MALIBU A SANCTUARY CITY: A PRETENTIOUS CONCEIT OR WHAT?

Upcoming on the Malibu City Council agenda, another vanity: That Malibu declare itself a sanctuary city, and prohibit the use of city funds or resources to enforce federal civil immigration law.

But before raising my objections (on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere,) let me state, as a long standing progressive liberal, that I am unalterably opposed to the outrages proposed by President Trump.

Indeed, sadly, I am depressed by his appointments to head the Education, Treasury and Justice departments, and the EPA. The list goes on and on.

And I find his executive orders equally objectionable, in particular his immigration edicts, threatening sweeps and arbitrary deportations. They sadly stir my memories of the rise of fascism.

To be sure, by questioning the designation of Malibu as a sanctuary city might cast me as a misanthrope. Fair enough. It is an issue I’ve wrestled with.

Whatever, a simple symbol as it might be, declaring Malibu a sanctuary city I believe at best is a pretentious conceit.

At worst, it is could be considered cynical, and, if anything, would subject our privileged, pricey coastal village to derision. It’s not like we have an estimated 375,000 illegals living in our city, as does L.A.

True, it might comfort the conscience of some, but, really, it wont do much else.

What are we going to do besides putting out a press release? Who will read it? Not the Trumpites. Are we going to pad our city attorney’s budget to defend someone who is picked up within the city limits?

We also just do not have the resources, such as housing, to welcome illegals, indeed not to welcome anyone, not even first responders and local teachers, except those with deep pockets.

And does the city really want to get involved in what might be a long and costly battle between local and federal government on immigration. I think not.

Actually, the term sanctuary was most recently applied to the movement in the 1980s, when churches and synagogues sheltered fugitives from Central America denied asylum by a recalcitrant Federal government.

To be sure, there are illegal immigrants in Malibu, albeit mostly during the day, many of whom toil here as gardeners, house cleaners and laborers.

Is it the city being motivated by a sincere sympathy for their anxiety. Or is it the fear that a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweep might result in untidy landscapes and homes?

Certainly the sweeps will not include the high end homes of our foreign owners, the part time residents, from Russia, the Mideast, China, who have blessed the local real estate market with their cash purchases.

You might say their investing in Malibu real estate in effect already has made it a sanctuary city.

If the city of Malibu is really going to protest immigration, what about Trump’s other abuses. Every day it seems he is throwing a spitball at something.

Can I expect a sanctuary for journalists who have been painted enemies of democracy? What about those who question the motives of local governments?

ZOOT SUIT TIMELY REVIVAL

Experiencing the stage production of Zoot Suit nearly 40 years ago was for me an intense introduction to my new home of L.A., exposing its racist history in a docu-drama, presented in a fanciful flash of costumes, song and dance, and story line.

The revival at the Mark Taper Forum now through April 2d doesn’t have the shock of the new for a now native me, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites. Some of the stage contrivances of flash backs, and a narrator have become prosaic production props, the shifting raw open set a familiar construct.

But the play as a penetrating portrait of home town prejudice is still affecting today as ever, and perhaps more so in wake of President Trump’s pronouncements deriding Mexicans and his insulting immigrant edicts.

Reviving a 40 year old play, depicting racist events plaguing Latinos 40 years before, in 1942, and not incidentally 150 years after the Civil War, and is still relevant today, has to say something about our society.

With that as history, to be sure, Zoot Suit, now as then, is a joy to watch, even if in the last row and an imperfect sound system .

Its conception is a wonderful stage conceit, especially given the drift of theatre in the 70s, and stands as a shinning tribute to the memory of the Taper’s then artistic director Gordon Davidson. He is given proper credit in the insightful program notes of Stephen Lavine and Janet Sternburg.

It was Davidson who commissioned the production from Luis Valdez, then a young, fiery Latino dramatist. That the now 75 year old, Valdez directs the revival lends the evening at the Taper a wistful aiur.

As for the production, it time and place is announced by a curtain splashing a Los Angeles Times front page of 1942 . to be sliced open by a giant switch blade knife , through which struts the flamboyant Zoot suited El Paucho, wonderfully played by Demian Bichir.

Indeed, the entire cast is excellent, the song and dance routines exuberant, the dramatic interludes touching, if somewhat cliché and in need of some editing. But then this is a revival, not a adaptation.

