally pottery, decoratfed with scenes of everyday life. mothers and children, and animalsThe carved masks and polished faces mesmerize.

The craftsmanship is exquisite, the work obviously of a large and talented artisan class, though one questions whether they were slaves or critizens. And where did some of the materials come from, such as the varied shells?

Indeed, if anything, the exhibit raises more questions than it answers, and a well written and illustrated timeline would have been appreciated. The labeling was inadequate, atleast for the plebian public.

Whatever, the objects indicate a rich and vibrant cosmopolitan life, that hint at the city in its hey day attracting people from various tribes and cultures from across meso America. In this respect, I feel this speaks in a way to Los Angeles today, and its large immigrant and migrating population.

But I would have liked to learn more why this city was destroyed; was the devestating fire in the six hundreds deliberate or accidental, and were the city’s apparent egalitarian institutions that had welcome the city’s diversity eventually subverted by despotic rulers only hinted at in the exhibition catalogue? Questions.

 

 

 

 

 

MALIBU CITY INACTION CREATES CHAOS ON PCH

Instead of my usual commentary “the city observed,” on public radio 99.1 KBU, and select web site., I’ve labeled this one,“the city suffered,” That is especially if you live on Pt.Dume, as I do, and the western reaches of Malibu, and if for whatever reason you occasionally use the PCH.

I had to early this week., for a can’t miss pre op doctor’s appointments, replete with he usual slew of tests, in Santa Monica. It had been delayed too often, and was a medical necessity, whatever my insurance provider might rule.

Alert to the unpredictability of the PCH, I listened to the welcomed up-to the minute traffic reports on 99.1 KBU, which repeated several times traffic was slow in the Lagoon vicinity,

I also checked the website the city has touted, though as usual it was dated and incomplete. The more reliable Google Maps that morning showed east bound traffic backed up beyond John Tyler. This prompted me to leave an hour earlier, giving me up to 2 hours to get to my appointment .

Good thing I did, for the stop and go traffic was slow, and frustrating, prompting some cars to dangerously jump the median and head toward Malibu Canyon Road and the 101.

There were some close accidents, and one wonders where were the Sheriff deputies. I would guess probably lurking in a speed trap somewhere else in Malibu in wait to ticket for a senior going a few miles over the limit in their dated Prius.

Finally, I got to what was causing the monumental backup: the merging of two lanes into one at the Malibu Beach Inn, to accommodate the installation of a traffic signals for a crosswalk. This incidentally would allow the Inn to park cars on the northside of PCH in the old Hertz lot, and make room for an outdoor pool for its pampered guests on the southside steps from their rooms.

Nice, the Inn’s team of lawyers had once again out maneuvered the somnolent city, for yet another profitable amenitiy. How private interests are forever prevailing in Malibu raises question that needs to be answered, hopefully soon.

For the moment, there was the traffic problem, which I feel based on my hands on planning experiences could have been easily addressed, and saved thousand of commuters, and myself, several anguished hours on the PCH.

Specifically, the parking at the south curb should have been just temporarily banned. This would have allowed the private contractor’s truck, and an occasional Cal Trans car to park at the curb,, and not double park as they were doing eliminating a second eastbound lane and inhibiting the flow of traffic.

The resulting mess was a sad illustration of the planning adage that a road is as wide as its narrowest part.

In addition, the construction could have been timed for the evening at a relatively minor charge to the Inn, instead of costing the public hours of lost time at no doubt substantial sums. Yes, I made my appointment, barely.

Unfortunately lacking in all the parties involved was some common sense and common courtesy. Just having someone from City Hall there to check the situation could have made a difference.

Thanks to a burst of outrage in the social media, the double parking at the Inn is now no longer, thank goodness..

But beware, for scheduled to begin this weekend and run through the summer is some major road construction in the Civic Center area that promises to create a traffic hell. The work, of course, is to accommodate the wave of new commercial development that past self-aggrandizing councils had questionably approved.

Of course,, City Hall tell us the PCH is the responsibility of Cal Trans and the Sheriff’s department, not the toothless, and I would add, clueless city.

However, as KBU’s Hans Laetz has noted, there is much our City Hall staff can do. Yes, and I would add if the staff headed by an anemic city manager only had the gumption, as well as the support of a savvy council.  For the present, it is sadly not happening.

