MALIBU’S PURGATORY; THE DREADED PCH

 

Time for a local gut issue, and there is nothing better in Malibu to seed anxieties, send a shiver down most spines, and set teeth gnashing: what to do about traffic on the city’s main street, the dreaded PCH.

Forget the debate over Malibu as a sanctuary city, whether it is a conceit or courageous. It’s political posturing that after all the rhetoric will affect no one.

But traffic on the PCH affects everyone, in Malibu, and more specifically the haphazard parking along the PCH that exacerbates the traffic.

Now that is an issue all living in Malibu, or just visiting, or passing through, in a car or on a bike, can relate to., and so I comment this weekend on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites

Traffic is an emotional and frustrating issue, and it is on the agenda Wednesday night at City Hall, where there will be a joint meeting of the public works and public safety commissions.

They and anyone interested will hear a final draft report of a protracted study of parking along PCH prepared by the city in collaboration with the Southern California Association of Governments and Caltrans.

Making this study especially appealing is that in addition to examining current road and shoulder conditions , it notes parking related collisions, assesses safety, and concludes by making specific recommendations, for troubled stretches of the PCH, which of course is most of the PCH.

And it boldly prioritizes them, all 63 of them, weighing them 1 for highest through 8. In a world of bureaucratic babble, you have to love the detailed recommendations. Though I suspect some people will take exception.

In particular, since there will be a loss of public parking, it be interesting to see how the Coastal Commission reacts. Will its commitment to public access yield to public safety concerns, or vice a versa?

The parking issue is particularly urgent, prompted by recent deadly accidents involving pedestrians along the PCH. And then there has been the obvious increase in the visitors to Malibu, as evidenced by the chaotic, indeed frightening, scene edging the PCH on most weekends.

Can it be made safer, by limiting parking, narrowing driving lanes, and better signage and striping? And what about more policing? And how about revisiting speed limits, and just everyone going slower?

If the hearing ever gets to public comments, expect a recitation of studied concerns, churlish complaints, and probably an obscenity, or two. A prayer might help.

The recommendations if implemented no doubt will make PCH safer, and prompts me to amend my opinion in the past, that if Malibu is a piece of heaven on earth, as many residents contend, then the PCH has to be its hell. Perhaps more apt would be to describe driving PCH as a form of purgatory, an intermediate state between heaven and hell.

However, as a planner, I should note that improving roadways almost always generates more traffic; traffic being like water, flowing downhill, to find its way into the most conducive channel. And if I need to remind those who live in Malibu, the PCH is the one and only channel,

 

 

MALIBU SANTA MONICA SCHOOL DIVORCE PROCEEDS

 

As Shakespeare wrote, and Henry the V exclaimed, “ It is once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more .”

Once more a mass community presence is needed at a hearing of a critical report on the proposed severing of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District .The hearing to be held by the Santa Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee will be at Malibu City Hall Monday, night at 7 o’clock. That’s after a scheduled brief, let me repeat with fervent hope, brief, city council meeting., and so I comment this weekend on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, the meeting on the long awaited results of a long and arduous district divorce will be a repeat of one held earlier this week in Santa Monica. The repeat was felt necessary to also be held in Malibu, so locals not wanting or able to trek down the coast could hear the details and comment if they wanted to. But even if they don’t testify, their presence in large numbers are needed, to indicate strong community support for the separation.

The Malibu separation advocates feel it’s important for parents and the community to understand the financial implications of the proposed separation, though in my opinion they will be what they are.  I feel they really wont make a difference in the long run, as Malibu having it own school district becomes a point of pride while spurring real estate values. Good schools tend to do that.

But to be sure, for that to happen, Malibu is going to have to address its own academic and administrative school issues in a timely, responsible and reasonable manner. Ideologues and demagogues need not apply.

As has been noted , Malibu is essentially an attractive small, rural seacoast community; Santa Monica very much an urban entity, with a disproportionate voter ratio of 84% to 16. And for all its pretensions and popular liberal image, Santa Monica, and particularly its school board, has been innately conservative, yielding to a self-serving bureaucracy.

Student needs should be the bottom line, not money, which incidentally does not necessarily translate into a better educational environment.