Zoot Suit is what it is, relevant to the fractured history of a fractured evolving city, a landmark of theatre production, and a deep bow to Latino talent.

Tickets are tough, but worth the effort, especially if you call L.A. your home.

 

BINGE WATCHING THE MALIBU FOLLIES

If you unfortunately didn’t have anything better to do on a recent Monday night, you might have inadvertently turned to public access Channel 3 and glimpsed the City Council follies. I did, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites

Talk about binge watching an amateur production of what might be labeled City Hall E.R., as staff and consultants in a discordant concert with a fractured City Council struggled to patch up an overblown proposal for a single-family house on Wildlife Road.

Starring in the pitiable production for the developer was Malibu’s Mr. Fixer, Don Schmitz, and a scene-chewing, off script councilman, Skylar Peak in a role that sadly for him, and unfortunately for the audience, seemed beyond his skill set.

In lesser Council roles was a confused Laura Rosenthal, who kept unusually quiet, and neophyte Rick Mullen, who tried to lend some reasoned perspective to the proceedings, in a shining but in vain monologue.

Not being able to steal a scene, Mayor Lou la Monte let the farce run into the late hours, as the audience drifted off. Most had been there for a Trancas Field item.

There also were walk-on roles for the house builder, Richard Sperber, known locally for being one of the developers of the Lumber Yard project, and as a member of the Civic Center Design Standards Task Force, an appointment of Laura Rosenthal. His family also founded the Valley Crest Landscaping, which in the past has done business with the city

If I am prejudiced it is because of the involvement of Schmitz, who seems to be everywhere when a developer needs a hired gun, such as for the civic center’s La Paz and U2’s Edge’s residential proposals. When he is for something, I tend to be against it.

Then there was the protagonist, the next door and former friendly neighbor Chris Farrar, whose objections prompted the tortured chronology of the Wildlife project and the latest City Council hearing.

As for the back story, what had been a relatively routine proposal for a typically immodest Malibu residence of 6600 square feet, plus the usual pool and an unusual bocce court , turned into a farce when changes to the original plans by Sperber were approved over-the-counter by a city planner.

The changes involving shifting the building site and extensive landscaping should have required a public hearing, a fact the City later admitted when pressed by neighbor Farrar, and tried to correct while ordering a construction stop.

Too late, said Sperber. No, it’s not said the city. And that was just the overture to the first episode. Appeals and law suits followed.

It all presumably ended Monday night when the Council voted 3 to 2 to approve, with a confusion of conditions added by Peak. Hearing him redesign the project from the dais was like following him trying to knot two live wires blindfolded in a hidden electrical outlet.

My view is flavored by having been an adjunct in the UCLA graduate landscape program for several years, and where I continue to serve on juries. I would have to give Peak a failing grade.

Voting against the project was Wagner and Mullen, and another indication that the much hyped slate they formed with Peak in the past election is not functioning as a reform bloc as promised.

Ending the evening on another ominous note for those who had hoped the City be less pro development was the mumbled announcement by Mayor La Monte that his interim appointment to the Planning Commission would be long serving former mayor, Jeff Jennings.

Jennings is known for his articulate support for development, however it might compromise the city’s code and mission statement. Paramount is property rights. I expect we can expect some more heated debates on an enlivened city’s public access channel.

Better set my timer to record.

2.18.17

 

OFF BEAT ON STAGE AT THE WALLIS

The title of the latest ambitious production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills is “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips..”

If the title is cryptic, so is the production, as I comment on my weekly arts and entertainment observed on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

But let me add, it is also engaging, at times indeed dazzling, if somewhat scattered. And adding to the stew on stage is that it is based in part on a true story, and as we know, the truth often can be messy.

“946” in the title stands for the number of troops actually killed in a disastrous single-at-sea military exercise in preparation for the D-Day Normandy landing in June, 1944.

“The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” is a popular children’s book by Michael Morpurgo about a lost cat of a girl coming of age during World War Two in a village in England where American troops were stationed, many of whom died in the exercise.

Morpurgo adapted the play with Emma Rice, who directed the distinct mash up style of the English production company of Kneehigh , replete with an on stage swing band, a parade of puppets and a large cast of jumping jack actors.

