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

 

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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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