RECALCITRANT MALIBU PIDDLES RATHER THAN PLANS

If anyone needed a sad paradigm of how not to pursue a purported street improvement plan, look no further than at the City of Malibu, which recently approved and is now reconsidering a resolution to compel property owners remove landscape encroachments, less mature trees, from the municipal right of way edging roadways.


Limited to the web of streets composing Point Dume and its comfortable village clutter of 700 or so homes, ranging from modest to mac mansions, the resolution appeared as an arbitrary add on, if not an after thought, to a traffic management plan that had not been presented clearly by the City and had not been reviewed in any detail by concerned residents.

I revealed this latest Malibu City crotchet in a recent commentary on 97.5 KBU and everywhere on radiomalibu.net and select websites. A more detailed and damning copy including editor’s note’s citing Council contradictions appear in this week’s Local, under the headline “Point Doomed.”

Traffic is very much a concern of residents on the Point, which increasingly is being inundated by beach goers bound for the adjacent Zuma, but wanting to avoid the $14 a day parking fee there, so they scour the Point for a free spot on a convenient residential street. Add to this the crush of surfers parking to descend on Little and Big Point Dume. Then there is the annoyance of the trash they leave behind for the residents to clean. Speeding on the Point also is a problem, by the beachgoers and resident themselves, which was addressed in the plan by lowering speed limits and installing questionable speed humps.

But it was the resolution to remove the landscape encroachments, including mailboxes and fences, to accommodate a possible increase in parking and a sidewalk, that has generated the protests and demands for a retraction.

That the City has not come up with specifics as to the parking and/or sidewalks has particularly annoyed residents. Said one, the City doesn’t plan, it piddles, with an alarming ignorance of the latest professional standards (widening streets encourages speeding) and the disregard for the effect on the neighborhood (compromising the Point’s rural ambience) .

As a result, the protests have been increasingly strident, flamed by a televised segment of a flummoxed council discussing the issue in which the mayor questioned the placement of the grandfathered no parking signs on select streets, and looked forward to having them removed. And this despite the signs having been hard fought by the residents in a past legal battle with the Coastal Commission, prompting one venerable Point resident to comment that pulling them up would be the equivalent of pulling a pin out of a grenade.

The issue might seem parochial, but it is resonating loudly across Malibu, where in referendums and countless community meetings residents have been challenging the City over several questionable planning and development initiatives. Inherent in the complaints is that the City Council is not listening to the residents, but rather to a small circle of friends and special interests.

The Council, of course, has denied this at its last meeting that was packed by Point residents protesting the encroachment resolution. Mayor Laura Rosenthal pointedly stated she had heard the concerns, and declared that the City was not going to implement it, if at all, until after the community was surveyed, and more meetings held.

There was no admission that the council or the city staff had acted precipitously. Indeed, to the chagrin of some city activists, Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte repeated the defense that the council had acted in clear response to resident requests at past community meetings, however sparsely and vacantly expressed, and not vetted.

The City also keeps referring to the clearance of right-of-way encroachments on Busch drive for a sidewalk as a success, while many residents there contend was costly, is incomplete and not very successful.

To be sure, this is a prideful if imperious council that never seems to tire of self aggrandizement. This has made the flare up over the encroachment issue particularly embarrassing to it and a lockstep staff, but an arrow in the quiver of those looking forwards to the City elections in the Fall.

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hallkaplan

Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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