Throw in a clutter of washtubs filled with water in the orchestra pit fronting the stage representing the English Channel where the troops tragically died. And then there are the toy jeeps, the occasional bicyclist coming out of nowhere and going nowhere and, well, you get the picture. You might kindly label the effort innovative. Others might say it is a muddle.

As for the story line, the young girl loses her cat named Tips, or vice a versa, and spends most of her time on stage looking for her, aided by a couple of jitter bugging American soldiers based in the village.

Then there are several sub plots, some somber – after all a war is going on—and sweet, a young woman is coming of age. By the way, the performance of the girl by Katy Owen animated by flying pigtails and flailing arms and legs enlivens the stage, and lends the tale a winning focus.

It all might be untidy, but it is fun to look at, and actually to join in at, in a rousing finale. You leave the theatre smiling.

“946” runs through March 5, at the welcoming Wallis

2.17.17

 

 

 

A STOPOVER IN CULTURAL ZURICH

It is back to Malibu after nearly a month abroad, mostly at sea in the Indian ocean and on safari in South Africa.
 
It was great, thank you, though arts and entertainment venues were limited, and it is good to be at large again in southern California seeking out the diversity of its rich cultural scene, and so I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.
 
To be sure, our adventure did have its cultural experiences, in particular in a stopover in Zurich i had once known and enjoyed briefly 44 years ago. if anything, the city. like the Swiss, is enduring and engaging.
 
I stretched the stopover from LAX to Capetown to a weekend so as to be able to catch a controversial opera and an outstanding ballet in the opulent Zurich opera house. to see anything in the 1100 seat neo classical building is a rare treat .
 
The opera was the political production Lady Macbeth von Mzensk, written in 1934 by the edgy Dimitri Shostakovich, and reportedly almost sent him to Siberia by an underwhelmed Stalin.
 
Despite despising the Russian despot — he treated my family and millions of others cruelly – in this singular instance i have to admit his criticism was on target. the opera was a musical muddle. A bad. the translation from Russian to English did not help.
 
The disappointment was allayed the next night attending the ballet Anna Karenina. The production was marvelous, the sets and costumes dazzling, the dancing to the music of Rachmanioff by the resident ballet company breathtaking.
 
During the two days I was also able to visit the Kunthaus Zurich, the city’s, and Switzerland’s, outstanding art museum, and much to my pleasure view a very accessible collection that included an enormous water lily painting of Monet’s
 
Also on view were select works of van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso, and a surprising number of Edvard Munch paintings, though i could see how his distinctive canvases would appeal to the sober Swiss.
 
And a cultural excursion to Zurich would not be complete without visiting the Fraumunster church and viewing the stunning Chagall windows.
 
But it is now back in L..A., with lots to see and hear, and so little time, and so much traffic.

PROPOSED CITY LAND BANKING POSES QUESTIONS

Land banking is the latest item the City has added to its plate, and on first bite it appears tasty. But let the buyer beware, in this case Malibu residents, for if we really needed to be reminded, real estate here is a blood sport,And to be sure with any property transaction, public as well as private, the devil is in the details. Blank checks as indicated by the city proposal should just not be issued any government entity, no matter how servile.

That the ad hoc committee just appointed by the council to oversee the effort conjoins an irresolute Skylar Peak and realtor friendly, lame duck Laura Rosenthal, could present conflicts.

Indeed, there are aspects of Malibu’s land banking program that could well turn the most definitely well-intentioned effort into a land bungling program, and so I caution in my commentary for public radio 97.5 KBU, select websites and the LOCAL.

But first, some background, that at first glance makes land banking appear like a good idea:

Given the land use controversies that have roiled residents in recent years, resulting in costly contested propositions, snatching private property from the jaws of ever-avaricious developers for public use seems smart,

Logically less land for commercial use would undoubtedly mean less rapacious development of high end stores catering to flush tourists and the increasing horde of deep pocketed part time residents, resulting presumably in less traffic. That is the mantra of Malibu’s majority.

And the same goes for multi unit residential developments, such as had been proposed over the years for sprawling Trancas Field in West Malibu. It is a case in point.

The law suits over that proposal only ended last year with the city’s purchasing the field for $11 million plus in what could be considered a harbinger of a municipal land banking program. The purchase went without a hitch,

But the subsequent land use planning sessions by the city to determine what the 35-acre site be used for also could be a harbinger, albeit a disquieting one.