Something to think about when next stuck in traffic on the PCH

 

 

SOME GLITTERING DIVERSIONS AT THE GETTY

Needed some diversion from my concerns for Malibu’s public schools and my contempt for the Santa Monica school board bullies, and so it was off to the Getty, to do my weekly arts commentary, on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.
 
Crowning Brentwood above the 405, when the weather is benign the Getty cultural center is I feel an abiding sanctuary, graced with accessible art and reasonable fare.
 
Also personally attractive is that being so close to my Malibu,, makes me think of the Getty as my local museum.
 
And if there ever was a pair of glittering small gems epitomizing the Getty it is the current exhibits, Michelangelo to Degas, and Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India.
 
Michelangelo to Degas is hailed by the Getty as one of its most spectacular acquisitions of a private collection in its history, consisting of 16 drawings of a cadre of celebrated draftsman. Ii is a roster that includes Michelangelo, Tiepolo, Reubens, Degas, and my favorite Goya.
 
Of interest is that a pen and brown ink, opaque watercolor drawing of a figure in mourning credited to Michelangelo was discovered some 20 years ago, pasted into an album in the small library of an English castle. Then the Getty did what it does so well, and pursued it, and the obvious others.
 
All the art works fascinate, certainly when you consider how they were drawn in such exquisite detail, and with the limited raw materials and sketching tools available at the time. In viewing them closely, I suggest if possible do it with a hand held magnifying glass provided by Getty.
 
Included also in the exhibit, running to April 22, is a superb painting by Antoine Watteau,.
 
What makes the exhibit of Rembrandts particularly interesting is that his drawings of the Mughal court are very much in the popular Indian style, definitely not what Rembrandt was known for. They could be considered copies.
 
Also included for some perspective are his studies of 15th and 16th century Italian drawings, which unlike the Mughal paintings apparently influenced his art.
 
But the Indian sources remain unique in the master’s magnificent body of work. The exhibit runs until June 24th, and given that it will soon be Spring, consider that after viewing may I suggest contemplating it while having a coffee sitting on one of the cultural center’s inviting terraces.
 
To me that is a perfect day.

PIGHEADED SCHOOL BOARD SEEKS BILLIONS IN RANSOM

This week on the city observed, on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, it is the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School Board observed, and what I see is ugly.

I see a board dominated by a duplicitous majority including a compromised member representing a sanctimonious city of Santa Monica treating Malibu like an enslaved colony.

Need we be reminded about the unprecedented distance and differences between the two cities, separated by a 20 mile stretch of a tortuous highway, one a rural seacoast village, the other a swelling suburban city, and that stated again and again is the democratic imperative and moral certitude of the separation.

It also has been repeatedly revealed that in the allocation of funds for instruction and facilities, Malibu schools have been flagrantly shortchanged; that for decades Malibu has been treated like an abused cash cow for a prospering Santa Monica hiding behind a veil of self aggrandizing liberalism.

The latest not unexpected abuse of good faith by the board’s bullies is at long last to approve separating Malibu’s pubic school from the Santa Monica dominated district, which would allow Malibu to create a stand alone school district.

Yes! But then the board tacked on to its approval an unreasonable list of conditions, topped by the utterly ridiculous demand for Malibu to pay alimony for 50 years to the amount that has been calculated to top 10 billion dollars.

That is not a mistake. That is a B, as in blasphemous, black hearted, and downright bad. School funding, property taxes, local government, indeed everything can change over the course of years, If anything, it is an example of the board’s pigheadedness.

And while the schools in Santa Monica and their self serving Santa Monica based bureaucracy continue to suck cash subsidies out of Malibu, the board wants to hold more talks to dot the “Is”s and cross the “Ts” of the divorce agreement.

The estimate is that the agreement just may take up to 7 years to resolve, and also require an act of the state legislature.

The school board also has added a condition demanding Malibu drop its appeal to the county to alternatively seek the divorce, contending that the protracted negotiations in effect have failed.

In my opinion, they most certainly have.

It is time for Malibu’s to stop trying to be reasonable, and say good bye and good luck to the recalcitrant board, and start lobbying the county to break the oppressive chains to Santa Monica. It already has filed papers. Let’s get that effort rolling.

As one of the richest cities in California, Santa Monica should work out its own school financing, without holding Malibu ransom and punishing its students.

This I feel has become not only an educational matter, but also a civil rights issue.

 

 

CITY OF VENTURA OBSERVED

This week on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, the city observed is Ventura, just to the north of my Malibu, an attractive, still affordable seacoast city, with an authentic straggling main street.