Meanwhile, all through the protracted negotiations the Santa Monica representatives have been viewing Malibu as a cash cow for the district. And this while Santa Monica wants to admit it or not, is itself a burgeoning, gentrifying city with a increasing tax base and a decreasing student and minority population. The district also I feel frankly has been recalcitrant, no doubt feeling its staff will have to be trimmed.

In the middle of this morass is an evolving Malibu and no less than the efficacy of public education and local control, if not convenience and community identity. It is a dream that has persisted for nearly 30 years, before Malibu became a city, and actually was in the minds of many when they voted for cityhood. Colonization in this day and age is an aberration.

The separation is a democratic imperative that cannot be denied, the arguments for it are heartfelt and cogent, and also frankly ethical.

See you at the hearing Monday night, which I’ll be going to as the parent of two children who began their education in then welcoming Santa Monica public schools, and eventually graduated with honors from our esteemed Malibu High School.

3.25.17

DIVERTING DAY AT THE GETTY

All of a sudden the rain had stopped, the sun was out, and Spring was upon us, and looking at my calendar I realized it has been six months since I last visited the Getty.

That really is too long to go without venturing to the Getty Center to check out its always-engaging parade of exhibitions, possibly take in an interesting performance, maybe a talk. With no admission charges, it’s a deal., and so I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU, and select websites. And with both the Museum off the 405 and the Villa off the PCH, being relatively nearby, I think of the Getty as Malibu’s cultural center.

The current featured exhibit is on the French 18th century sculptor and draftsman Edme Bouchardon, who quite frankly I was not familiar with. That the exhibit shed light on a relatively unknown artist, at least to me, is one of the things I love about the Getty, for Bouchardon was a very prolific artist during the reign of Louis XV and the days before the French revolution.  Indeed, he served as the Royal Artist, producing in particular exquisite sculptures of the king and the French aristocracy. The detailing is fascinating, and I found myself mesmerized. Also revealing was his drawings, including those of ordinary people.The large exhibit is said to be the first on Bouchardon traveling beyond the continent, and in a word, is “enlightening.” It runs until April 2d.

Also on display on loan at the Getty, and also enlightening, is a single work by Degas, labeled the Russian Dancers. It is one of his many works he did in pastel, and is a focus of a most welcome detailed explanation of the artist’s experimentation with color in his later years.

As a media maven, I was looking forward to seeing the temporary exhibit entitled Breaking News, which explores how artists had incorporated news images, from the Vietnam War and recent “War on Terror” into their art, as political and personal commentary. Having been a journalist during this period, I found the artists renderings mostly pretentious; the reality I feel did not need a veneer of art to make a point.

The day ended for us with a rousing, performance of Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band It was blues with a beat, from the deep South. Thomas is an original, and great, and set hands clapping and arms waving: a fitting finale to a diverting day at the Getty.

 

CITY AND STATE RESISTING AN UNPRESIDENTIAL TRUMP

Yes, the weather in Malibu has been oddly hot and cold, and foggy and sunny.

And in many ways the weather has been matched by the city’s politics, the so called reform slate swept into office in the last election having been fogged over by a hot and cold Skylar Peak.

The political fog, I feel, also enveloped the City Council recently in its vote of 3 to 2 to declare Malibu a sanctuary city, as I commented on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and, select websites.

The vote prohibits the city assisting in any way the federal government in enforcing immigration laws, which in fact the city does not do now nor does the local police and sheriff.

All agreed that the vote was purely symbolic, a thumb at the nose for an unpresidential Trump; outside our city purview, said Mullen; courageous said Rosenthal. And so went the debate, on and on, as the council tends to do before a dwindling audience. Perhaps it’s time the 3 minute rule limiting public speakers be extended to those sitting on the dais. You think city attorney Christi Hogin was not being paid enough that she also might be getting a bonus by the word.

The term loquacious or long-winded might be used to describe councilperson Rosenthal. She also might be more cautious in her comments, revealing as she did in the debate that a number of children in Malibu schools and their families were illegal immigrants and vulnerable. A dramatic utterance that I hope was not picked up by the malicious feds.

What prompted my questioning the christening of Malibu as a sanctuary city is that I feel, however arbitrary and vain glorious the labeling, such an effort should have been at least accompanied by the allocation of needed support services, such as legal representation and shelter. That is what ensnared illegal immigrants will need, not just a friendly wave from a liberal in a passing limousine, however sincere.

