WHITHER OUR NEIGBORHOODS

Sometimes I feel my city of Malibu and neighborhood of Point Dume is becoming less a stunning singular coastal enclave , and more a non descript monopoly board; where a house is less a home and more an investment, a safe deposit box of sorts.

What is happening in Malibu and several other desirable neighborhoods in Southern California is that housing is becoming more and more difficult for most families to buy.

That is unless they have deep pocket parents, or they themselves are obscenely wealthy, thanks to our inequitable economy, as I comment on an upcoming 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites.

Though difficult to track more than anecdotally, an increasing number of houses on select streets are being snapped up as weekend retreats.

These buyers are known as zombie owners. If and when seen, they tend not to be friendly, and not particularly concerned with issues beyond their locked gates. So much for a sense of community

I am, of course, prejudice, having grown up in Brooklyn, in an neighborhood where you hung out on stoops, and everyone knew everyone, and their business. I later lived in a gritty East Harlem project tower, but its lobby, streets and playgrounds were friendly.

A sense of community also persisted later, when raising a family in Princeton, New Jersey and Port Washington, Long Island. Schools and local politics bonded you.

It was the same when I moved to L.A., in Santa Monica, with a few more kids in tow, before the wife found a house she loved in Malibu. That was 20 years ago.

There living across the street was an elderly couple in a house shared by their reclusive son and several dogs. We and our parade of pets became friendly, keeping an eye on each other. But they sadly passed, as did the dogs, and in time their inconsolable son. The house was put up for sale.

We looked forward with trepidation to whom would buy, and perhaps demolish it and construct a macmansion, as what was happening in our former Santa Monica neighborhood.

Ironically, I had been quite critical of this trend in my writings 25 years ago, and immodestly am credited by Wikipedia with having indirectly coined the phrase.

Of course, neighborhoods transform. My Brooklyn once populated with European Jews is now a hipster haven. Who would have guessed. If there is one constant in cities it is change.

We were relieved when a pleasant couple with two children bought it 3 years ago, and proceeded to attractively rebuild the house, and landscape it.

But now they have put up their homey house up for sale. The taxes, mortgage, college costs, a wavering economy, a rising real estate market, whatever the reason, they are moving. Call it flipping or not, they seem sad to move. We wish them luck.

So, we are again hoping someone doesn’t buy to demolish the house for a macmansion Or use it as a weekend retreat, or a party house, and on the side, rent it out as an airbnb. Worse could be a clinic. There are certainly enough of them in Malibu already.

You have to worry, given the city’s planning passivity and reluctance to get involved, and Malibu’s avaricious lawyers and realtors.

It’s Malibu Jake, where, the saying, “there goes the neighborhood,” is becoming more than a cliché.

 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING NEEDED

If there is one paramount planning issue challenging cities these days it is the shortage of affordable housing, so say the academic number crunchers and pundits who note that California population continues to increase.

But you don’t have to tell that to those who live here , and so I comment on my weekly broadcast on 97.5 KBU and on select websites . Finding an apartment to rent or a house to buy has become as frustrating as freeway traffic. And that has gone from bad to worse.

Whether the cities want to confront this issue is another matter, that is do something more than talk about it in bureaucratic backrooms, and bemoan it at idle conferences.

In L.A , there have been a series of pronouncement by Mayor Garcetti, who unfortunately seems tied up in an archaic zoning knot, and hounded by nimbys.

In New York, affordable housing was one of the post election promises of Bill De Blasio, but so far it’s been all talk. What few plans have been put forward by ever ready architects are languishing. The mayors frankly don’t put the needed money with their mouths are.

Then there are the comfortable cities, like my Malibu, with its multitude of real estate agents, and provincial politicians that don’t even talk about it, and seem to be content to let the private market driven by supply and demand reap its profits.

Real estate is the mother lode of Malibu, and those who bought early and those with the means or moneyed parents who have bought more recently. Both seem to be content with the status quo, adhering to the adage that they got theirs, and too bad for everyone else.

And that everyone else includes the local workforce: the city employees, school teachers, first responders, shop clerks, waiters and waitresses, the gardeners and handymen, all those that smile and serve. Most live beyond the 27 miles of scenic beauty that is Malibu.

That is because they simply can’t afford the city’s ever increasing real estate prices. Most have to commute long distances daily to get to work, and yes, they are among the vehicles that exacerbating traffic on the PCH.

And it’s getting worse, what little affordable housing there is, increasingly is being taken off the market for short term rentals, or sold as vacation or weekend homes to deep pocket buyers. And not just in Malibu, but in nearby communities.

To find housing, our workforce is moving further and further away, which means longer commutes. And it also discourages them to send their kids to Malibu schools. So there goes what little diversity the city has, economically, racially, and culturally, and we are poorer for it.

Yes, this is another entreaty for needed housing to be somehow appropriately designed and developed, and in Malibu located in the civic center.

Label it as you will, workforce or affordable, and add some senior and assisted housing to the mix, and it will unquestionably transform the civic center from its present sad state as a fractured commercial conceit catering to tourists, into a real, more livable and equitable coastal village.  It’s the right thing to do.

 

 

OFF BEAT L.A. OFFERINGS

You have to love L.A., not only for its benign weather, drought or not, but for its cultural diversity, and fun. When I peruse what’s happening here and there for my arts and entertainment commentary on 97.5 KBU and select local websites, I inevitably happily come across a smattering of engaging offbeat offerings.