To my transient sensibilities, the city is worth a detour, as it was to me decades ago when commuting most weekends and holidays with the kids to our rustic cabin high in Ventura County, in the Los Padres National Forest, above Ojai, deep in mystic Matilija Canyon. We on occasion ate and shopped in Ventura.

The occasion now for the revisit is the publication of “Talk City,” subtitled “a Chronicle Of Political Life in an All-American Town,’ written by William Fulton, (Solimar), who for eight years served on the Ventura City Council, much of the time as deputy mayor, and mayor.

Of interest to me is that Bill , a friend, is a city planner who apparently brought some design and development sensibilities to the elected positions. He is also a writer of several well received planning texts, and the thoughtful editor and publisher of the informative California Planning & Development Report.This held the promise of something beyond the usual bureaucratic babble and derivative academic dissertations that serve little real planning purpose other to than to pad resumes and pay grade reviews, to collect dust on groaning institute shelves

And as Fulton wrote in a note to me, “bear in mind that some of it is old war stories from Ventura. But a lot of it is what it’s like to be a part-time, overstressed, underpaid elected official in California. That, I think, has some legs beyond Ventura.”

Yes, it does, and perhaps some lessons, too, in particular for my stumbling Malibu, though smaller and more affluent, with some erudite residents, just does not seem to have its governmental act together since becoming a city 26 years ago.To be literal, Fulton does not mention Malibu.

However, in discussing why many small cities in California stumble and stagger presumably including Malibu, he cites the presence of “individuals involved who have taken a high handed approach with taxpayer funds,” and the state’s Byzantine system of local government.

Fulton contends that the progressive strong manager and part time politician approach –originally promoted to thwart corruption – has not worked well. He states this is sadly true when both the managers and politicians are self serving, and when the system “provides the opportunity for public servants to shield their activities from public view. “ That includes their total compensation, trips and gifts.

He adds that the system “also discourages constituents from being watchdogs in that both the governmental and financial system is cumbersome and bafflingly complicated,” and the state’s open meeting law is not much help. So much for transparency.

Among Fulton’s many insights from his years of service is that democracy only works if people pay attention, and sadly oftentimes people aren’t paying attention.

Thank you for the advice Bill, and your service.

 

 

 

MALIBU’S DOG DILEMMA, CONTINUED

Yes, I know there is real news out there that deserves, indeed demands, my attention and commentary, but I’m also a dedicated dog person, and cat and reluctant parrot person, too, so allow me some latitude.

So this week for City Observed on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the serial drama of the fate of the Trancas Canyon Dog Park continues, as the Malibu burgeoning bureaucracy does what it does best: postpone any actual improvement as it moves the item slowly between the in and out baskets on their desks.

If you recall, in the last episode of the continuing drama, or is it a farce, of the Malibu City Hall foibles starring my willful Welsh speaking aging Corgi, Bobby the Bad, our canine hero was complaining about the raw surface conditions of the dog park.

They were abusing his paws, and those of dozens other dogs who visit the park, though not having the vocal chords of Bobby, they were not as shrill in their canine cursing of a recalcitrant City Hall that the pets and their owners remember had promised the resurfacing.

But the bids came in well above the $80,000 that had been budgeted, indeed from $132,000 to over $300,000, to replace the current decomposed granite (DG) surface.  The reason for the high bids was said to be the limited vehicle access to the park , one of a number of design flaws in the original design, along with using the cheapest DG.

Cited for this rejection also was that not enough people had complained about the condition, as if there is some magic number before the city acts, or do there have to be complaints when a condition is so evident.

It’s a problem when you have a neophyte city government that plays it cards close to its chest, and is quick to tell you why something can’t be done, rather than how it can.

So for the future there will be no resurfacing of the raw dog park surface, and the pets will just have to try to stoically ignore the pain as they do now while playfully romping.

However, to be sure the city did compose a cautious e mail in which it recognizes that there is a constituency that uses the park.

Perhaps if the city desk jockeys actually visited the parks to review the issue with real people and their pets, they would not have to create an annoying SurveyMonkey poll, as it is wont to do when postponing confrontation with actual taxpayers.

You know them, the minority of the modest 13,000 residents who actually live in Malibu, instead of just partying here on weekends, or rent their house out legally or not, as an air n b, hoping that it will keep appreciating as the smiling realtor promised it would.