Not incidentally, a bill is advancing in the state Senate that would make the entire state of California a sanctuary, banning all local police and sheriffs from arresting or detaining people for federal immigration status violation, unless there is a different crime or a warrant from a judge.

Also from Sacramento, comes the news of a legislative package labeled Preserve California, which has the noble intent to insulate the state from the dangerous rollbacks in federal environmental and public health regulations. Now that has the promise of needed substance beyond niceties.

In a press release from the Democratic wheelhouse in the state capitol, the thrust of the package is to establish “strong and legally enforceable baseline protections for the environment, public health, worker safety, and other areas of federal regulatory law that could be dramatically and recklessly weakened by the Trump Administration.” It continues:

“Measures would also protect federal lands within the State of California from sale to private developers for the purpose of resource extraction; ensure federal employees are not penalized under California law for whistle blowing; and shield public information and data resources from federal censorship or destruction.”

“The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are racing to weaken decades-old environmental and public health protections,” stated California Senate Leader Kevin de León of Los Angeles. But he added the package makes existing federal laws – like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts – enforceable under California law, “so we can preserve the state we know and love, regardless of what happens in Washington.”

“This is pretty straightforward – just common sense measures to preserve minimum safeguards for clean air and water,” explained Malibu’s own, fresh faced Senator Henry Stern  “We still have a ways to go to clean up our environment, but at the very least we should not be backsliding.” Way to go Henry. Let’s have more than words.

 

TWELFTH NIGHT REIMAGINED AT THE WALLIS

This week it was hurry off to the always-enticing Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in a relatively accessible Beverly Hills, as compared to fighting the frustrating traffic to go downtown.

On stage for a limited engagement was a retelling,i n a wildly reimagined style, of “Twelfth Night,” one of Shakespeare’s more lighthearted plays, and reason alone appealing to me– as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and websites everywhere.

As theatre goers may recall, with a full title of “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” the play was said to be written as a twelfth night’s entertainment at the close of the Christmas season, and tells the tale of twins separated in a shipwreck. One is a disguised as a boy, who falls in love with a Duke, who in turn is in love with a Countess, and so forth and so on, into a mash up with musical interludes.

That this version of the production was premiered a decade ago at Stratford upon-Avon for the Royal Shakespeare Company and cheered by the London Sunday Times had to be an enticement, and so it was.

Also that this review is aired and posted on Fridays, gives those who might be tempted to go see it, have just four performances, to do so. tonight.

That said, you are cautioned, for this Twelfth Night is like no other , and you are forewarned, as that rave review in the Times declared “ The music is ferocious, fiery and funny: at times, it makes the Stones look like a group of genteel clergymen. This is not a send-up: it’s a celebration-mad, wild, loving and hilarious.”

My one word description is “adventurous.” Another word might be “chaotic.” To be sure, it has its moments, like the vaudeville shows I saw as a youth: some brief acts were great, others a bore.

Actually, the production presented itself, no doubt intentionally, as if still in rehearsal. The actors and musicians milling about, talking to each other and the audience being seated, with one principal actor sipping tea front and center.

Slowly, almost painfully, reluctantly, the play begins, with the famous declaration in the opening speech, “If music be the food of love, play on..” But in this production the line is fumbled, and the actor pauses, and asks for a forgotten word, and the audience shouts back, “love.”

You gotta love it. And you are going to need a lot of love of theatre to enjoy this Twelfth Night at the Wallis.

FUTURE OF BLUFFS PARK DEBATED

If you live in Malibu, as I do, you have to love Bluffs Park, with it engaging range of out door diversions on a spectacular site with stunning views

Physically, it is one of the outstanding features on Malibu’s singular seacoast, and a treasured public open space, in all of California.

But politically, for the poorly served city government, it is a swamp. into which City Hall appears to be sinking, as witnessed at the recent council meetings, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, cityobserved, and select websites, and in the LOCAL.