Proposed for consideration were the construction of centers for seniors, cultural and nature venues, a community garden, playing fields, and a ubiquitous skate board park. Also cited was the alternative of letting the fields remain as is.

There was no workshop, other than asking an unvetted audience to arbitrarily pin green and red dots on a series of the proposed uses pictured on display boards, reminding some of a kindergarden project. Confusion ensued.

No particulars were offered, such as cost benefits analyses for any of the wish list, design specifications, such as will the playing fields require stands, lighting and toilets; and for any use, parking, parking, parking.

Talk about a pig in the poke. Talk about giving out your credit card number and security code to a robo caller.

If doing nothing is proposed, or for that matter, too much, as it has for Bluffs Park, there is the concern the ensuing muddle would be a honey pot for the bureaucracy, and the planning could drag on for years, for City Hall’s favorite consultants.

And as for doing nothing, the $11 million purchase paid for by all of Malibu then would be gift of sorts to the 30 or so properties overlooking the field.

No doubt it would add to their property values, just as the very private access to the public beaches does for select Point Dune properties blessed by arbitrarily deeded beach keys.

Interestingly, this raises the question of whether the land-banking program could be tweaked and tapped to buy beach access on the Point for all Malibu residents; in effect provide a free alternative to the pricey beach key conceit and questionable real estate construct.

Now that could be an imaginative, if not, to say the least ,controversial, application of land banking. Yes, the devil is in the details. That possible pig in the poke the land bank poses just may not be kosher.  1.17.17

HAUNTED BY MEMORIES OF FACISM, CONCERNED FOR THE FUTURE

The skies over South Africa were mostly sunny and the Indian Ocean mostly choppy on our recent adventure abroad.

But hovering over us everywhere was the dark cloud of an anguished United States in the throes of what I would describe as no less than an attempted fascist coup, a nightmare of executive orders and alarming appointments; one after another in the quick step mode of a dictatorship.

I have sadly seen it before, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and other select websites.

So excuse me as I try to catch my breath on my return to Malibu, as I settle back in our Cliffside retreat on Point Dume and its calming ocean views. Perhaps I can get a glimpse of the magnificent migrating whales that remind me of the awesome gift of nature of which we are an irresolute guardian.

To be sure, nature in my absence had eased concern for our drought stricken landscape with a steady stagger of rains. And thanks to friends, my makeshift drains and wheezing sump pump had worked.

But there also was concern while away of how my misanthropic Malibu was persevering, following the recent election of a slate promising reform, and a more planning and environmental sensitive, transparent City Hall.

Unfortunately it initially appears they are subservient, as the old guard ingenuously maneuvered to be reappointed to key subcommittees and to represent Malibu to other cities and the State.
Needed at the least is an accounting of what exactly they are doing and saying, beyond mumbling their reports at Council meetings and submitting expense accounts.

I do look forward to once again commenting on the planning and design issues affecting Malibu and elsewhere. This includes the further assault of our commercial centers and zoning codes, and beyond the fate of the L.A. River, and the vain glorious proposal to corrupt LACMA, while the region’s housing crisis deepens. Yes, there is much to be reviewed.

Meanwhile I’m still in a state of weltschmerz, due in part having returned from Africa with a stop over in Dubai in the United Arab Republic, that incidentally was not on Trump’s ban list because he is said to do business in the country.

Nevertheless, the debate over the ban was at fever pitch, and after hustling through customs at LAX, thanks to having Global entry, we were greeted by a sign waving crowd with cheers.

It brought tears to my eyes, prompted by long lost memories of my public school days during World War Two, where several of my classmates had somehow made it out of Nazi Europe, sent by parents unable to get visas and doomed to die in the camps.

Among the memories is the smell of camphor, rising from the donated clothes they wore distributed by Jewish charities. My perception of the world then was frankly viewed as simply peopled by Jews and Nazis.

It took me many years to move beyond the prejudices and embrace the American myth of equality, engendered by my mother’s observation that the mark of a survivor is not to look back.

If she was around today – having the Ashkenazi gene she lived to 106 — I would reply, yes, for me certainly the smell of camphor has been replaced by the smell of the ocean. So much for the past.

But I would add with Trump trumpeting as president , what now of our future?