Who worries about dog parks anyway, dogs don’t vote, nor do many of their owners show any inclination to get involved in civic matters.

Not that they don’t care, most who live here do, but many unfortunately have been turned off or turned away by a City Hall, with its long, sad history of imperious leadership.

Welcome to small town government in, I fear, a failing democracy, for people and dogs. .

 

 

 

AWARD SHIFTS FROM STAR ARCHITECTS TO SOCIAL CONCERNS

Though having moved on to more inclusive cultural commentary, the itch of once being an architecture and design critic occasionally needs to be scratched, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere..
 
So it was when a prestigious architectural award, the Pritzker Prize, recently elbowed its way into the news, no small feat in these Trumpian dominated days.
 
What compels me to lend a perspective at this time is I sense the award just may be an indication that the profession is shifting away from the recent obnoxious obsession with celebrity architecture to more socially responsible concerns.
 
Particularly so in L.A., where architects seemed to have been more interested in self promoting, stand alone projects, rather than serving users and the public.
 
Considered architecture’s highest honor, and with a stipend of $100,000 certainly the profession’s most rewarding the latest Pritzker went to India’s Balkrishna Doshi, who is known in the Asian sub continent for his sustainable, low cost projects, and being an architect for the poor.
 
According to a statement by the prize jury, Doshi’s solutions correctly address the social, environmental and economic dimensions, constantly demonstrating that “all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but take into account climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of context.” In sum, that they be sustainable and social responsible.
 
Indeed from my liberal perspective, for the last several years it seems the coveted Pritzker prize has gone to architects with decidedly humanitarian predispositions, practicing in what could be described as design back waters, far from the limelight of the world cities.
 
I note it been more than a dozen years, since 2005, that an American has won, or for that matter any over blown personality that could be described as a star architect.
 
How refreshing, for when I was struggling as the architecture critic for the LA Times championing relevant urban design I felt the profession was preoccupied with how projects looked to a few peers rather than worked; that they were increasingly irrelevant, relegating architecture to a cultural sideshow.
 
To be sure, it was at times diverting. But I found the drive for celebrity status ultimately was corrupting, and that includes self aggrandizing schools and their impressionable students and faculty, fawning foundations and undiscerning media camp followers.
 
That it appears for now the Pritzker has broken this design daisy chain deserves praise, and hopefully might just help edge architecture back to its noble calling of designing spaces and places for human endeavor.
 

MALIBU TRAFFIC; BAD TO WORSE

If there seems to have been more traffic delays in Malibu than usual, it is because there are. Of late there have been several bad accidents, on PCH and also on the two connecting routes over the hill, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

And now there is a rush of construction of the ill advised projects of past pro development roosting city councils ,whose bad eggs they laid are being hatched . This includes a traffic light to accommodate the Malibu Beach Inn, and a rash of road widenings in and around the civic center to serve the approved new shopping centers there.

So don’t expect traffic to get any better, despite the usual mouse squeaks of concern coming out of City Hall. To be sure, even with their doors closed, or away on another expense paid governmental boondoggle featuring free meals and advice, the city’s top staff couldn’t ignore the welling anger of the Malibu constituency, especially those who have to use the PCH daily.

So with only a few days notice the city has scheduled a so-called “informational workshop,” for next Wednesday, the 14th, to ostensibly discuss transportation improvement projects funded by the county Measure M.

But hopefully the audience will insist the entire transportation mess plaguing Malibu will be aired, and not let the city get off the hook by blaming it all on Cal Trans. Malibu could assert itself much more, if it only had the moxIe.

However, if these meetings follow past scripts, those attending should beware of protracted presentation by city and county representatives designed not necessarily to details a list of pending projects, but to take forestall public comment and questions. In short, to bury the audience in bureaucratic blather, and deflect the arrows aimed at those responsible.

I wonder how many past council members, and the present lame ducks will be present to explain why and how they turned our seacoast coast village into a suburban-scape.

Probably not present will be the gaggle of high priced traffic, planning and political consultants that have been feeding at the city’s trough, and supposedly addressing these issues. That is in addition to hosting our neophyte municipal leaders who seem to have outsourced every city hall issue except staff payrolls and pensions, and councilperson trips.

There are so many questions to be asked, and so few answers to be expected. It is I feel frankly the sad and sorry state of local government these days

This brings to mind the urban adage, “People get the city they deserve.” Perhaps it is time to take back some of those awards given out to select past council persons when they retired.