A prime problem is the park’s proposed plans, which after much fumbling and feinting is an ambitious, if not unrealistic, wish lists of facilities. This includes a few new ball fields, an aquatic center, a skateboard board park, a dog park, and more parking

The problem: not only there were no price estimates; worse, the Coastal Commission staff took strong exception to the proposed excessive facilities, and their sitting compromised the Bluffs’ environmentally sensitive acreage and an unstable slope. I

In short, the woeful plan was given faint hope of approval by the Commission.

City Hall had to expect this; they had been cautioned, but as is the city’s s.o.p., the pubic was deluded. All those planning sessions, consultant fees, and council posturing, they are long gone and forgotten.

Nevertheless, the council called for a hearing, and out came the persevering proponents of open space, as well as the ever-hopeful coaches and kids. But before pleading their causes they had to first suffer through hours of strained poetry and murky engineering.

All this also was for naught, just as the past hearings had been, for the facilities most likely wont be built on the Bluffs and if the city keeps bungling, sadly nowhere. The open space advocates will win by default, sadly because many also are in favor of the sports facilities, as long as Bluffs Park is left as is.

Or is it bungling? Maybe its bad advice? Or maybe City Hall really doesn’t want to build it, but instead just keep it on their desks shuttling between the in-and out baskets, as bureaucratic busy work.

It is not like the there is some special private interests promoting ball fields, or as in the past like a water treatment plant to satisfy an E.I.R to accommodate more civic center development and serve nearby luxury housing. Then cover it with earth, some plants, call it a park, and let the city pay for it.

Actually, what is now Legacy Park was once considered for the needed ball fields some 20 years by the city’s Parks and Rec Commission, on which not incidentally I as a little league coach was then serving.

But City Hall back then had its own private agenda, worked out a deal with a few deep-pocketed property owners, and buried the ball fields for the treatment plant. Lots of money was involved.

So here we are again, searching for sites for sports facilities. Bluffs Park isn’t going to work.

Maybe we can renegotiate and reconstruct Legacy for the needed ball fields, or buy some civic center sites instead of seeing them go for not-needed malls? And certainly one or two can easily fit onto Trancas Field without disturbing the neighbors?

The search certainly is going to be a test of Malibu’s moxie and civic will.

 

 

 

COMING OF AGE ON STAGE

At the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, a coming of age play in what might be described as a coming of age theatre, entitled Good Grief, now through March 27th. It is written by coming-of-age playwright Ngozi Anyanwu,

No, it is not about the life and times of the cartoon character Charlie Brown. As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites, it is about a sensitive, if overwrought, Afro American girl coming to terms with her angst filled life and the tragic death of her puppy love in suburban Pennsylvania.

To be sure, it is the stuff of student drama workshops, where wanna be playwrights and screenwriters are told not to conjure up far away fantasies, but to pen real stories from their budding lives.

Good grist for the Douglas, which was founded to be a stage for new works and new voices, a satellite of sorts for the mother lode Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson and Mark Taper Forum downtown.

Not incidentally, now at the Taper is a riveting revival of “Zoot Suit,” which 40 years ago raised the curtain on the very political and public Latino experience in L.A.

In contrast, “Good Grief “evokes the main character’s Nigerian roots, but is very personal, and to anyone who has been parent to an adolescent girl, very familiar.

She was, shall I say it, a drama queen, lots of exclaiming, and gestures, intense faces, some crying. She loses her best friend, loses her virginity , but not her anxieties.

A grief counselor would have helped, though her caring parents, wonderfully played and effecting, deserved the applause they received during the play.

And you had to like the principal focus of the play, the young girl, acted no less than by Anyanwu, the playwright herself. It was a hell of debut, a high dive or sorts into the professional pool of the dramatic arts.

Perhaps it was the American suburban oven the story was cooked in, but to me the African sauce had a pinch of kosher salt. One could call the concoction “schmaltzy,” a soulful, timeworn tale.

Helping immeasurably was the staging: the spare sets, by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz , assorted costumes by Karen Perry, and the polished, crisp direction by Patricia McGregor. It made for an engaging evening in the theatre.

 

 

 

MALIBU DEBATES PARK PLANS AD NAUSEAM

 In Malibu, where talk is cheap but real estate expensive, talk continues among neighbors whether the City should declare itself a sanctuary city, or not.