For examples, downtown L.A. Friday night, at the recently restored but still funky, folksy Clifton’s Cafeteria ,there will an Earth Day celebration that promises to be an experience.

The dining room with its open seating is to transformed – their word, not mine—into an exotic animal sanctuary, featuring costumed performers roaming the tables as lions, leopards, deer and exotic birds. Selfies are to be encouraged, as I presume so is acting out.

There will be live music by Miranda Lee Richards and friends up from New Orleans, with a trio of chattering hip deejays. You can also get a cocktail for 35 cents, if you can convince the host or whomever, that hearing this on KBU is equivalent to reading an advertisement in the L.A. Weekly.

Harder will be finding a parking space near Clifton’s, at 648 Broadway, a L.A. landmark, you can’t miss it.

And continuing in the category of the offbeat, upcoming is yet another site specific performance of the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, still going strong after 30 years.

Entitled Parts & Labor, the dancers will be performing at a car wash, May 7 in two weeks, but the always rare and in demand tickets for the singular performances are on sale now. Look them up on the web, on Facebook, or calling 818 784 8669. )

The performance will be at the Santa Palm Car Wash, at 8787 Santa Monica Boulevard, in West Hollywood, at 8 P.M.

Your car will not get washed, but there will be valet parking. And as advertised, an incredible experience is promised. Just when else will we have the chance to see a dance performance at a car wash, and live musicians play a vintage automobile as percussion?

 

 

 

 

LOCAL POLITICS PERSISTS IN MISANTHROPIC MALIBU

Forget the hysterical national political campaigns for the moment. In neophyte communities, such as my misanthropic Malibu with its entitled population, local politics persist as the stuff of daily drama.

Here the center stage is the embattled Civic Center. It is a fractured mess, as I comment in my latest broadcast heard on 97.5 KBU and radiomalibu.net. and read on cityobserved.com and select websites.

It is more scattered than centered, more commercial than civic, more tourist serving than local friendly, more commonplace than colorful, and besides, driving there is a drag, the circulation sucks and the parking a pain.

Unlike other sister seacoast enclaves, such as Laguna Beach or Del Mar, Malibu’s Civic Center is neither quaint nor attractive, not for promenading, or for meeting friends. I would not call it particularly neighborly.

For that the Point Dume or Trancas shopping centers are much more disposed to be serendipitous, even stretches of our accessible beaches, thank you Coastal Commission, no thank you our key Nazis. The Zuma walk, Bluff’s Park or the indiscriminate Trancas Canyon dog park are friendlier.

So it was that after too many years in planning and politics, I welcomed a Santa Monica College satellite campus to the forlorn and much too retail ravaged misnamed civic center.

Finally, the City Council recently stumbled forward to barely approve the project by a 3 to 1 vote.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been just another city council hearing without some heartfelt objections to the project And most likely I would’ve been sympathetic if the objections were directed at yet another commercial conceit, especially pricey and tourist oriented.

But clearly the college proposal with a new sheriff’s station and communication tower attached would be a community benefit, and as much as I take exception to the council notorious tendency of granting variances, in this instance it was justified. A better, more green, and user friendly building will result .

The respected architecture firm of Quatro Design of which I am familiar deserves our thanks for persevering. Not many firms would have in the face of the maelstrom that Malibu’s politics.

\Ah, local politics, you have to love it. It is our theatre.

If anything, I hope that the campus, with its parade of students and promised community outreach to all ages and interests, will generate a sense of place for the civic center, based on public service rather than crass commercialism.

 

 

 

 

A TIP OF THE HAT TO ARCHITECT ZAHA HADID

Dusting off and putting on my old beaten down architecture critics hat, I tip it in a farewell gesture to Zaha Hadid She died much too young recently at the age 65; indeed tragically as her career as a designer seemed to be soaring, just as do her many singular signature structures.

Having garnered a Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest award in 2004 at the relatively young age of 53, based on just a few finished projects at the time, she took off like a comet, winning scores of commissions for her distinctively complex sweeping designs, despite having a reputation of being difficult.

Though one wonders if that was just the canard of her male competitors, as I comment in my weekly city observed on KBU FM and radiomalibu.net

Be that as it may, that her office in London employed 400 at the time of her death is a testament to her success. Incidentally, the number is more than the enrollment of some architecture schools. And those who try to imitate her distinctive style is legion.

A notable friend and an admirer, an equally individualistic and renown architect, Rem Koolhas, described her as powerful and fragile, and like her buildings, was generous, crafting public space in and out.

As much as I had taken exception to the to the label stararchitect, out of concern that it seems to bestow the professional a license for indulgences that mock context and community, as well as cost, Dame Hadid was a happy exception.

She said what she meant, and meant what she said.   I loved it, even when I disagreed with her. She was a person I would describe as one who stabbed you in the chest, not that back. No doubt she learned that having been stabbed in the back multiple times as she made her way up the ladder of success in a much too male dominated profession. That she also was an Arab made her even more vulnerable.

She was not a bullshiter, in a profession where they are too many ; that say one thing and design another, and say anything when surreptitiously smiling to secure a commission. That was the hearsay, for unfortunately I never got to interview her during my tenure in the 80s as a daily critic . Though her quotes echo is my abiding concerns for our cityscape:

“Cities should invest in good spatial organization that has more impact than just making a terrible cheap building, which you see a lot of.” Amen.