As had been argued at length in local websites, the declaration is seen as a gesture of defiance and in protest of the executive orders of a not very presidential Trump, calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration, and unfortunately sending a shiver through the millions of legal immigrants.

In roughly equal comments, some unfortunately personal and perfidious, the declaration was put down as an empty gesture, indeed a conceit, since the city of Malibu can do little to protect and aid the illegals. Resistance has its responsibilities.

Nevertheless, the council was unable to get to the agenda item at its last scheduled meeting, and hear the anticipated milling audience. Instead, the council, as its wont, became immersed in the continuing debate over the proposed plans to enlarge and enhance Bluffs Park, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

Actually, that debate has been going on for decades, at least back 20 years when I served on the city’s parks and recreation commission. While speaker after speaker, including a batting order of bright eyed kids, argued for more playing fields and an aquatic center, an equally heartfelt contingent of sluggers followed them to the dais to make an emotional case for open space, and to leave the Bluff’s essentially as is.

No one argued against the need for more active facilities, especially more and better accessible soccer and baseball fields. A strong argument also was made for the aquatic center, citing Malibu’s renown for its water polo teams and diving and surfing.

But repeatedly raised was the nagging question that whatever and how many facilities might be agreed upon, would the omnipotent Coastal Commission approve?

To put the hearing in perspective, it was noted that the present Council conundrum was prompted by Coastal staff in the past turning down or discouraging several more ambitious plans. They were cited for both being too “local,” catering to mostly Malibu residents and not regional serving, and also encroaching on an environmentally sensitive slope.

Indeed, Coastal was the elephant in the auditorium, silent and menacing. And despite the parents and children wanting more ball fields, and wanting to the city to throw spitballs at the beast to get it to move off, it was obvious to those who have been in this jungle before this elephant is very much a stubborn bull, has longevity, a long memory, and doesn’t read petitions..

Meanwhile, standing impatiently in the batter’s circle, waiting to step up to the plate, are the kids. swinging away for a ballfield. Somewhere, soon, I hope, a location can be found for one.

And before I forget, this coming Tuesday, March 7th, there is a single item on the ballot in Malibu, Measure H, a modest increase in the sale tax for a limited number of years, which promises to bring desperately needed help to the homelessness.

There should be no argument against this measure, and actually in the official ballot there is none. Only obvious endorsements.

 

3.4 .17

ALVIN AILEY DANCE THEATRE COMING TO L.A.

I usually don’t do previews of the arts and entertainment productions that interest me, preferring instead reviews. I frankly feel more comfortable lending my opinions to something I have actually witnessed, be it for public radio, and my own enjoyment.
 
But as I comment on 97.5 KBU and select websites, the incomparable Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is coming to the L.A. Music Center next week is an exception.
 
The Ailey engagement will only be here for five days, beginning March 8, a Wednesday, through March 12, Sunday. My reviews run on Fridays, so I’d have to see it Wednesday, write and record Thursday, for Friday air time.
 
That immodestly is no problem for me, but it means for my listeners and readers if my reviews prompt them to see a performance, they have at best only three days to do it. And further, the chances of scoring what I anticipate will be a very hot ticket, would be a challenge. So this preview will give you a heads up.
 
Further, having enjoyed the dance company since its founding in New York City in 1959, which is when I happened to start writing for the New York Times, I’m confident that the program will be marvelous, just as thy have been for me over these very long years.
 
Indeed, I can close my eyes and actually see in my mind’s eye memorable moments from performances I attended in my distant past. I think the first time was in New York’s City Center, on a cold winter’s evening,.
 
I remember also when after the performance I hurried a block away, to the Carnegie Deli, for an equally memorable cup of chicken soup, equal to my mother’s, and an overstuffed, Pastrami sandwich of crusted, warm rye bread. schmered with Russian dressing. a juicy sour dill pickle on the side. The Carnegie sadly is no longer, a moot point since at my doctor’s advice I can no longer eat fatty, spiced Pastrami.
 
But the Alvin Ailey continues, as one of America’s premier dance companies, presenting I anticipate a challenging program of new pieces, set to stirring music, sumptuously staged, and framed by imaginative sets: an evening to be remember.
 
And according to the program, every performance ending as always with Ailey’s signature “Revelations.” a transcending spiritual drama that if you never seen, you must.  3.3.17